It’s election time in Nova Scotia and The Advocate gave each candidate an opportunity to touch on topics of local interest. Here are the three candidates from Pictou Centre …

Jeff Davis
Liberal
Pictou Centre

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
Just a few weeks ago, a talented young nurse practitioner moved home to join the collaborative practice in at the Westville Medical Clinic. What a win! We will use our collaborative clinic model as a tool to recruit and retain family doctors and nurses. Young medical professionals have told us they want to practice in this model, and this will help attract them. We’ll also train more bright young Nova Scotians to be doctors, expanding the residency spaces in the province from 36 to 56. Then, we’ll offer $120,000 in tuition relief in exchange for a five-year commitment to entice them to stay and practice at home.

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What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
For people struggling with mental health issues, and their families, timely access to help is crucial. Over the next four years, the Liberal government will hire 35 more mental health clinicians to help improve individual and group support. Further, mental health support workers will be included in collaborative care clinics around the province to help treat mental health issues at early stages. We’ll also expand the SchoolsPlus program to all schools by 2019, hiring 51 new mental health clinicians, facilitators and community outreach workers. This will allow all children increased support to help them stay healthy in a rapidly-changing digital world.

The Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness in 2012/2013 gave a breakdown of 16 areas of Nova Scotia that have not received their fair share of payments from the provincial government. In Pictou County, this is $20 million. What will you/your party do to correct this?
Atlantic Canadians work hard all across the country, doing a lot of the dirty and dangerous jobs. Our blood and sweat helps stoke the fires of industry across this great country of ours. Maritimers frequently pay income and other taxes in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan that have historically contributed to the equalization pot. The federal equalization program exists in part to balance this reality. If chosen to speak for our community in Halifax, I’ll always fight for our interests, and Pictou County’s fair share of transfer payments.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
Right now a new wing is being built onto the NSCC Pictou Campus, thanks to a $16.9 commitment by the Liberal governments of Stephen McNeil and Justin Trudeau. This will allow more young people to get an affordable post-secondary education while living and working here in the county. Low debt loads help graduates work, own a home and start a family here in Nova Scotia. We’ve introduced 0 per cent interest on Nova Scotia student loans, and will eliminate tuition for apprentices completing technical training, saving them up to $900 annually. We will also increase the weekly student assistance amount to a maximum $200 per week, to help students pay their bills.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
There’s a whole world of opportunities for the rural economy at our fingertips in Pictou County. It’s all about growing our exports. The government’s strategic decision to focus on China, the United States and the United Kingdom has paid off, and our seafood exports are booming. Same goes for craft brewing, wine making and distilling. With cuts to small business taxes and an export accelerator program coming, creating sustainable export businesses will be easier. I’d much rather see 50 companies employing 10 people each, rather than one large enterprise employing 500. I proudly export StashBelts from the county, and I want to help others grow their businesses and bring home those export and tourism dollars.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
More young people! Many of Pictou County’s challenges share a common issue: our greying population. A wise man once told me that youth retention is all about “The Three M’s:” Mortgages, Maternity and Matrimony. Fortunately, the Liberal government will help first-time home buyers with a down payment assistance program for households earning up to $75,000. We’ll also help young families by implementing universal, full-day pre-primary for four-year-olds, saving families up to $10,000. As for matrimony, I’m pretty confident our wonderful young people will pair off just fine on their own.

Pat Dunn
Pictou Centre
Progressive Conservative

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
In the 2013 election, the Stephen McNeil government promised a doctor for every Nova Scotian. Today, there are still over 100,000 Nova Scotians without a family doctor. A PC government will work with Doctors Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Health Authority and other health related stakeholders to create an aggressive recruitment plan to entice doctors into communities across the province. This will include investing $13.5 million to recruit doctors to under-serviced areas, recognition for Canadians who study medicine abroad, and doubling the tuition relief program to $6 million to keep new family doctors in Nova Scotia.

What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
A PC government will provide training for school personnel to deal with numerous student issues that they face on a daily basis. A PC government will become a leader in mental health research and innovation by establishing the Mental Health and Wellness Institute at a Nova Scotia university. We will expand access to Mental Health Courts across the province. We will establish mental health crisis centres to divert patients from emergency rooms to more appropriate care. Finally, we will provide a direct tax rebate for those who rely on a psychiatric service dog.

The Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness in 2012/2013 gave a breakdown of 16 areas of Nova Scotia that have not received their fair share of payments from the provincial government. In Pictou County, this is $20 million. What will you/your party do to correct this?
Equalization fairness is an issue that every provincial government should review by consulting with all stakeholders in the province with regard to their opinions of being treated equally. Once an election is over and a government has a mandate to serve the people of this province, it is imperative that they provide services for all people of the province and not selected areas. A PC government will certainly examine past practice and policies prior to making any decisions regarding the above.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
A PC government will implement a new Memorandum of Understanding with Nova Scotia’s universities that will be based on the principles of high quality, affordability, institutional fiscal responsibility and commercialization. We intend to improve employment opportunities for students. A PC government will work towards improving economic outcomes and job prospects from post-secondary institutions and will require universities to provide students with information about graduate employability. We will make it a priority to utilize the knowledge and resources already in Nova Scotia by requiring universities to focus on innovation and job creation.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
We will cut red tape for small businesses, thereby, allowing small business to flourish and new entrepreneurs to succeed. We will also increase the Small Business tax threshold from $350,000 to $500,000. We will incentivize success. We will replace handouts with earned tax relief for job creators. These job creators will be eligible to earn their way down to a 10 per cent tax rate. Our Rebuild Nova Scotia Fund will use $1 billion constructing and repairing dangerous highways, bridges and other public infrastructure. This will provide at least 10,000 jobs and keep our youth at home with meaningful jobs.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
Besides improving our economy, which makes everything better, we must take care of our seniors and provide the necessary services to assist them. Attempting to provide every resident of Pictou County with a family doctor should be a priority for any government. In addition, our goal would be to recruit more healthcare professionals to alleviate long waiting lists for health issues such as mental health and hip and knee replacements, as well as adding more dialysis chairs at the Aberdeen hospital.

Henderson Paris
NDP
Pictou Centre

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
We have a health care crisis in Nova Scotia. The Liberals have concentrated on centralizing health care while front line care has become worse. As your NDP MLA, I will help ensure that Nova Scotians have access to a family doctor and other health care providers close to home. The NDP will invest $120 million over four years in primary care, and recruiting and retaining medical professionals. This will also take the pressure off our emergency rooms. The NDP government will invest in hospital infrastructure across the province to help not just patients, but give doctors better working conditions and encourage them to stay.

What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
Mental health is absolutely a priority for the NDP; as your MLA, I will ensure attention is paid. The NDP government will invest $46.5 million, double the initial investment in the Mental Health Strategy, to cut wait times for community-based mental healthcare in half. The NDP will reverse cuts to frontline community organizations providing mental health services and increase overall funding. I will ensure that the towns of Pictou Centre get their fair share. I will work with our NDP government to improve mental health care and make sure those in need are helped before a crisis strikes.

The Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness in 2012/2013 gave a breakdown of 16 areas of Nova Scotia that have not received their fair share of payments from the provincial government. In Pictou County, this is $20 million. What will you/your party do to correct this?
As a municipal councillor for 12 years, I am well aware of these concerns. An NDP government will begin working with the UNSM to address them.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
The NDP will eliminate tuition fees for Nova Scotia Community College, including our Pictou Campus, opening the doors to opportunity for a generation that has largely had them shut. The Liberals have allowed university tuition fees to skyrocket. Other provinces like Ontario and New Brunswick have policies to make university affordable; we should show similar leadership in Nova Scotia. That’s why we will also make an investment to reduce tuition at universities by 10 per cent over the next four years. Both these moves will help retain our youth and ensure a prosperous future for them, here at home.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
I support raising the minimum wage to $15; people with more money in their pockets to spend help our Pictou Centre economy. The NDP will create jobs by public investments in rural health care and education, including stopping school closures and creating community hubs. Our NDP government will invest in public transportation in smaller centres. The NDP will start with a Rural and Small Town Economy Task Force, to determine how government can best support local businesses and help them adapt to changes in the minimum wage; we will reopen a focused department of rural development to implement the recommendations.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
Jobs and job creation are the critical issues here, and I hear that on the doorsteps every day. People say, “Something needs to be done; we need something to happen to put people back to work.” The NDP has made that commitment, that we will put people back to work, that there will be good jobs for Nova Scotians, and I intend to be part of an NDP government that will keep that promise.