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 West …

Karla MacFarlane|
Pictou West
Progressive Conservative

How will you/your party deal with the lack pf physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
The Progressive Conservative Party recognized early that lack of physicians in rural Nova Scotia had reached a crisis point. Our plan begins with a $13.5 million investment in recruiting and hiring new doctors. Sadly, Pictou lost a practising doctor to Ontario because his wife, who was also a doctor, could not get her credentials recognized. We will work to make changes that makes it easier for qualified physicians who studied abroad to work here at home. Also, the PC Party will double the tuition relief program for doctors willing to practise in rural areas like Pictou County.

What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
A Progressive Conservative government will invest $39.7 million in the now broken mental health system. We believe providing mental health services at an early age is key in preventing more serious issues from arising later in life. Therefore, I am happy that under a PC government, all students will have access to in-school mental health services. Additionally, a PC government will establish Mental Health Crisis Response Centres, which will keep people out of the already busy ERs, and provide them with appropriate treatment from trained mental health professionals.

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?
If re-elected, this is something that I will be sure to investigate. We will look further into the process used to determine the amount of equalization municipalities get. Pictou County is entitled to its fair share.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
A PC government will put vocational training back in schools, allowing students to graduate with a trades certificate. Holding this certificate will shorten the length of time and training required to complete certification at NSCC. We will enter into a new Memorandum of Understanding with universities so tuition can be lowered to the national average and universities will be required to focus on job creation and innovation. A PC government will also replace the Graduate Retention Rebate that the current government cancelled.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
A PC government will improve the rural economy with job creation beginning with establishing the Rebuild Nova Scotia Fund. This fund will be used to create thousands of jobs by rebuilding our province’s aging infrastructure. It will be used to twin highways, increase the RIM budget for rural roads and repair secondary roads, ensure high speed internet in rural Nova Scotia, and fund environmental reclamation and community enhancement projects. A PC government will establish an environment that favours job creation by lowering taxes for job creators, increasing the small business threshold from $350,000 to $500,000, and by cutting red tape.

What is the one thing that you think Pictou County needs?
I believe Pictou County needs more doctors. We have thousands of residents who are without a primary care physician. It is a nightmare to have constituents battling cancer without the security and continuity that a family physician provides. Residents are either forced to go to the Emergency Department with issues that are not emergencies or in some cases, to go without necessary medications or care. Without our health, nothing else matters.

Cecile Vigneault
Green Party
Pictou West

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
The Canadian Institute of Health information indicates Nova Scotia has the highest doctor to patient ratio in the country (includes family doctors and specialists), however Doctors NS report that doctors provide specialized services in NS to people from NB, PEI and NF; teaches the next generation of upcoming doctors and specialists; also doctors work with researchers to understand the effects of drugs. To assist doctors, RNs’ scope of practice ought to be broadened. If there is a national program then all nurses should be able to complete the program in the province of their choice. All foreign health care professional ought to be able to meet our requirement in a shorter time frame and include mentorship for a year or so to determine proper qualification.

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 ought to have a designated facility outside the realm of acute care facilities and where the staff are well trained to meet the needs of the client within a safe environment. It ought to be staffed 24/7 and ought to be within reach of your own local community. I would look into the needs of the community, address areas like school environment, business environment, work environment, social environment. Start listening to our children, youth, young adults about what isn’t working for them in all aspects of life. Introduce better educational programs for adults and youths and seniors to attend to understand mental health.

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?
I am a bookkeeper and do not know anything about how the equalization payments are distributed throughout the province. I would first start to look at the criteria at which the equalization payments are distributed, what factors set one community different from another. Each community is unique, their wants may be different. Equalization payments would be based on the needs of the community and each municipality would create a report that reflects their needs. Perhaps there ought to be a committee to review all reports; however, each municipality should be in the loop at all times.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
In my days, my parents had to pay for books and uniforms and the rest was the responsibility of the government at hand. With rising costs in everything, it is harder to make ends meet with part-time jobs and fewer jobs for the younger generation. Post-secondary education ought to be free for this would allow all citizens to attend no matter their income status. What would change in society is the ability to create business opportunities without the stress of debt; be open to innovated ideas. College, vocational training and post-secondary schools need to prepare their students for the reality of the business world locally and internationally. Employers ought to include in their business plan, apprenticeship to be offered towards their graduate degree.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
No party or government is going to provide the answer. It is not an individual’s job. It is a community’s job and that includes all the residents of a given community. It is up to the given community to find its needs, work out its goals. The government of the day can assist and ought to assist to improve community economy. Pam Mood from Yarmouth said to help businesses stay and thrive would be to get rid of by-laws that stiffen the ability to move forward and there are businesses in the community who have come up with road blocks. It is the residents who come up with ideas and it is time to listen to them. I would start with the residents and ask them what is need in the community.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
The view on the causeway looking towards Pictou and a gateway to other communities is a delight to travellers and local people. More importantly, people want to stop on the causeway to watch the eagles, the cormorants, the seals, the fishing boats. the activity on the waters. This causeway has a “No Parking” sign, so I recommend that there be a rest stop built along the causeway where vehicles can stop. Pictou County needs more rest areas, not only for tourists, but also long-haul truck drivers. When they use the rest area, they also want to visit what the community has to offer and Pictou County has a lot to offer.

Ben MacLean
Pictou West
Liberal

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
Nova Scotians deserve a strong, unified healthcare system — a system that spends less on administration and focuses on front-line care. Over the past four years, the Liberal government has delivered on that need, with more money than ever going towards hiring doctors, nurse practitioners and other clinicians, and addressing wait lists. However, there is far more work to be done. Like all of the Atlantic provinces, our population is aging, chronic disease rates remain high and orthopedic wait times continue to be unacceptable. These issues are not fixed overnight. A re-elected Liberal government will ensure the NSHA works closely with health care providers, community health boards and the public to finalize new provincial health services plans, starting with primary/critical care, mental health, orthopedics, cancer care and pediatrics.

What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
We recognize that one out of every five Canadians will deal with mental illness at some point in their lifetime. I recognize this is a deeply personal issue to many living in Pictou County. This is why your Liberal government has consistently increased investments in mental health since coming to office. These investments have included the expansion of community-based services and the SchoolsPlus program, and funding for the Kids Help Line and Strongest Families program.

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 MLA for Pictou West, I will advocate fairness when it comes to transfer payments to our area. I believe in Pictou West having a voice in a Liberal government would make a big difference moving forward.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
A Liberal government wants our graduates to be in a solid financial position to work, own a home and start a family here in Nova Scotia. In addition to helping more than 2,000 graduates get their first job since 2014 and introducing 0% interest on Nova Scotia student loans, a Liberal government will continue to invest in graduates by expanding Loan Forgiveness for graduates. Increasing the weekly student assistance amount to a maximum $200 per week, meaning more money on a weekly basis will help students pay their bills. Additionally, our plan includes helping first-time home buyers with a down payment assistance program for households earning up to $75,000. This assistance for first-time home buyers will mean more young people staying in Nova Scotia.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
I have spent a lot of this campaign meeting with both small and large local business owners, which I believe is a key component of ensuring an open line of communication between government and the private sector. The Liberal government ended corporate giveaways and cleared a path for the private sector to take the lead in growing our economy. Now, decisions around business attraction and job creation investments are made by business experts, not politicians. Those decisions are based on the business case and the return on taxpayers’ investment. Our government also recognized the value of our resources and the economic potential of global markets.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
More co-operation. Recently, I spoke about the need for more collaboration and respect for differing points of view, and I have long felt that we need more respect in politics. Respect both for those in opposing parties but more importantly for the people we wish to represent. I am not running to be the MLA for only people who agree with me, which is why I am spending each day of this campaign going door-to-door and listening to as many voices as I can. Good or bad, it’s important for me to hear it all. Yes I am running as your Liberal Party candidate in Pictou West, but for me this is not based in strengthening partisan politics, it is about serving people and addressing their needs and concerns. I believe that government can be a place for good if we share that basic understanding.

Shawn McNamara
NDP
Pictou West

How will you/your party deal with the lack of physicians in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
The NDP are prepared to listen to and work with the people on the front lines in the rural health care system. We don’t believe it is helpful for people in Halifax to determine what will work best outside of the city. The NDP will invest $120 million over four years into health care and no less then $5.5 million directly to Pictou County. By listening to the folks on the ground and investing this money, we should see significant improvement in the number of family practises.

What will you/your party do to improve/restore access to mental health services in rural areas of Nova Scotia, like Pictou County?
The NDP realize the tragedy that took place when the present government shut down the mental health services at the Aberdeen. There is a need for more psychiatrists on staff at the Aberdeen. An NDP government will invest in these services again.

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?
Pictou County has not received its fair share of these payments. Just look at our rural roads, lack of health care, closure of the tourist bureau and loss of the registry of deeds. An NDP government is committed to treating all ridings fairly, not just government ridings.

What will you/your party do to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable?
Investing in the younger generations is a priority for the NDP. We will eliminate tuition as of this fall at all NSCC campuses. There will also be a 10 per cent reduction in tuition at NS universities over 4 years.

What will you/your party do to improve the rural economy?
The way to building the rural economy is by building one, two jobs at a time. We need to support small business and entrepreneurs. We do not support putting all our eggs in one basket. We need to diversify. Investing in the creative economy again has been proven to help rural communities. We do not believe in risking our water supply for fracking and we believe in forest sustainability instead of the clear-cutting approach.

What is the one thing you think Pictou County needs?
I don’t think we can narrow it down to just one thing. We have had so much taken away from us over the last four years it is now a matter of what all do we need! We need our seniors to be valued again and money to be put back into them for the enrichment of their lives. We need access to doctors and our outpatients in Pictou to be re-opened. Pictou County needs mental health services and our rural roads need to be maintained. Anything less then this in not enough.