Nova Scotia leaders tackle health care, housing at CBC debate

Leaders from Nova Scotia’s Liberal, New Democratic and Progressive Conservative parties faced off during a 90-minute debate to discuss important issues affecting Nova Scotians on Wednesday evening.

CBC Nova Scotia News at 6 hosts Tom Murphy and Amy Smith moderated the commercial-free debate between Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, NDP Leader Gary Burrill and PC Leader Tim Houston.

The debate was broken into five sections: health care, the economy, diversity and inclusion and the environment, followed by virtual questions submitted by audience members.

After brief opening statements, the debate turned to the subject of health care. 

Staffing shortages in health care

Rankin said Nova Scotia was not alone in facing staffing shortages and said emphasis was being placed on training more nurses in the province and on encouraging health care workers to move to the Nova Scotia.

“Everybody wants to be in Nova Scotia, that includes health care workers,” Rankin said.

Leaders from Nova Scotia’s Liberal, NDP and Progressive Conservative Parties share their thoughts on how to bring family doctors to the province. 2:49

Burrill said the health care system in Nova Scotia was plagued by staffing shortages and insufficient investment in long-term care facilities.

Houston said “health care is in crisis” in Nova Scotia and “nurses have borne the brunt of this pandemic.”

Tense exchanges over hospitals

A discussion on whether some rural hospitals should be closed led to tense exchanges between the Liberal leader and the PC leader,

According to Rankin, hospitals would not be closed in rural areas without engagement with the communities affected.

He said the pandemic had slowed down recruitment, but 80 doctors were waiting to come to the province and should arrive by the fall. 

Houston said the PC party wants to work with communities .

“Look in the mirror because you’ve got to make better decisions on how you treat Nova Scotians,” he told Rankin.

The NDP leader said his party believes the outcomes were better when people in rural communities are able to get medical care in their own area.

The future of long-term care

On the subject of long-term care, Burrill said the Liberals have only created 57 long-term care beds during their tenure.

He said despite the Liberals talking about their commitment to long-term care, staff-to-resident ratios have remained the same as they were eight years ago.

Houston said his party had a “Dignity for Seniors” plan that would see 2,500 new beds constructed and 2,000 new staff members hired in the long-term care sector.

He said that Rankin had spoken previously of “over-investing in seniors” and the Liberals turned down budget increase requests from Northwood.

Moderator Tom Murphy asked the Liberal leader what an acceptable wait for a long-term care bed should be. Rankin said it should be two months but was currently six. 

He said the pandemic had proved his government was willing to invest where required but there was a danger of adding too much bed capacity in long-term care and ending up with empty beds.

Creating affordable housing

On the subject of affordable housing, Burrell was alone in supporting permanent rent control.

Rankin said his government made evidence-based assessments and introduced rent control during the state of emergency as a temporary measure.

Houston said the solution to to affordable housing was building more housing stock and encouraging more construction.

He said this would require encouraging more tradespeople to move to Nova Scotia and providing training in the trades to Nova Scotians. 

During the CBC debate, N.S. party leaders were asked about the moderate livelihood fishery. 2:28

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