Federal Election

Candidates square off over wages, health-care in Halifax-West debate

Candidates from the four main parties also highlighted their parties’ platform on gender issues, student debt.

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Candidates answer tough questions at Halifax-West all candidates debate   Jill Morgan

Candidates at a debate in the riding of Halifax-West squared off over the issue of income inequality Wednesday, with NDP candidate Joanne Hussey and Conservative Candidate Michael McGinnis declaring: “There is no justification for income inequality.”

Candidates for Halifax-West debated issues of health care, income inequality, post-secondary education and electoral reform.

Affordable health care, boosting incomes, relieving student debt, funding for First Nations’ education and electoral reform were all questions posed to candidates.

The debate was held at Mount Saint Vincent University and hosted by the university’s student union and the Canadian Federation of Students.

Approximately 80-100 people, including students and the general public, attended the debate.

Participants were Geoff Regan of the Liberal Party, NDP candidate Joanne Hussey, Green Party nominee Richard Zurawski and Michael McGinnis of the Conservative Party.

Health care

Moderator and graduate of Mount Saint Vincent University, Amanda Wilneff, first asked how each party will ensure access to quality and affordable health care for Canadians.

Hussey, Regan and Zurawski agreed that publicly funded health care is integral to the Canadian identity. Zurawski said the Green Party will “adequately fund health care across the board” if elected.

Hussey said the NDP would expand, modernize and fund health care. She said some people in Halifax-West have not been able to retire, as they rely on the health benefits from their job.

“That’s not a choice Canadians should have to make,” said Hussey.

McGinnis said the federal government shouldn’t dictate how provinces spend their money on healthcare.

Income inequality

When asked how will each candidate and their party would work to eliminate wage inequality between genders, Hussey said, “I don’t know if anyone has noticed but I’m the only woman on this panel.”

Zurawski responded to this when he said Elizabeth May is the only female leader of any of the major political parties.

McGinnis said “there is no justification for wage inequality,” to which Hussey replied that she never thought she’d agree with a Conservative candidate.

“Band-aid solutions” to student debt

On the issue of student debt, Hussey, Regan and Zurawski agreed that the debt that students carry is making it difficult for them to succeed.

Hussey said the NDP will remove interest from student loans and invest $250 million in federal student grants.

Regan said the Liberal Party will make the student loan system flexible with no repayment until the student is making $25,000 a year in a job.

Zurawski said anything but free tuition is a “band-aid solution.”

“We have offloaded our debt onto the backs of students and have turned out universities into businesses,” said Zurawski.

“Obviously the system is working because you’re sitting there. You’ve got a student loan and you’re here,” McGinnis said.

All candidates agreed that more money should go toward aboriginal education. Regan said the Liberal party will make an immediate investment of $515 million a year in funding for grade school education and provide further assistance in university as well.

Regan said that a reconciliation framework is important, as well as working directly with First Nations groups.

McGinnis said that he doesn’t “differentiate between you and aboriginal,” referring to audience members.

This statement prompted two audience members to shout “shame” at the candidate.

Hussey, Zurawski and Regan said their party would implement an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, if elected.

When asked about electoral reform, Hussey, Regan and Zurawski said their parties would end the first past the post electoral system.

Audience members showed support for their party throughout the event by raising banners and signs, the majority being Liberal or NDP, with few for the Green Party and even fewer for the Conservatives.

Audience members wait for debate to begin, holding signs in support of their party
Audience members wait for debate to begin, holding signs in support of their party   Jill Morgan