Yarmouth Liberal candidate Zach Churchill. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
As Zach Churchill campaigns door-to-door many of the concerns and issues he’s hearing are the same ones people shared with him when he ran in a by-election for Yarmouth’s MLA seat three years ago.
He says it’s discouraging that people are still looking for help or action from their provincial government on many of the same issues in 2013 as they were in 2010.
Which is why, he says, it’s time for a change of government.
Churchill is the Liberal candidate for Yarmouth and he’s looking to be re-elected as this riding’s MLA. There’s no mistaking which party he’s campaigning for, from the red case protecting his iPad, to the red sneakers he recently bought. He says the NDP government has been too focused on large corporate handouts, which have resulted in job losses anyway.
Meanwhile people continue to feel the hardships of the economic situation facing this province, says Churchill.
This isn’t to say there isn’t good news on the home-front, he says. There’s the return of ferry service, plans by Register.com to expand and the recently announced doctor residency program at the hospital. But there is still much work to be done, says Churchill, and he’s looking to voters to choose him to carry out this work under under what Churchill hopes – and expects – to be a Liberal government.
The task ahead won’t be easy, he acknowledges. He says rural economies are struggling and resource-based industries aren’t what they used to be.
“But what we observed at the recent All Hands on Deck meeting (organized by Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood) is people were coming together and staying focused on the positive and maintaining a vision on where we want to be.
“You can’t change the macro-economic climate of the province, the country or the world, but we can hopefully make positive steps towards our goals,” Churchill says.
Churchill has always believed in Yarmouth’s potential. It’s why three years ago he left a job in Ottawa to come back home to work for the people as their MLA.
But his work, he feels, has not yet ended.
“I feel like I’ve been a very effective voice in opposition for three years and I would love the opportunity to hopefully be on the government side and get a chance to make some decisions that will be positive for Nova Scotia and for Yarmouth.”
As for the issues he hears while travelling door-to-door the primary issues are still jobs, the lack of family doctors, the ferry and the education system.
Churchill says issues in the Liberal party platform come up. He’s asked by this newspaper whether he’s heard from people on the Liberal platform promise to decrease the number of district health authorities in the province from 10 to 2. He has.
“Some people think it’s a good idea to cut administration at the top and focus financial resources on the front end, on nurses and doctor training and recruitment. Other people are worried about the impacts it will have on the local jobs in the area,” he says. “All I can explain to them is changes are coming to the health care system. We have an aging population that is costing more money to take care of. In 2015 we’re going to have cuts from the Harper government in the health transfers. We’re trying to prepare ourselves so we’re not dealing with a crisis situation when that time comes.
“Our hope and goal is the minimize expenses at the very top . . . and focus our resources on supporting nurses on the front end and doctor training and recruitment,” he says.
Churchill says there has been a real crisis in Yarmouth, and elsewhere, when it comes to people not having access to a family doctor. The medical residency program announced for the Yarmouth Regional Hospital will hopefully help change that, he says, but he adds the Liberal plan is to train and hire 100 new doctors in four years.
“That’s 25 a year and those doctors will be specifically to support high-need areas.”
Churchill has seen his share of highs and lows over the past three years. He experienced the high of seeing this riding pull together to fight to keep its voice in the provincial legislature when a boundaries review threatened this. Asked if he has any regrets as an MLA, he says even with everything a person does or tries to do, there is always more that you want to accomplish.
It’s like this in any job. Whether you’re an MLA or not.
Meanwhile, Churchill hopes people will feel engaged during this campaign.
And also when they go to the ballot box.
“ I think this is an exciting time for Yarmouth. There’s a lot of positive energy here that just keeps me going on the campaign trail.
“I’ve loved my job. I feel very privileged to have this position and I feel right now it’s what I’m meant to do,” he says, and what he wants to continue to do.
He’ll find out on Oct. 8 if voters feel the same.