By Jennifer Vardy Little
More than 125 people packed the Nova Scotia Community College to listen to what candidates in Kings North had to say on issues like education funding, twinning Highway 101, raising the minimum wage, increasing the budget for tourism and preserving farm land.
All four registered candidates in the riding – Green Mary Lou Harley, Liberal Stephen Pearl, NDP Jim Morton and PC John Lohr – attended the event.
All four candidates promised to make getting high-speed Internet to the pockets of Nova Scotia that aren’t currently receiving that service a priority.
The previous PC government had struck a deal with Eastlink to provide that service, but the work isn’t complete, said Lohr, who added that not having high-speed Internet can reduce the value of a home significantly.
“I asked my own boys – would you want to live in a house without high-speed Internet? ‘No way,’ they said,” Lohr told the audience.
Since the previous Tory government signed that contract, “thousands of Nova Scotians have received the service,” said Morton, but there are still about 1,000 people who do not have access to high speed Internet in their homes. He pointed out that Eastlink has not yet been paid for the contract because the work is not completed and pledged that he would “continue towards providing the service to everyone.”
Pearl, meanwhile, said that Nova Scotians are not used to not having full cell phone or high-speed service.
“There’s a problem here, it’s been going on for quite a long time,” Pearl said. “My pledge to you: we’re going to fix that as soon as we can.”
Harley – who is running because she wants to draw attention to Green Party policies – said she’s under no illusion that the Greens will have control of the next legislature. She did, however, promise to “push for the kind of policy changes that we need” and put pressure on the companies to deliver.
In a question posed by the audience, candidates were asked about plans to lower taxes. The question pointed to the often-heard excuse that new governments “had no idea” the province’s financial situation was “that bad” before taking office.
Harley admitted that a platform is a “guessing game” for opposition parties, adding that it’s “irresponsible to commit without knowing how much is in the bank.” She added that the Greens believe they can actually reduce spending in many cases.
“I’ve been around long enough to hear that too, but you can trust the PC party when we say that because we have Jamie Baillie as our leader,” said Lohr, who added that Baillie, an accountant, was staking his professional reputation on the Tory platform. Lohr added that the plan also included a “contingency plan” for pre-election spending by the NDP.
“I would challenge other parties to give us their costed-out budget.”
The Liberals do have a plan, said Pearl.
“It’s right here,” he told Lohr, showing him a copy of the Liberal platform. “We’re not making promises because we’re not sure what kind of mess we’re in.”
In a province that’s in significant debt, he told the audience, “We want to make sure you’re getting the best value for the taxes you pay.”
The question, said Morton, is really directed towards the Tories.
“I guess I believe the PCs will lower taxes, but I haven’t heard what wasteful spending they’re going to stop,” he said, adding that he’s heard the mantra many times before that lowering taxes will create a better, more vibrant future.
“I’d like to know what party did that and succeeded over time.”
Read a live blog from the entire event HERE or view video clips HERE.