The candidates were asked to speak about the pros and cons of Fundy tidal power:
PC incumbent John Lohr acknowledged the enormous potential of the Fundy tides, but questioned why the proponents have concentrated their finances on turbine design without delving into better monitoring capabilities at the test site.
Lohr said a balance has to be struck because it is important that fish populations are not compromised, but so is clean renewable energy.
Atlantica candidate Bryden Deadder said there is a lot of unlocked potential in the tides, but it has to be realized in the best ways.
“It’s just a matter of time and it will be great for the province,” Deadder said.
NDP candidate Ted Champion noted that tidal power could provide well paying jobs in the Annapolis Valley, as long as the environment results are factored in.
“We have to take care that the fishing heritage that we are proud of and the environment are not up against the almighty dollar.”
Green candidate Mary Lou Hartley stated that the government has “seriously undervalued environmental concerns and a development strategy has to be based on sound science.”
Hartley believes a greedy path is being followed and she advocated for a more modest, cautious approach where the currents are not as strong.
Liberal candidate Geof Turner also spoke in favour of a balance to ensure the environment remains healthy. He said if re-elected, his party will bring in a new bio diversity act and respect the current moratorium on fracking.
A question from the audience asked candidates to speak to the protection and improvement of mental health services.
Champion declared that mental health services locally are in a poor state right now. He spoke about a young, suicidal woman he knows who could not get an appointment with a mental health professional until August.
“These are our near and dear,” he said, “and these are unacceptable time delays. People need help navigating the system.”
Hartley suggested refocusing on mental wellness is required in Nova Scotia where all of the social determinants of health are considered, including income.
“The social safety net is not doing its job,” she said, speaking of the divide in Kentville over supportive housing. “The community needs to understand mental illness and be inclusive and supportive. The old stigmas are still there.”
Turner indicated that, “mental health taboos still exist, but things are changing.”
He said that the Liberals will increase investment in mental health at the school level and a new central intake system will be created, along with the addition of 35 new clinicians.
Lohr’s family has lived through a mental health crisis and, while he respects mental health providers, resources have to expand.
Lohr disparaged cuts in funding by the previous government to non-government organizations like a local eating disorder group and the Schizophrenia Society, adding that a PC government would do its best to increase support.
Deadder, who is 19, considers that living in the digital age is contributing to the big problem of increased mental illness.
“It’s really unfortunate,” he said. “Government hasn’t done enough and I’d like to see services expand.”
Financial insecurity, which sees 24 per cent of children in the riding living in poverty, was an issue the candidates were asked to consider.
Hartley said the Green Party is in favour of both a living wage and a guaranteed income. The party will be watching the Ontario experiment with interest.
She believes that with a guaranteed income, social workers in Nova Scotia could go from monitoring to supporting growth.
Turner outlined the spending the Liberals intend to make in upgrades to public housing, housing co-ops and seniors units.
“It’s an extensive list,” he said, and includes support for Habitat for Humanity, which is building 15 more homes.
Lohr said increasing the basic tax credit would give 500,000 Nova Scotians financial relief. He also pledged that the PCs would not increase the cost of Pharmacare for seniors.
Deadder contended that stimulating the economy would create jobs and thus fight poverty while allowing Nova Scotians to make an honest living.
According to Champion, the economic system in the province has to work “not just for those at the top. The NDP will bring in a $15/hour minimum wage. We will improve social services, mandate safe and affordable housing and not grant rent increases.”
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