Nanaimo-Ladysmith federal candidates. From left to right: Bob Chamberlin, Michelle Corfield, Jennifer Clarke, John Hirst, Paul Manly, Brian Marlatt, Geoff Stoneman, James Chumsa-Jones (Cole Schisler photo)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates joust over access to healthcare and economic priorities

The candidates met Wednesday night for a debate at the Aggie Hall in Ladysmith

The federal candidates for Nanaimo-Ladysmith met Wednesday night for a debate at the Aggie Hall in Ladysmith. The Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce hosted the debate. Jenna Forster was moderator for the evening.

RELATED: Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates Q&A

Candidates discussed their priorities for growing small and medium businesses, improving access to healthcare in the riding, and took questions from the audience.

Chamberlin challenges Manly on pharmacare

NDP candidate Bob Chamberlin and Green MP Paul Manly clashed over the Green Party’s proposed universal pharmacare plan. Chamberlin referenced a CBC article, which gave the Green proposal a “failing grade” in a fiscal credibility assessment by Kevin Page, a former parliamentary budget officer who heads the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

Manly said Page’s assessment did not include all the facts.

“The platform that was sent to Kevin Page was missing the notes that explained different aspects of the budget and the platform. That has all been sent back to Kevin Page and he is re-reviewing it right now,” Manly said. “We’re going to see that come up by the weekend or early next week.”

Manly advocated for the use of deficits as a tool to “invest in people” through education, infrastructure, and healthcare. Chamberlin questioned whether the notes would make a difference.

“The numbers in the Green Party platform simply didn’t add up. Notes are not going to correct the figures that are in the tables,” Chamberlin said.

Access to health care top of mind for candidates

All candidates agreed that there is a shortage of doctors, nurses, and mental health workers in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. PPC candidate Jennifer Clarke said that Canadians receive “sick care” instead of healthcare. She said the PPC would take $40 billion in GST and devote it to health care.

Brian Marlatt of the Progressive Canadian Party advocated for a national purchasing agency to buy pharmaceuticals and distribute them at a lower price throughout the country.

On the note of pharmacare, Michelle Corfield said the Liberals will invest $6 billion in a national pharmacare strategy over the next four years. She also said the Liberals would fund mental health and at home care for seniors.

Both John Hirst and Manly advocated for the creation of a tertiary hospital in the riding. They said the hospital would improve care for cardiac and cancer patients in the area. Corfield later refuted the idea, saying that any new hospital projects are under provincial jurisdiction.

“The federal government does not have control over hospitals. That is a federal transfer to provinces, provinces choose how they spend their money. So, neither of you are getting a tertiary hospital,” she said.

Economic priorities

On the growth of small and medium business, the candidates largely kept to statements from past debates.

PPC candidate Jennifer Clarke repeated her pledge to end corporate welfare, and cut taxes to a flat tax of 10 percent. She also advocated for the removal of interprovincial trade barriers.

Independent Geoff Stoneman advocated for a shift away from fossil fuels to grow green economy in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, he said that shift would benefit small businesses.

“The only way to continue a strong economy is to start shifting away from oil and gas… If we simply start abolishing an energy industry without finding a replacement for it, no business, whether it be small, large, or medium sized is going to succeed,” Stoneman said.

RELATED: Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates keep climate at forefront of first debate

Manly cited his experience as a small business owner, and said that while there’s a lot of incentives for small businesses in the riding, there aren’t many opportunities to take those businesses to the next level. He also advocated for investment in education, specifically at Vancouver Island University to provide job training for high-skill jobs.

Chamberlin said the NDP has advocated for reduced taxes for small and medium businesses, and said the NDP will form a “single point access” for regulatory process and compliance for exporting goods internationally.

Hirst said small businesses made up 98 percent of all corporations in Canada, and said the over 78,000 of them on Vancouver Island drive the economy forward. Hirst said if elected, a Conservative government would repeal Liberal tax changes of 2017 to reduce the tax burden on small business. He toed the party line and claimed Liberals treat small businesses like wealthy tax cheats, and said it was time for them to “get ahead.”

“If you own a small business in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, you need to vote for me on October 21,” Hirst said.

Smaller parties on the chopping block

The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce will host a candidates forum on October 10 that will only feature candidates from parties with MPs sitting in the House of Commons.

This means that Geoff Stoneman, Jennifer Clarke, Brian Marlatt, and James Chumsa-Jones will not be included.

There will also be a candidates meeting on Gabriola Island on October 5, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. It is expected that all candidates will attend.

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