September 8 saw the local candidates from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell take the stage to debate issues raised during the election.
NDP candidate Konstantine Malakos received the last question about what he would do to improve general healthcare in Canada, which has been overshadowed during the campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Malakos said that federal transfers for healthcare to provinces used to be at 50 per cent and that amount declined during the past Harper Conservative government, and that Trudeau neglected to reverse the cuts despite promising to do so.
The federal government contributes 22 per cent to healthcare, which Malakos said has resulted in poorer healthcare. He stated that Canada needs more doctors in rural communities, and that dental care, optometry, and mental health services should be part of universal healthcare.
Drouin disagreed, saying that the federal government has paid for 80 per cent of healthcare during the pandemic, and the Liberals propose to invest in 7500 rural doctors and nurses positions, equalizing healthcare on both sides of the Ontario-Quebec border, and transferring $6.5 billion for mental health.
McArthur noted that Justin Trudeau “tries to do everybody else’s job, but never his own”, telling provincial governments what they should do about long-term care, healthcare, and hiring doctors, instead of paying attention to the national borders and setting reasonable transfer amounts to provinces.
Drouin countered McArthur’s point that when members of the community are asking for the Red Cross and the army to come into the community to fill in for doctors, nurses, and personal support workers (PSWs), it becomes a federal issue. He said the Liberals are planning to pay PSWs $25 per hour, as they work hard and deserve pay that reflects that. Malakos said that long term care homes also needed to be properly staffed so employees aren’t overworked into exhaustion.
Malakos argued that not only does the federal government need to set national standards for long-term care, but long-term care should be made a part of universal healthcare. He said that for-profit long-term-care corporations profited during the pandemic by cutting costs at the expense of the people they were supposed to be serving. He noted that 80 per cent of the deaths at the beginning of the pandemic were at long-term-care homes, and said that due to corporations overworking and understaffing their homes to make more money. He accused the companies of gouging the elderly and disabled people who relied on them.
McArthur criticized Drouin’s argument, saying that if the federal government had controlled the borders at the beginning of the pandemic and had a strategic stockpile as opposed to nothing, maybe Canada wouldn’t have found itself in trouble. Drouin argued the entire world failed on the pandemic in some way, and it is wrong of the Conservatives and McArthur to say that Canada was supposed to do better than everyone else. The government did the best it could to support Canadian workers, businesses, and the public.
Malakos changed the subject to talking about the next pandemic. He said that there was a publicly-owned Canadian company doing domestic research on diseases, medication, and vaccines, but it was sold by Brian Mulroney, and none of the successive governments did anything to bring it back. McArthur replied that the company was called Connaught Biosciences, which still exists in Toronto, and that the real problem is that Trudeau has no relationship with pharmaceutical companies. His first stop for vaccines was CanSino Biologics, a Chinese start-up.
Drouin argued that Canada is now number one in vaccination rates, the Liberal government has signed contracts with both Moderna and Pfizer, and Moderna is proposing to build a Canadian production plant. Malakos argued that those companies could leave in the future because private enterprises aren’t tied to the country in any way beyond profit.
Malakos said that Canada shouldn’t be looking to private enterprises to solve its problems. Essential infrastructure should come from crown corporations, he said, where the biggest shareholder is the Canadian government, because private companies owe allegiance to their shareholders and work to make as much money as possible. He said that when things are essential, the only goal should be results.