PC leader Tim Houston, left, and Antigonish PC candidate Michelle Thompson, right, chat with Michelle MacDonald, the owner of Trendy’s Clothing Ltd. about the better paycheque guarantee and the Nova Scotia Loyal Card during their campaign stop in Antigonish on July 23.

ANTIGONISH: The leader of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative (PC) Party toured the area last weekend, with health care at the top of the priority list.

Tim Houston said while it’s still early, the campaign is going well, and for him personally, he loves being out, interacting with Nova Scotians and listening, and it was no different with a stop in Antigonish with PC candidate Michelle Thompson on July 23.

“It’s always informative, we have a diverse province and lots of different perspectives on things, so you have to get out and hear those,” Houston told The Reporter. “What we’re hearing from Nova Scotians is health care, health care, health care, health care, health care.”

Houston said the PCs are targeting access to doctors, surgeries, wait times and providing needed addictions and mental health services.

“We have a great slate of candidates, obviously Michelle (is) with me here in Antigonish,” Houston said. “She really understands the issues in the health care system and the long-term care system.”

With Trevor Boudreau in Richmond and Brian Comer in Cape Breton East, three of Houston’s nine candidates in his team are health care professionals.

“It’s really important our elected officials are connected to their communities, so they really understand what’s important, and that’s the type of candidates we have,” Houston said. “It’s a comfort to me, because they understand the realities of delivering health care on the frontlines.”

He said they’re focused on putting forward a slate of solutions that can actually fix health care.

“We’re not interested in sound bites, we’re actually interested in solutions that work,” Houston said. “I think Nova Scotians will see that we’ve been very open and honest, about what it’s going to take; it’s expensive, but Nova Scotians are worth it.”

The message he wants voters to receive is his party is committed in fixing health care, and they will get it done.

“When they look at the plans we’ve put forward, when they look at the slate of candidates, more and more they’re saying that change is necessary, and they’re coming the PC party,” Houston said. “And that’s a testament to the quality of the candidates, community leaders, people that care about their community, people that are dedicated.”

Houston said the PCs are focused on health care because they know Nova Scotians are focused on health care and they understand the anxiety they face about ambulance wait times, about not knowing whether a doctor will be there for them when they need one.

“The fact that the Liberals are not talking about health care is just because they don’t have any credibility to talk about it,” Houston said. “They’ve made a mess of the system, they don’t really have the courage or the vision to fix it, but we do. And we want to make sure Nova Scotians know that.”

The PCs also pointed out that the Guysborough Memorial Hospital’s emergency department will experience closures every day this week, with the last notice on July 30. Since the Liberals came into power in 2013, emergency rooms across the province have seen an increase in closures at an incredible 400 per cent from 15,555 hours in only eight years, the PCs noted.

“When people need emergency care, they should not have to go online to see if their local emergency room is open – they should expect those services to be available,” PC candidate for Guysborough-Tracadie Greg Morrow said. “This election is a referendum on health care between the Rankin Liberals who will ignore the healthcare crisis and Tim Houston’s PCs who are bringing common sense solutions forward.”

Ambulance shortages are also an issue in Guysborough. Since the election campaign began on July 17, the Paramedics Union has declared a Code Critical in Guysborough 16 times.

According to a release, the PC’s “Hope For Health Plan” will help reduce ER closures by bringing forward aggressive doctor recruitment, “modernizing” health care, and building a system that listens to the physicians who are trying to bring change, but are ignored by the Liberal government.

In addition to health care, Houston explained their other top priority is fixing the economy, and the PC party has put forth very bold and innovative ideas that will transform the economy; one being the better pay cheque guarantee, which will raise wages of the working families of the province, the other is the Nova Scotia Loyal Card.

“We need more people in this province making money, and we need them to spend it locally,” Houston said. “The Nova Scotia Loyal program goes well beyond the politician just simply saying buy local, or cutting a ribbon and moving on for the day.”

It would be government policy to encourage people to buy locally produced food or locally produced products, with a points system.

“They’ll buy a Nova Scotia product, produce their Nova Scotia Loyal Card and they’ll earn points,” Houston said. “And then those points can be used for things like Access Nova Scotia or the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.”

Houston added these ideas support local businesses and will have a tremendous impact on the economy.