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  • Writer's pictureStuart Benson

Low Down Q&A: Bill C-32, healthcare, reconciliation

L-R: NDP's Denise Giroux; Liberal Sophie Chatel; Conservative Michel Gauthier; Green Party Shaughn McArthur; People's Party's Bruce Gottfred, and Fourth Front's James McNair
L-R: NDP's Denise Giroux; Liberal Sophie Chatel; Conservative Michel Gauthier; Green Party Shaughn McArthur; People's Party's Bruce Gottfred, and Fourth Front's James McNair

The Low Down recently sent five questions to the election candidates concerning the most pressing issues affecting Pontiac and its residents. Here are the answers we received on English Language rights, healthcare, and reconciliation.

The Outaouais is the worst region in Quebec in terms of access to healthcare. If elected will your party increase federal health transfers to Quebec? If so, by what percentage?

Sophie Chatel: Canadians are proud of our public, universal healthcare system. However, we do also recognize its shortcomings. The Liberal party has committed to providing funding to hire a minimum of 7,500 family doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, investing in the recruitment of a broad range of health professionals to rural and remote regions of the country, and expand virtual healthcare services to make it easier for Canadians to access our healthcare system. Healthcare is top of mind for us and the Liberal party is dedicated to continuing to work closely with the province of Quebec, as we have been over the course of the pandemic. We are open to working in a collaborative fashion to provide adequate funding to essential healthcare services that meet the unique needs of each province, Quebec included.

Denise Giroux: Quality medical services are vital for keeping Canadian families safe and healthy. But in too many places across the country, including Pontiac, these services are under threat from privatization and cuts. Justin Trudeau maintained the cuts to healthcare transfers made by Stephen Harper and has resisted calls from provinces to restore healthcare funding. The NDP will increase federal health transfers to Quebec so we can take care of our loved ones. This will ensure wages for nurses are better equalized in the National Capital Region so that the Outaouais can keep health professionals here. We must also ensure adequate funding for prevention. We do this by ensuring paid sick days and universal pharmacare are accessible for all workers. The NDP was instrumental in bringing the first federal paid sick leave program, and we will continue to fight to ensure workers get the help they deserve.

Shaughn McArthur: Healthcare spending per resident in Outaouais is well below the Quebec average, and would require some $250 million in additional resources to close the gap. Federal health transfers, which currently occur on a per capita basis, need to be updated to reflect changing demographics and health profiles. Pharmacare, long-term care, and enhanced mental health services urgently need to be included in the Canada Health Act. We also need to be addressing structural issues undercutting the accessibility and availability of the quality of healthcare in Pontiac. Interprovincial barriers create unnecessary and wasteful duplication and competition between facilities in the National Capital Region and limit the ability of Pontiac residents to obtain healthcare services at Ontario facilities, which are closer to many people in our riding. We also need to be expanding community paramedicine and telehealth in rural communities so that more of us can be treated in comfort at home.

Michel Gauthier: The Conservative Party has already committed to increasing health transfers to the provinces in a predictable, stable, and unconditional manner that respects provincial jurisdictions. This increase would be double the current six per cent and could be higher depending on the outcome of the economic recovery and growth. The current government is also offering to increase transfers, but with conditions, and by determining its own criteria for intervention. This approach prevents the province, and by extension the Outaouais, from investing in the most pressing needs. It is important to respect provincial jurisdictions, including health, according to the Conservative Leader, Erin O'Toole. He has an approach of collaboration, not confrontation, with the provinces.

Bruce Gottfred: The Outaouais has the worst access to healthcare in Quebec because it borders Ottawa, which offers higher pay to nurses and doctors that live here. No other part of Quebec faces such competition for healthcare workers. Increasing federal health transfers to Quebec would do little to address these local issues. Healthcare is supposed to be a provincial responsibility. But the federal parties have noted that most people consider healthcare to be very important, and so, over the years, they have begun to meddle in provincial affairs in hopes of winning federal votes. But this has resulted in each layer of the government denying responsibility for problems and no one responsible for fixing them. The PPC proposes returning authority over healthcare to the provinces and shifting some federal taxing powers to the provinces to pay for it. Provinces will be encouraged to innovate to solve their problems.

James McNair: The good thing about the direct democracy system is that the voters of the Pontiac can voice their concerns and how they believe the healthcare system could be made better. Direct input from the people of the Pontiac will repair any problems with our current healthcare system. Once everyone is engaged in their own health, people like myself will invest private money to improve the hospitals if the government continues to fail, as we need proper healthcare. If you vote for me, I will donate half my salary for healthcare in the Pontiac. It’s so important to me, as my daughter will need healthcare in the Pontiac at some point. We all will. I will personally invest my salary into better healthcare.

Have you read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action? What will you do to implement the Calls to Action?

Sophie Chatel: I recognize that there remains much to be done to move forward on the path of reconciliation. Alongside the Liberal party, I am dedicated to accelerating the responses to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I have read. I am also committed to the implementation of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These efforts, however, must be undertaken collaboratively with Indigenous peoples and organizations. Budget 2021 outlines our party’s commitments to Indigenous communities, including building new social infrastructure, investing in Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs, and increased healthcare financing to ensure indigenous communities hard hit by COVID-19 have the resourcing they need. There is still much work to be done, but we will continue to work together to move forward on the path of reconciliation.

Denise Giroux: New Democrats believe the federal government should not be picking and choosing which Indigenous rights they will uphold or ignore — that is just more of the same colonial treatment. In partnership with Indigenous peoples, an NDP government will fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and implement the calls to justice by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry. In Pontiac, we are on unceded Anishinaabeg territory, and, as a member of Parliament, I will fight for the rights of Indigenous people.

Shaughn McArthur: The Green Party of Canada recognizes the ongoing leadership, resistance, and resilience of Indigenous peoples in the face of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma. We are committed to the full implementation of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the recommendations from the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — all of which I have read.

As your MP, I will work in partnership with First Nations to dismantle the racist Indian Act. I will also fight for Indigenous self-determination in a process based on free, prior, and informed consent. This includes a just accommodation of Indigenous peoples’ aspirations, an equitable sharing of natural resources, the settlement of all land claims, and the creation of a Council of Canadian Governments that includes Indigenous nations as equal partners with other levels of government.

Michel Gauthier: Canadians were shocked at the revelation of unmarked graves at the sites of residential schools. These discoveries were a heartbreaking reminder of the pain Indigenous communities were subjected to. The path of reconciliation is long and difficult, we must act now to make amends for past injustices.

Canada’s Conservatives will: develop a comprehensive plan to implement TRC Calls to Action 71 through 76; fund the investigation at all former residential schools in Canada where unmarked graves may exist, including the sites where children have already been discovered; ensure that proper resources are allocated for communities to re-inter, commemorate, and honour any individuals discovered through the investigation, according to the wishes of their next of kin; develop a detailed and thorough set of resources to educate Canadians on the tragic history of residential schools; [and] build a national monument in Ottawa that honours residential school survivors and the children who were lost.

Bruce Gottfred: I have read them but, aside from some necessary restitutions and acknowledgements of the past, believe many of them to be actually harmful to Indigenous peoples. These are the provisions that seek to create and fund a permanent activist class that will ensure that our present divisions last forever. Reconciliation requires forgiveness, and I did not see that mentioned in the 94 Calls to Action. Canadians of today are not the same as those of the past. We want the First Nations to be our friends and neighbours in a prosperous country. This is difficult because of the poverty and remoteness of some of these communities. But it is impossible without the cooperation and trust of the leaders of these communities. There is federal money to address these problems, but true respect for Native peoples requires expecting them to play a primary role in building their future.

James McNair: Reconciliation is extremely important to me personally and extremely important for the prosperity of the Pontiac. Reconciliation will just trigger a general increase in the quality of life here in the Pontiac. The Pontiac is the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. I was the only candidate that contacted Grand Chief John Boudrias before I ran as an MP; I asked him for his authorization to run on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. I would support the Pontiac as a separate province with the Algonquin’s people as equal partners when it comes to the governance of the Pontiac in Canada.

Will you advocate and vote against the proposals to modify the Official Languages Act (OLA) to give French predominance in Canada and Quebec, which denies the equality of English and French? Why or why not?

Sophie Chatel: The situation of French in the country, as well as in the province of Quebec, is unique, and the government has the responsibility to promote and protect the French language within Quebec and beyond. That being said, the Liberal party also intends to do its part to continue to protect the rights of linguistic minorities in the various regions across the country. This includes anglophone communities in Quebec. I intend to ensure that essential services are still provided in both official languages. The Liberal party is aware of the bill and is studying its contents very carefully, being conscious of the aforementioned concerns.

Denise Giroux: Canadians are proud of our two official languages, and they form an important part of our identity and our communities all across the country. But instead of making the changes needed to strengthen and promote language rights, over the last four years the Liberal government neglected and even reduced support in some areas. It’s time for a different approach, one that makes life easier and ensures a bright future for minority language communities everywhere. A New Democrat government will enhance the Action Plan for Official Languages to improve access to services in the language of choice, including working with the provinces and territories to improve minority language education. We’ll also modernize the Official Languages Act to strengthen oversight and accountability, expand the scope of language rights and ensure that minority language communities are consulted on decisions that impact them.

Shaughn McArthur: I fully support the need to protect French as part of our national identity, but Bills 96 and C32 are not the way to go about it. Through its pre-emptive use of the “notwithstanding clause”, Bill 96 stands to move Quebec closer to becoming a Charter-free zone and to encourage further uses of the "notwithstanding clause" by other provinces. Entrenching of two tiers of rights in Quebec is in nobody's interest, and risks re-opening schisms between French and English-speaking populations that we have worked for decades to repair. Other likely impacts are equally lamentable: limiting the ability of students to obtain an education that will equip them to succeed in a global economy; burdening entrepreneurs; and pushing employees to leave the province. I believe that [the] French language and culture are stronger when Quebec is stronger and united. These bills stand to do the opposite.

Michel Gauthier: A Conservative government will not proceed with the Liberal bill to amend the Official Languages Act. The Liberals already knew when they introduced this bill that it would not pass in the House of Commons before the election. It was simply an attempt at electoral opportunism to look good against the Bloc Québécois in the ridings where this issue could make a difference.

A Conservative Party government will introduce a new bill that respects the language rights of all and the importance of the equality of both languages.

Bruce Gottfred: We use languages to communicate, but politicians frequently use them to divide. The federal Liberals’ move to force French into more businesses and government offices outside of Quebec is a perfect example of this. It is a cynical attempt to win the affections of Quebec voters and will further alienate the West from Ottawa. François Legault’s Bill 96 is more of the same, stealing a plank from their rival’s platform to cobble together a winning coalition for the next election. The only cost? The rights of a minority are just as much Quebecers as any others. I feel that the OLA should simply be what it was written as: an act defining Canada’s official languages. It should not be turned into a tool for social engineering. Similarly, the CAQ should drop the divisive Bill 96 and should try to represent all of the citizens of this province.

James McNair: I am running in the Pontiac to implement the direct democracy system. So all voters in the Pontiac can have a say in what goes on without the government dictating their plans on us. With direct democracy, there’s no way the people of the Pontiac would vote for any bill that discriminates against French and English. Perhaps we should consider at some point finding a way to govern ourselves in the Pontiac if this continues. Any questions or concerns or input, please call us on our main party phone number. We will be making a new phone number for direct democracy soon. 416-613-1571 or

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