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Health care tops the issues at student forum

Candidates in this riding visit Ballenas Secondary School
Green Party candidate for Nanaimo-Alberni Myron Jespersen (standing)

An all-candidates forum at Ballenas Secondary School attracted around 100 politically interested students Thursday afternoon.

The forum was the second to last of many across the Nanaimo-Alberni riding, with one at a Port Alberni school closing out the round on Friday.

“Despite the fear mongering from these people, the Conservative party have included a six per cent per year increase in health care spending the whole time we’ve been in government, that’s a 33 per cent increase,” said James Lunney in response to the first set question, which was on health care.

Liberal candidate Renee Miller had invoked the Liberal minority government of Lester B. Pearson who introduced health care. She said Harper has been an outspoken proponent of privatizing health care.

Then NDP candidate Zeni Maartman turned it around and reminded the crowd it was NDP leader Tommy Douglas who fought long and hard to bring it to the government’s attention.

“There are five million Canadian families without a family doctor,” she said, adding the NDP promises to educate 6,000 new health care workers and 1,200 new doctors.

Green party candidate Myron Jespersen said, “I have lived and worked most of my life in some of the poorest countries in the world and I have seen what happens to people without a health care system.”

He said his party strongly advocates keeping the health care system, but also suggests people think more about how to stay healthy in the first place.

Jespersen said he wants to look at ideas like paying health care workers to keep people out of hospitals.

Jespersen had started the opening round where each candidate had two-minutes to lay out their main points.

“If the Green Party was in power I wouldn’t be here talking to you students, I’d be talking to you voters,” he said of one of the party’s most relevant promises for young people — lowering the voting age to 16.

Lunney spoke of his government’s tax cuts which he said save the average family $3,100 and how one of their focuses is the safe communities plan to protect children from predators.

Maartman said the NDP has priorities other than the Conservative’s breaks for big banks and oil companies. They want to make post secondary education more affordable, focus on health care and creating green jobs and bring democracy back to government.

Miller said the Liberals are against building bigger prisons to warehouse marijuana growers and for women’s control over their reproductive systems.

She said the growing youth movement that believes the protest vote is for the NDP is incorrect, and that only the Liberals can counter the Conservatives.