N.S. election: Gary Burrill talks social supports, health-care staffing in 1-on-1 interview

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In our series of conversations with the men who want to lead this province, we sit down with Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill – Aug 4, 2021

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill says his party, if elected in the upcoming provincial election, will introduce a number of social supports – but stopped short of promising a universal basic income program.

Global’s Sarah Ritchie sat down with Burrill just over two weeks before the election to talk about affordability, health-care staffing and vaccines.

Read more: N.S. election — Tim Houston talks health care, vaccines, policing in 1-on-1 interview

While the provincial NDP’s federal counterpart has tried to pressure the Trudeau government into implementing a universal basic income program, Burrill said there are other things to work toward on a provincial level.

“We need to look at specific income-related programs to fill the particular holes we see that are the sharpest at the moment,” he said.

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“So, an improved minimum wage, rent control and an improved income assistance program. These are things that are designed to speak to exactly those holes.”

Watch the full interview here:

Click to play video: 'N.S. election: NDP leader Gary Burrill sits down for 1-on-1 interview' N.S. election: NDP leader Gary Burrill sits down for 1-on-1 interview
N.S. election: NDP leader Gary Burrill sits down for 1-on-1 interview – Aug 4, 2021

Burrill also said he was committed to keeping inpatient and ER services in the Cape Breton communities of North Sydney and New Waterford, even though staffing has been a consistent issue in the region.

“The staffing is a big problem and a big challenge, but you don’t junk the car because it needs a new muffler. You address the problem that you have,” he said.

Read more: Keeping track of the N.S. election and promises from main party leaders

Burrill said he would like to integrate more primary care physician assistants.

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“With the work of physician assistants, by substituting for some of physicians’ more routine work, you’re able to extend the reach of the physicians we have to serve the medical needs of the population we need to serve,” he said.

Vaccines and policing

On a related note, Burrill, like Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston, didn’t commit to mandating COVID-19 vaccines for health-care workers.

Burrill said there are “issues raised by the idea of compulsory vaccination” and noted that COVID-19 is a “live issue” with “lots of discussion around it.”

He said the NDP would follow public health’s current approach of appealing to people’s need to protect themselves and others.

Read more: Nova Scotia election — Party leaders on how they will address COVID-19 moving forward

Burrill was also pressed on the subject of RCMP contracts. The RCMP has faced criticism over its handling of the spree of shootings and arson that left 22 people dead last year, as well as the lobster fishery disputes in southwestern Nova Scotia and allegations of systemic racism.

He said an NDP government would take the recommendations from the Mass Casualty Commission once the results of the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia shooting are available, likely toward the end of 2022.

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“We believe that there is a great deal that must be learned, must be examined – with no holds barred and seen with very clear eyes – about every dimension of the terrible events of last year, including the dimension of the role of the RCMP,” he said.

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