The Four Amigos concentrate on the economy, health, education and infrastructure
By Kevin Woodhouse
For the last time before next Monday’s provincial election, the four West Island Liberal candidates met with media and supporters this past wintry Sunday morning to discuss their priorities for the upcoming mandate, should they get elected.
Jacques Cartier Liberal incumbent Geoffrey Kelley, Nelligan candidate Martin Coiteux, Robert Baldwin Liberal candidate Carlos Leitão and Marquette incumbent Francois Ouimet were on hand at Leitão’s campaign offices where they spoke about the economy, health, education and infrastructure needs for the West Island.
“Our party’s main focus is the economy while the Parti québécois wants to accelerate towards a referendum,” said Leitão. “After only 18 months in power, the PQ have plunged this province into nearly stagnant growth.”
The Robert Baldwin candidate talked about the party’s program to promote small businesses via tax credits for exportation as well as a savings program to help young Quebecers afford to buy a house.
The Liberal party also wants to offer homeowners who renovate their homes 20 percent in tax breaks to a maximum of $10,000. Locally, Leitão “wants to build on and maintain West Island’s industrial parks.
Kelley told the assembled that the West Island “remains profoundly federalist and the threat of another referendum has been on people’s minds, many are also talking about health care issues.”
The Jacques-Cartier candidate lauded the new MUHC’s potential but did note that the new downtown hospital “will bring additional demands to the Lakeshore General Hospital (LGH) since the new MUHC model will return some services back to the LGH.”
Kelley spoke of the needs for new resources to compensate for the new patient load that already includes many off island residents deserving a hospital of their own. When asked by The Suburban if the $36 million needed to fund the LGH’s expected increase in services and capacity would be sufficient and realized, Kelley said that the Liberals want to apply a new model to health care; one where a hospital is given a budget based on each patient that receives treatment.
Another way the Liberal Party wants to ease chronic overcrowding in the province’s emergency rooms is to create 50 super clinics across the province. In the West Island, Kelley spoke about the eventual transfer of the Veterans’ Hospital from federal to provincial jurisdiction. “This could be an enormous opportunity,” said Kelley. “The first priority would be the care of the veterans but there are currently 100 empty beds and could become a centre for geriatrics.”
When asked about the hefty tax bill levied on the citizens of Ste. Anne de Bellevue when the transfer takes place, Kelley told The Suburban that the federal government takes care of 100 percent of municipal taxes from the hospital while the provincial’s contribution is only half of that, leaving residents with a $2 million balance.
“The government would set up a transition period of about five years for the budget shock,” said Kelley.
“The PQ has destabilized the economy by increasing taxation on capital gains, right after they were elected, killing the Plan nord and cutting infrastructure,” said Coiteux. “We would restore infrastructure spending within the first 100 days of our mandate.”
At the local level, Coiteux said projects like the 440 extension, that has been approved by the previous Liberal government but cut when the PQ took over in September 2012 and the Train de l’ouest would be back on the books. “The PQ doesn’t care about the West Island,” said Coiteux. “Every important project gets passed over.”
While maintaining school boards, Ouimet said that by reducing bureaucracy and “giving oxygen to schools by investing directly into them, we can offer better services to students.
“We want to stimulate the economy to take care of our schools, hospitals and social services,” said Ouimet.
The Marquette incumbent urged West Islanders to go out and vote “in great numbers to get rid of any kind of referendum threat.”
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