Cornwall Ontairo — The Social Development Council (SDC) of Cornwall and area, in partnership with the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre, hosted an all Candidates Debate on Social Justice to a full house on September 22nd, 2015, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Alex de Wit, Executive Director of the SDC was pleased with the large turnout at the Community Health Centre at 353 Pitt Street, Cornwall, particularly with the competition as it was opening day of the International Ploughing Match in our catchment area.
The debate was organized with a goal of informing the public on the candidates’ points of view about the growing concern surrounding social justice and wellbeing in Canada and, specifically on the candidate’s response to improving the health and wellness of residents of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Moderator Hugo Rodrigues selected 5 random questions from a list of 15 prepared questions and asked each candidate to respond. At the end of the moderated question period, the audience was invited to ask impromptu questions directed to specific candidates or towards all candidates.
One local resident who stood out amongst the crowd was 11-year old Fiona Labonté, a Rose des vents student. With much zeal Fiona asked for clarity on the how the 1% increase in hourly rate for minimum wage earners would reduce poverty and improve the economy. The candidate’s responses were varied. Ways to reduce poverty and improve our economy included implementing a higher minimum wage resulting in added buying power for individuals, instating carbon taxation, recommending increased income security with improved access to EI, employment and training opportunities, assurance of food security, enhancement of affordable housing and lower rates for child care.
Another well-informed resident asked specifically about Community Health Centres across Canada. “Community Health Centres across Canada are community hubs and offer health services to a continuously growing percentage of Canadians. What is your suggestion to increase access to these Centres?” Diverse responses were received from the candidates including, although CHCs are not under Federal responsibility, when the Federal Government does make recommendations to the provinces, the provinces are not always receptive to the recommendations. Other responses informed that people need to take responsibility for their own health, organizations with a health mandate must work together and talk to each other, there needs to be more focus on health promotion and illness prevention, and poverty reduction could best be achieved with enhanced affordable housing and added income supports. All candidates highly praised the CHC model of health and wellness and expressed a desire to see a continued growth and development of CHCs across the country.