GUYSBOROUGH – If you’re looking for experience in a politician, you won’t find too many candidates with as much in Nova Scotia politics as the Liberal candidate in the Guysborough-Tracadie riding, Lloyd Hines.
Hines started his career in politics as an elected school board member in Guysborough. From there, he went on to sit first as a councillor for and later as the warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. Since 2013, he has served as the provincial MLA for the Guysborough-Tracadie riding, although the name and geographic area he represents has changes several times during his time in office. Now is his 36th year as an elected official in the province, Hines told The Journal of his decision to run in this election, “I’ve got the knowledge, I’ve got the experience; and I’ve got the willingness to do this again.”
Hines said the issue top of mind for his constituents is health care. “Healthcare is a pervasive, important and consistent matter for people who live in this riding.”
He added, “Establishing and maintaining healthcare in rural Nova Scotia is probably one of the most challenging items that faces a rural MLA today.”
The challenge, Hines said, has a lot to do with the aging demographic in rural areas increasing the need for healthcare. “When you get to be a senior you are a higher consumer of healthcare … it’s a fact of life,” he said.
Hines pointed out several healthcare wins that occurred during his tenure as MLA, such as the new wing at Guysborough Memorial Hospital and the new EHS ambulance base in Sherbrooke. He also admitted that some areas have fallen short of what he would have liked to have seen, such as the decline of services at the Mulgrave Medical Centre and what he sees as the lack of succession planning to replace physicians who are retiring from family practice in rural areas.
Due to the increase in demand for physicians putting a strain on the system when many doctors in rural areas are retiring, Hines said he’s looking at recruitment to fill the need. “I have been working hard on the foreign doctor recruitment process. There is a very rigorous, professionally imposed process for qualifying doctors from other countries that come into practice in Canada. And, essentially, that is controlled by the College of Physicians and Surgeons—which is the controlling body of medicine in Nova Scotia. They pretty well have the say in who comes in and doesn’t.
“That needs to be looked at in my opinion … if there needs to be legislative changes for that then we need to find a way of doing it. We’ve got people in Nova Scotia who are highly qualified in their own country as a physician who are driving a taxi, while we don’t have doctors in the area. So, you have to wonder how come,” said Hines.
Emergency Health Services
When asked to address complaints about ambulance service in the riding, Hines said, “Over time the needs have changed, and the shortcomings of the system have started to show up. Also, the expectations of the people, the bar is higher than it used to be – a half-an-hour wait for the ambulance today is seen as a failure. But, like any other system, there are imperatives that have to be met … my job is to try to keep the high level of pressure on the service so that the service is good.
“What we tend to hear are the failures. We don’t tend to hear about the success. I think the ambulance service is doing a good job, generally speaking, throughout the province,” said Hines.
He added, “I think what we have to do is keep the pressure on with the purveyors of the system. I talk to the medical people all the time – they are not expressing complete dissatisfaction with the service. I think they are being pretty reasonable about the overall picture. They know there are shortcomings … overall, we are very fortunate to have the service that we do have in Nova Scotia. Could it be more efficient? Yes, I think so. There’re always ways to improve. But in the overall picture I think we can stack it up against anybody else, any other province, and be pretty happy with what’s going on.”
On the campaign trail, Hines said after healthcare, he is hearing most often about Internet service.
“An issue that showed up during the pandemic, is the sketchy Internet service that we have throughout the riding. We, this government, has found a solution for that and the solution is to commit money to bringing high-speed fibre optic Internet to 97 per cent of Nova Scotia. In this riding, I am really pleased with what is going on.
“The pandemic brought to stark reality what it meant not to have good Internet service because students were expected to do home learning via the Internet and we went through a period of time where this spring, parents were very irate and I couldn’t blame them because the quality of the service … it wasn’t good,” said Hines.
He added, “People have to be a little bit patient. We’ve got the supplier; we’ve got Bell working – we’re in places that I never thought I’d see high-speed Internet throughout the county and that’s a good thing … I look forward to everybody having high-speed Internet.”
Homelessness is a hidden issue in rural areas of Nova Scotia and often takes the form of couch surfing, holding up in camps or renting unsuitable accommodations.
When asked how the Liberal government would tackle this problem, Hines said, “I think when we’re talking about affordable housing, we’re talking about the subsidized housing that would provide a rent that people can afford … What we’ve done in our government is pulled housing out of Municipal Affairs … and given it its own department which is now Infrastructure and Housing … giving it its own named department is probably going to give more attention to the situation.”
The government has also committed $25 million towards implementing recommendations in the May 2021 report issued by the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission.
As long as people drive, there will never be an election where roads are not an issue. Having served as the Minister for Transportation and Active Transit, Hines is extremely knowledgeable about this portfolio.
He told The Journal, “Roads are perennially an issue with people because next to a house the next biggest investment is a car. If you’re on shitty roads, and beating your car up, you’re not very happy.
“I’ve been working very hard to get more road work here in the riding. I’ve been calling it ‘our fair share.’ That’s what I’m looking for. That’s my job as MLA, is to make sure we’re getting our fair share and that has not always been the case. Nor is it always easy. But we’re making some inroads on the roads,” he said.
One area where much work is being done is on bridges across the riding from Sheet Harbour to Canso and Mulgrave.
“In the last four years we have replaced close a dozen [bridges] and some of them are pretty expensive,” said Hines.
He also noted that the twinning of Highway 104 through Barney’s River was progressing well and was an important project for this end of the province.
One hot button issue which is unique to the riding of Guysborough-Tracadie is the public library and what’s seen as the unfair reduction of hours in the Canso, Guysborough and Sherbrooke branches of the Eastern Counties Regional Library. The municipalities of Guysborough and St. Mary’s have repeatedly approached the province to intervene in the situation but haven’t yet gotten any further ahead in reinstating hours.
Hines told The Journal, “The way the libraries are set up, the baseline funding is provided by the government … the expenditure of that money is in the purview of that board. It’s an autonomous group.”
He added, “I completely understand the frustration from the two municipal units at losing hours and service even though they are paying what the formula has laid down, has called for. The demand was if you want to maintain your hours, you have to pay more. I don’t understand that; all I know is both St. Mary’s municipality and Guysborough municipality are very upset about that. From what I can see they have good reason.
“What I have been working on is working with the municipalities to get fresh perspectives and working with our own government to replace the provincial appointee from this area on the board. I have talked to the minister about it but of course they’re saying we provide the money; they provide the governance. The board is autonomous, they can do what they want,” said Hines.
The bottom line
Beyond all the talking points, one question remains for all voters to contemplate before casting a ballot: why should I vote for one candidate over another? Hines has an answer for that.
He told The Journal, “At the end of the day, people should vote for themselves – in voting for the person who can best help them out – that’s what the name of the game is.
“You have to see in the candidate the abilities to be able to deliver and I have proven that; I have been delivering for a long time and I hope that the people will give me the chance to continue to deliver,” he said adding, “I know what I am doing … I have been in cabinet now for six years – which is an extremely important part of the process, and I live with the people. I live in the riding … people should vote for the person that best can help them get their fair share.”
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal