Federal health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor met with seniors and toured the Queens Family Resource Centre during a July 18 visit to Liverpool.
Joined by local MP Bernadette Jordan, the minister spent an hour fielding health-related questions from about 30 seniors at Queens Place Emera Centre.
The minister informed the audience she is close to signing an implementation agreement regarding $287.8 million in federal funding for home care and mental health support in the province. The 10-year financial commitment was made in late 2016 and will see $157 million directed to home care and $130.8 million to mental health.
"I'm waiting to come back to Nova Scotia in the next few weeks to sign that agreement," she said.
Petitpas Taylor also said Ottawa is close to implementing strategies for pharmacare, dementia treatment and palliative care. "Canada is seen as a world leader when it comes to health on a number of fronts," she said.
Former mayor Christopher Clarke, recently elected to the board of Queens Manor, addressed the minister concerning the Liverpool nursing home. "We definitely need more funding for the Queens Manor facilities," he said, acknowledging the matter falls under provincial jurisdiction. "We haven't had a new bed in Queens since, I think, the 1980s."
Asked by another audience member about doctor shortages on the South Shore, Petitpas Taylor said recruiting and retaining doctors is a challenge in many rural parts of Canada. "Those are challenges that provinces and territories are working on," she said, mindful of jurisdiction in the matter.
Councillor Jack Fancy, who represents Milton, told the minister Nova Scotia needs to pay doctors more in order to attract more of them. Frequent emergency room closures in Shelburne and long wait times in Bridgewater are putting stress on Queens General Hospital, he said. "They come straight down to Queens." While the minister was sympathetic to Fancy's concerns, they too fall under provincial jurisdiction.
Following the meeting at Queens Place, Petitpas Taylor and Jordan toured the new Water Street home of the Queens Family Resource Centre. They read books to some of the children at the centre and spoke with adults about the importance of the federal government's Canada Child Benefit (CCB) program to local families.
The health minister said that, beginning this month, CCB will be indexed to the cost of living. "We're going to be able to do it two years earlier than planned," she said. "It will certainly provide families with a hand-up and additional funding to help raise their kids."
According to Jordan, more than 13,000 children and 7,000 families receive the CCB in South Shore-St. Margaret's, injecting $4.6 million into the riding each month. "This is not money that goes into the bank," she said. "This is money that people are using to put their kids in camps, buy school supplies, buy extra groceries and other things families need to do."
Several high-profile federal officials have toured Nova Scotia recently. Jordan dismissed the notion such visits might be intended to prop up Liberal MPs in advance of next year's election. "I've been very fortunate the last three years to have a number of ministers visit the riding," she said. "I've had ministers coming to this riding since day one."
The health minister's swing into Liverpool came on the heels of a brief Nova Scotia visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During his stay, the prime minister met with Premier Stephen McNeil and announced $90 million in funding to twin a dangerous section of Hwy. 104.
While Petitpas Taylor and Jordan were pressing the flesh in Liverpool, Trudeau was back in Ottawa unveiling a significant cabinet shuffle. The government's front benches expanded from 30 to 35 ministers, including a newly minted Minister for Seniors, Filomena Tassi. Of particular note for the South Shore, the Fisheries and Oceans portfolio was transferred from an East Coast Liberal (Dominic LeBlanc) to one on the West Coast (Jonathan Wilkinson).