“This is one of the richest places on Earth, Northern Ontario, and it often has that feeling
that it’s not getting the benefit from all the wealth under the ground. …One the great things about Northern Ontario — you see it everywhere — this is a part of the world that has absolutely world-class expertise in mining technology, mining research and mining science. And we mustn’t lose that.” (Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff – April 16, 2011)
Brian Blackborough only wanted to ask Michael Ignatieff one question. The long-haul trucker from Markstay, who pulled himself off the road months ago to care for his ailing wife in their home, wanted to know why he’s being punished for doing so.
As it stands, Canadians in his circumstance can qualify for Employment Insurance only if their spouse is likely to die within six months. And even then, the benefit is only paid for six weeks. That means Blackborough was forced to choose between his wife’s well-being and their income.
The question stuck with the Liberal leader for a number of reasons. Ignatieff’s mother died of Alzheimers and his father stayed home for eight years to care for her. It was a harrowing and traumatic experience he wishes on no one, he told a packed, partisan crowd at Friday’s town hall.
But the question touches a number of other issues that crop up everywhere he goes, Ignatieff said. Such as sustainable health-care funding, accessible health care in northern and rural communities, the increasing importance of home care and dealing with Canada’s aging population.
Ignatieff, in Sudbury to support Sudbury and Nickel Belt candidates Carol Hartman and Joe Cormier, spent two hours fielding questions from a crowd of about 300 mostly Liberal supporters at Radisson Hotel on Friday night.
For several questions on health care, Ignatieff referenced the importance of a plan to help the Blackboroughs of Canada. A Liberal government would immediately extend compassionate EI benefits to six months and build from there, he said.
“We fought for 60 years to make sure access to health care doesn’t depend on what’s in your wallet,” he said. “Now, one of the biggest issues for me is to make sure it doesn’t depend on your postal code, it doesn’t depend on where you live.”
Blackborough, who was planning to retire in two years anyway, said his trucking career is likely over. Now it’s just a matter of he and his wife eking out a dignified living in their days together. He said he was pleased with the answer he got, but hoped Ignatieff realized it was only a start.
“This is a big problem in Canada,” he said after the town hall, “and I hope these people have bigger answers.”
Ignatieff had expansive answers for everybody, with every question unscripted, he insisted at the outset, drawing a contrast with Conser vative leader Stephen Harper.
He began by promising Northern Ontarians improved access to post-secondary education, improved high-speed Internet connectivity from coast to coast and a more open and accountable Canada Investment Act to protect the interests of Canadian workers and resources when taken over by foreign investors.
“We’re all a little older and wiser as a result of some of the experiences that Northern Ontario has been through,” he said.
“When you make a promise to a community — I don’t care if it’s Sudbury or Nanticoke or anywhere– you make a promise to a community, it’s got to be public and you’ve got to be held accountable to keep your promises to Canadians.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3078644