(Chris Halliday, Orangeville Banner) – Which provincial party to trust with Ontario’s health care sector was a hot topic of conversation at Westside Secondary School in Orangeville on Wednesday night (Sept. 14).

During the second of two all-candidates debates hosted by the Greater Dufferin Area Chamber of Commerce (GDACC), local ratepayers grilled four of the local riding’s candidates on how their party’s plans will improve health care.

As Rob Strang explained, the Green Party is also committed to increasing the health care budget, but more so towards improving the overall health of people. At the rate Ontario’s health care costs have been increasing, Strang said the sector will make up 80 per cent of the budget by 2030.

“Clearly, that is not sustainable. We have to do things differently,” Strang said, noting government debt is already the province’s third highest expense, while health care tops the list, accounting for about half of Ontario’s total budget.

Strang feels the key is improving the general health of the population. For example, Ontario spends $7 per person on health promotion, whereas British Columbia and Quebec each doll out $21 and $16 respectively, he said.

“Without a doubt, the best return on your health care dollar is preventing illness and disease,” Strang said, noting the Green Party would pour $1.6 billion over four years into community health clinics and another $2 billion into affordable care for seniors.

The most critical component to health care, however, is whether it is sustainable in the long-term, Strang said.

“The problem here is the government of the day has taken on way too much debt and can’t balance the budget in this term of office,” Strang said. “We are very concerned about any government’s ability to sustain health care in the long run.”