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Members said Layton best addressed key issues affecting CUPE members, including health care, child care, education and privatization. On health care and child care, in particular, members thought Layton was the strongest candidate.

Many said the overall issue of privatization was not adequately addressed by the candidates and municipal services and infrastructure was notably absent in all leaders’ responses.

It’s not surprising that people’s trust in politicians is falling, especially after the Liberal sponsorship scandal, so it’s refreshing to hear that Layton struck the chord he did.

Here’s what CUPE members had to say about the debate:

Dan Hingley, Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) health care worker, Nanaimo, B.C.

On health care: “I like that Layton pointed out that there was too much privatization, that there needs to be more cash to train doctors and that we need public long-term [care] and home care. But Layton didn’t say enough about public delivery of health care. Harper made me sick and he was deceptive to simply say that health care is a provincial matter.”

On child care: “It’s good Layton said strongly that we need public, non-profit child care.”

On women: “I like that Jack addressed the NDP has more women MPs and that the House of Commons needs more women.”

Overall: “I thought the debate didn’t address the concerns of public workers. Layton addressed some points and that’s good.”

Lisa Stewart, CUPE 3845, Halifax, N.S., child care worker, member of national child care working group

One leader who spoke the most about the people and for the people was Jack Layton, in each question he talked the most about our issues. Paul Martin also spoke a lot about our issues as well but he seems to be trying to keep the corporate interests happy as well as the social interests.”

Overall I think that more debate should have been on major public issues that have gone unresolved, but I liked the fact that Jack Layton kept bringing up our issues constantly when answering the questions.”

Layton remained focused on what needs to be done as opposed to what has already been done. He by far is the one candidate who took the lead on public services, and identified all of the key issues which would concern union members of CUPE.”

Carla Smith, President, CUPE 974, community clinic worker, Saskatoon, Sask.

On health care: “The only one who came close to what I wanted to hear was Mr. Layton who said that he would prevent the growth of private health care in Canada. Mr. Layton also was the only one who spoke on the cost of drugs.

On women: “I heard none of the parties speak on issues that are of importance to women. I will say that Mr. Layton did say that we need to get more women in politics. Nothing was said about pay equity. They spoke on a few issues that are important to women such as child care, health care but not directly about issues.

Privatization: “I heard nothing on this.”

Overall: “Mr. Harper came off as an arrogant @##* and spoke the whole night of when he became prime minister. I think Mr. Martin did very well, although he has lost the confidence of the country. Mr. Layton, although I am biased, came through the debate with flying colours, he spoke on what I believe are what the people of Canada and working people in Canada want.

Jacqueline Zilkie, HEU, Kaslo, B.C.

I thought that Jack Layton covered so many concerns of the working people.”

On child care: “The NDP supports non-profit, public, quality daycare. The Conservative party’s answer to the child care issue is scary. This opens up privatization, fewer jobs and less accountability for quality in the care of our children.”

On health care: “The NDP support the prevention of the growth of privatization. Jack Layton also spoke about the need for long-term care and home care programs and decreasing the price of pharmaceuticals. I believe that Jack Layton had the best things to say about health care. I would have liked more debate on the privatization in health care.”

Jack Layton never forgot about the working families, the seniors of our country, our young people, and the importance of education. He spoke of the growth of poverty and increase in crime.”

Paul Martin, what can you say? This man is on his way out! Too much scandal in his house.”

Sheryl Burns, Vice-President, CUPE 1936, community social service worker, Vancouver.

On health care: “While Paul Martin claimed that he wanted to promote a universally funded health care system his remarks with respect to the cut down of wait lists suggested that there would be room for private health care. Stephen Harper is clearly a proponent of an alternative private health care system as a method for getting wait lists for medical care down. Jack Layton was the only leader who clearly declared that we need to “prevent the growth of privatization” – although he did not elaborate on how he would do this.

On municipal issues: “This leadership debate was virtually silent on public municipal infrastructure and local municipal services.”

On women: “The only two candidates who made any reference to women were Jack Layton and Paul Martin. Both simply commented on the need for increased representation of women in the House, with Martin indicating that the House would be less unruly if more women were there. Layton certainly stressed the importance of affordable and accessible child care, an issue of importance to women.”

On child care: “Jack Layton is the leader who most adequately addressed the issue of a public child care system. Martin danced around the issue of child care without addressing the affordability, availability and public ownership of child care services. Harper’s response was easily the most disturbing and if implemented could push back the clock for women.”

On privatization: “There were extremely few references to public services and institutions and even fewer references to privatization. Jack Layton certainly indicated general support for social services including immigration settlement programs and for a public health care system. Martin indicated some support for health care, however, did not discuss the strengthening of public services, institutions or a stop to privatization. Stephen Harper did not indicate any support for the strengthening of public services and institutions other than committing to increased funding for the military. One had the distinct feeling that he was a keen supporter of privatization and fewer social programs.”

Layton continued to remind voters that electing New Democrats will help to ensure public services are protected. While the mistrust of politicians is leaving many cynical and uninterested in this election, it seems clear that CUPE members interests would be best served in the next Parliament with many more New Democrats elected.