LISTEN: Liberals' record on health care in the spotlight during third CJAD 800 issues debate

Representatives from the Liberals and the CAQ sparred over the Liberals' record on health care in Quebec over the past four years, as well as over the past 15 years, in the third of CJAD 800's weekly issues debates on Friday.

David Birnbaum, the Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee, told CJAD 800's Leslie Roberts that while things are far from perfect in the health care network, he says he's "very proud" of what the Liberals have accomplished since the Couillard government took over in 2014.

"Stats show that we're going in the right direction," Birnbaum says. "Is health care ever challenging? You bet it is. Can we look at things we've done that are starting to bear fruit and will most certainly bear substantial fruit in the four years to come if we're elected? Yes we can."

Birnbaum points to "substantially" reduced emergency room wait times, the creation of superclinics with more to come, a reinvestment in seniors' home care, and hooking hundreds of thousands of Quebecers up with new family doctors.

Christopher Skeete, the CAQ's candidate in Laval's Ste. Rose district, says the improvements are underwhelming, and there remain critical issues that need to be addressed.

"The Liberals have been promising to fix health care since 2003. We're still waiting," Skeete says. "I see minor improvements. I certainly don't see 15 years' worth of improvements. I think we have to question everything, and I don't think the Liberals are prepared to do that."

The Liberals have been in power in Quebec since 2003, save for the 18-month Parti Québécois minority government period from 2012 to 2014. Before becoming premier, Philippe Couillard served as health minister for five years under Jean Charest.

Skeete says among the changes a CAQ government would bring in would be to change the way doctors are paid — paying them based on how many patients they take on, rather than by every service they perform.

"If we're successful, we're going to create a system where doctors want to work in partnership with their medical peers. They're going to want to take on more patients. I think by improving front-line care, we're going to improve health outcomes. This is thinking outside the box."

Quebec Solidaire's candidate in St. Henri-Ste. Anne, Benoit Racette, says CLSCs, and front-line services in general, need to be better funded — through increased tax revenues.

"We think that the rich don't pay enough taxes, and that's how we can get more money to invest in, for example, dental insurance," Racette says, alluding to one of his party's signature promises — free dental care for everyone.