5 Experts Speak Out Against the Liberals’ health plan

Dr. John Ross:

I think it’s going to be administrative upheaval and a lot of busywork and cost us a fair amount of money in terms of severance packages and just the confusion that will ensue. I think at the beginning it will cause havoc. It’ll be a complete distractor.

Bruce Saunders, board chairman, Cumberland Health Authority:

Mr. McNeil plans to dismantle a successful “health authority” structure to save $13 million. The daily cost of the entire provincial health-care system is approximately $10.7 million. Does he seriously plan to destroy the current system of governance to save approximately one day’s operating expense?

Hattie Dyck, former newspaper reporter:

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone in rural Nova Scotia would want to be governed by one super health board for the total province and one for the IWK Children’s Hospital which is what Liberal Leader Stephen MacNeil is advocating.

CUPE Nova Scotia:

The news out of Alberta that the health minister there has fired the entire Board of Alberta Health Services should serve as a wakeup call for those who are pushing the idea of a so-called “superboard” here in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Nurses Union:

There has been much public discussion over the past year concerning plans to amalgamate district health authorities. In the past, Nova Scotia has undergone several variations of health care reform, causing disarray in the system to the detriment of nurses and the patients they care for. Future changes threaten to invite labour unrest, employer instability, and challenges to job security as well as seniority levels – all distractions from real and pressing needs in health care.

Shifting to super boards leads to more expensive administration costs. Alberta saw an $80 million increase in administration spending after implementing a super board in their province, over and above the cost of making the initial switch.

Stephen McNeil’s health Super Board would be Super Bad

Stephen McNeilA Cumberland County council meeting tackled the troubling plan of Stephen McNeil to create a health Super Board in Nova Scotia.

A district health authority official asked the council to reject the Super Board policy.

“It was an unusual move,” Warden Keith Hunter told The Chronicle Herald. “But boy do they have a case.”

Alberta’s SuperBoard has been a disaster. Wait times skyrocketed and according to an internal Alberta government document, emergency rooms in that province were close to a “near collapse”.

There were no cost savings either. The first full fiscal year with Alberta’s SuperBoard saw administration costs rise to $390 million, an increase of $46 million.

When asked about the Cumberland meeting, Stephen McNeil lashed out, saying “I think it’s strange behaviour for a district health authority to use public money to save their own jobs.” The problem? They are volunteers.

Cumberland Health Authority chairman Bruce Saunders told the Herald: “Job? I’ve been doing this for 13 years and I haven’t been paid a cent. The boards of the district health authorities are all volunteers.”

It’s worrisome that Stephen McNeil, running to be Premier, did not know this.

Tearing apart a system that’s working is only going to set us back again, to the last time the health care system was in disarray – under the Liberals in the 1990′s. The Liberals paid nurses to leave the province, tried to take away the right-to-strike from healthcare workers, and caused chaos.

The province’s dedicated health care professionals are only looking out for a strong and sustainable universal health care system. Super Boards tend to centralize diagnostic and specialist services, not to mention decisions, at the expense of fair access for, and input from, rural populations. Political parties would be wise not to shake what only needs to be stirred.

On the Line

Why are the Liberals now Nova Scotia's least labour friendly party in Nova Scotia?

Why are the Liberals now Nova Scotia’s least labour friendly party in Nova Scotia?

Did the three three men vying to be Premier of Nova Scotia pass the last Labour Day before the election celebrating workers’ rights, marching in solidarity with nurses, teachers, cleaning crews and coffee shop workers. Or did they take the day off – a victory won for us by the work of the labour movement?

Once upon a time, even American Republicans cheered about their strong ties to organized labour. Now, Liberals in Canada, and of course Tories, shy away from topics ranging from the minimum wage to maternity leave.

On Labour Day, while marching and speaking at a union rally in Halifax, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter announced an important policy plank that will help workers take care of their families – better access to parental leave.

More Nova Scotians will be able to take parental leave knowing their job will be waiting for them when they return. Premier Darrell Dexter announced plans today, Sept. 2, to amend the Labour Standards Code to allow someone employed for six months with an employer to qualify for pregnancy/parental leave.

Jamie Baillie did not hide completely on the one day of the year politicians focus on labour issues. On Twitter he offered this:

Let’s take a moment today to reflect on the valuable contribution the men & women who work hard in all kinds of jobs, make to our economy. Together, we all want a growing economy, safe work conditions, and a shared, prosperous future for all Nova Scotians.

Stephen McNeil was quiet on workers’ issues this year.

We’ve talked about the Liberal Party’s history of labour relations in Nova Scotia. It bears repeating.

The last time the Liberals were in power saw the worst period of labour unrest in Nova Scotia’s recent history.

  •     Angry nurses suggested wildcat strikes after the Liberal government refused to give the chief negotiator a mandate to resume talks.
  •     Nova Scotia’s 60,000 public-sector workers said they’d walk off the job if the Liberal government didn’t restore collective bargaining.
  •     Nova Scotia’s teachers agreed to support the general strike over a 3% rollback in wages and benefits by the Liberals and a three-year salary freeze.
  •     All police forces in the province outside of Halifax signed on to take part in a wide-scale walkout against the Liberal government.

“Collective bargaining has not been abolished,” Liberal Human Resources Minister Eleanor Norrie said in the legislature at the time. “Collective bargaining has been suspended.”

Nurses, public sector workers, teachers and cops would do well to remember those savage days in Nova Scotia. The Liberals flash left, but turn right, causing quite the spectacular crash.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Last week we said that the frame of the debate in the upcoming election was taking shape and that it was about trust – and its opposite:  risk.

On Wednesday, guests at a business-lobby-sponsored leaders’ “debate” got a glimpse of what we meant when Premier Dexter and the two opposition leaders gathered at the Neptune Theatre. There wasn’t really much drama expected in the ring since the leaders were expected to recite answers to five pre-submitted questions from the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Mere shadow boxing.

Unable to attend in person, we were glad to receive some first person accounts from faithful readers in ring-side seats.

It was a bit of an awkward affair, in part due to the hapless moderator, who couldn’t keep track of the speaker order, and called both Mr. Baillie and Mr. McNeil by the first name of “Peter” at various points. Here are our summary points for those interested in the sweet science of political debates:

  • Premier Dexter went first. He looked comfortable – almost too comfortable –  with notepad in hand, but got off to a bit of a slow start. He hit his marks by the 3rd question on taxes and the economy.  He landed a jab on Stephen McNeil’s anti-jobs positions, especially Liberal opposition to the IBM contract. And he finished strong.
  • Jamie Baillie looked slightly nervous at first, but soon calmed. He showed excellent discipline of message and made some fine attempts at folksy charm, including a couple of one-liners that really resonated.  He was good. Speaking to a business friendly crowd, Baillie trotted out familiar Tory ideological tropes such as anti-union legislation and “belt-tightening.” No surprise punches there. Baillie had one of the few spontaneous mid-speech rounds of applause when he also hit Stephen McNeil hard for not supporting the IBM deal.
  • Stephen McNeil looked uncomfortable – a tall man in a short chair. Numerous people wrote in mentioning the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln, also a very tall man, sitting in his chair. But that’s where the comparison with Lincoln ends.

Stephen McNeil is not an orator. He has started to speak very slow. Most of what McNeil offered were platitudes and lofty rhetoric, like “we need to start thinking about one Nova Scotia.”

The one part of McNeil’s performance that was coherent was his strong desire to be Premier. He wants to be Premier. He’s been waiting to be Premier, so he’s prepared to be Premier.

Sources say that the three leaders had the questions for a week or more. Considering that McNeil has been invisible for months, he should have been ready. And he simply wasn’t.

Voters have no idea what a Stephen McNeil led government would do. On anything. And that’s a risk.