Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.
Glace Bay’s MLA seems like a nice fellow. But we’re not certain what his questions about Ships Start Here were meant to do. If his goal was to state Liberal support for Ships Start Here and the $25 billion contract the NDP helped bring in, Question Period may not be the place for it. Maclellan’s softball questions were hit out of the park by the Premier:
Geoff Maclellan: Since May of last year we’ve seen the ads and promotions of Ships Start Here. We know it was a good initiative and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and their Leader have been championing this idea… My question to the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism is, how long has the NDP Government known this agreement would cost Nova Scotians $260 million?
Percy Paris: This is the most important event certainly in my lifetime. One of the things we did not want to do is jeopardize the risk of not getting the contract. Because there were negotiations going on at a very, very high level, it was important that we keep our cards close to our chests… The agreement was just signed – I don’t think it has been quite a week yet – so we revealed the numbers at an appropriate time and when it was at no risk or little risk to the province.
Geoff Maclellan: Why didn’t the NDP Government tell us a year ago what our provincial contributions from taxpayers’ dollars would be?
Premier Dexter: Under the terms of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy we were bidding, along with Irving, to ensure that we would be successful in getting the $25 billion combat vessel contract, which we did. The return on that to the people of Nova Scotia will be somewhere in the vicinity of $2.6 billion in tax revenues, thousands of jobs at the shipyards. As Mr. Irving put it, had we not done that, they would have a parking lot down on the waterfront instead of a shipyard.
As a Habs and a Bruins fan respectively, the editors at The Pictou Bee appreciate Finance Minister Graham Steele taking a shot at the Leafs in his budget address:
I am pleased to inform the House that, for the just-finished fiscal year, and for the third year in a row, departmental spending is coming in under budget. That hasn’t happened at least since 1967, a year when Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister, Lyndon Johnson was U.S. President, and the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. In other words, it hasn’t happened for a very long time. Yet it should be the norm. And now, with this government, it is. (Applause)
At budget time last year, we estimated a deficit of $390 million. We’re now forecasting a deficit of $261 million. That means we beat the budget by $129 million, almost all on the spending side. Departmental spending is down over $72 million from budget, and lower debt-servicing costs account for another $47 million in savings. These are tangible results of our hard work and discipline.
Several MLAs took the time to speak in favour of the NDP’s Status of the Artist legislation. We thought Pam Birdsall’s speech encapsulated why this bill deserves to become law:
Pam Birdsall: The former director of the old Nova Scotia Arts Council, noted that the day the new board met on March 27th was the very same date 10 years ago when the previous government shut down the Arts Council. When we were in Opposition we were committed to recreating a stand-alone arts council and that is just what we have done…
To quote Ron Bourgeois, the Chairman of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council when he said this legislation defines “where I fit in the Nova Scotia fabric. Where yesterday there was nothing, today I feel I am recognized, respected as artist within this government.”
Drone of the Week
1 drone noun \drōn\
a stingless bee that does not gather nectar or pollen
2 drone intransitive verb \drōn\ to talk in a persistently dull or monotonous tone
We like Diana Whalen and hope she considers running for Liberal Leader after the next election. But as Finance Critic, several things she repeats every session suggests she doesn’t understand that, for the Finance Minister, every budget is a comprehensive tax review.
Diana Whalen: The Liberal Party and our Leader have said consistently that we need to review the entire tax regime of the province to look at a comprehensive tax review… Maybe that’s a business tax that will stimulate employment or maybe it’s personal income tax so that you can have people spending more and more disposable income but we don’t know that, Mr. Speaker, because we haven’t followed that route of looking carefully at all of the taxes that Nova Scotians are charged.
Whalen, like the rest of the Liberal MLAs, is lost in a maze of mixed messages. One day a Liberal MLA is demanding lower taxes, the next day another is asking for more spending. One day they are saying government can wait to get back to balance, the next day they insist the deficit be slain right now. One day they attack investments in forestry and manufacturing, the next day they are calling for quicker, deeper cuts. It’s why many observers believe the Conservatives will be the Official Opposition after the next election.