The Best Transportation Minister Nova Scotia Has Seen

In his Chronicle Herald column on Bill Estabrooks, Laurent Le Pierres wrote that Bill Estabrooks’ political legacy is “folksiness”.

His contribution to the NDP brand was mostly in the area of street cred. This guy was always a natural-born populist who’d talk to folks in a language they could understand and whose understated style spoke for itself.

We disagree. His personality is why he is memorable. Bill Estabrooks’ legacy is how he changed his province.

In the past, Liberal and Conservative governments made paving nakedly partisan. As recently as Rodney MacDonald, the Conservative favoured paving in Tory rural ridings over Liberal or NDP rural ridings. Conservative MLA Chuck Porter ran his re-election campaign on it, calling himself “Cheque Porter”. Bill Estabrooks’ Five Year Paving Plan took the politics out of paving.

While partisan politics is out of paving, the government is back in. That is another important part of Estabrooks’ legacy. Government tenders for paving in parts of rural Nova Scotia were not attracting competitive bids (the business case for the public asphalt plant can be read here.) Estabrooks declared “paying less means paving more” and re-established a provincial paving crew. They will do the road work where a lack of competitive bids allow for it.

The third aspect of Bill Estabrooks’ legacy is the legislation he moved forward. Legislation on how cyclists and motorists must share the road, how cars must yield to buses, how drivers must reduce speeds in school areas – these steps improve safety on our roads and highways.

We wish Bill Estabrooks all the best. He will likely welcome the change of pace as he sits of the NDP’s backbench and helps their new MLAs develop. Bench strength is important to any political party, and MLAs like Burrill, Zann and Morton would do well to learn from Estabrooks before he retires.

“Parkinson’s is grinding away at me. Based upon some health advice back in January, I went to the premier in March and said ‘you know, I can serve through this treasury board session, I can serve through until we get this budget passed, but after the house adjourns I’m going to resign as cabinet minister’.”  – Bill Estabrooks

“He took excessive partisanship out of the job, and he worked with MLAs on all sides of the House and with transportation officials to do the right thing with our roads, and I really appreciate that.” – Jamie Baillie

“Bill has  a role model for excellent constituency service, since he was elected in the provincial breakthrough of 1998 — He has been just as solid in government — perhaps the best Transportation Minister this province has seen.” – Darrell Dexter