Robert Chisholm on the health, energy and Nova Scotia Liberals

Former Nova Scotia NDP Leader Robert Chisholm gave a strong speech at this weekend’s Annual General Meeting of the Nova Scotia NDP.

Chisholm has a lot of experience battling bad Liberal governments – he fought them for years in the Legislature. A political parties record in office should help define them, or history would be allowed to repeat itself. Chisholm recaps the history of the last Liberal government well.

Robert Chisholm:

The fact that we endured fifteen years of Tory governments before they were defeated goes to show you how bad the Liberals before them must have been.

It was 20 years ago this month actually, when that Conservative rule ended. The Liberals were given 40 seats, a majority government, and a mandate to clean everything up – including their illegal trust funds.

That clean-up did not work out very well, nor did the rest of their agenda. In those days it was John, Alexa and I. We faced an onslaught of legislation that created chaos in the construction industry, the civil service and the health care sector.

The Liberals rolled back public sector wages, suspended collective bargaining and slashed health spending.

They forced teachers to retire, paid nurses to leave the profession and cut the number of doctors being trained.

People who expected democratic consultation got government by decree. Forced amalgamations of municipalities and school boards, and a secret deal with the Feds to create the HST.

Then of course there was the boondoggle that was P3 schools which moved the cost of a construction binge off the books and let them pretend the budget was in balance.

In fact, when it came to creative accounting, Enron had nothing on Nova Scotia Liberals.

Now let me talk to you about energy. I was in the Legislature when the Conservatives privatized Nova Scotia Power. I still have the editorial cartoon hanging on my wall at home with a picture of Alexa, John, and I, calling us The Filibusters because we put up such a fight.

And when they had a chance, the Liberals didn’t reverse that bad decision.

But they did promise us something we didn’t have up to that point – In 1995 they promised legislation to provide a regional framework for energy production and conservation that did not compromise our environment or our economic well being.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Little did Nova Scotians know at the time that we’d have to wait until an NDP government for that to actually happen.

Instead, the Liberals stood by while Nova Scotia Power cancelled energy efficiency programs and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Then the Liberals decided it was better to see our Sable Island natural gas go to New England and New Brunswick instead of developing regional electricity markets – a mistake we are still paying for.

Today Liberals are offering a mixed bag of old, poorly thought out ideas they want to revive from our past, and new poorly thought out ideas they want to unleash on our future.

We said it. Dan Leger said it in the Herald. Liberal energy policies are simplistic, at best.

The Liberal approach to energy policy is to kick sand in the face of Nova Scotia Power. Now while that may make some people feel good, it’s hardly the basis for sound energy policy.

In contrast, when it comes to energy, the NDP wants a made-in-Atlantic Canada Maritime Link, with the strategic benefits of being part of a regional energy loop instead of on the end of an extension cord.

The NDP wants to push forward with the necessary work of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. Foot-dragging on this issue by previous governments has made the move harder than it needed to be, and also cost many Nova Scotians their health.

Over those six painful years the Liberal government did something few people would have thought possible. They actually drove Nova Scotians back into the arms of a Conservative majority.