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.

Missing: Stephen McNeil’s media scrums

The Chronicle Herald did a great job of previewing their Saturday edition last week, sending out Tweets suggesting Ralph Surette’s column would be incredibly controversial for the NDP. Liberal MLAs spread word of the upcoming column with glee. The problem? Surette’s column was much harder on the Liberals. To make matters worse, Marilla Stephenson added a column that also tore a strip off the Liberals. Come Saturday morning, Liberals were very quiet indeed.

Stephenson: The Liberals have a lot of work to do yet to strengthen [McNeil’s] image, which may be why they have been hiding him…saving him for the campaign, are they? After calling for the NDP to deliver a fiscal update in advance of an election campaign, where was McNeil when the NDP delivered the update Monday morning? Ummm, busy elsewhere, apparently. Grit handlers asked reporters to visit the Liberal headquarters later in the afternoon if they wanted an interview, or to phone in later.

Marilla is right: McNeil and his Liberals have been hiding from reporters and scrums. For months. It started in the spring at Province House, when McNeil’s handlers started whisking away select journalists for “private scrums” in the basement of the Leg.  And it continued.  In fact, the only public scrum McNeil has done since the end of the Session, that we are away of, is when he had no choice but to be there: when Deputy Premier Corbett summoned MLAs to the legislature to pass all-party support for and Bill to avoid a paramedic strike.

More importantly, Marilla’s column raises an interesting question for journalists. How long will they allow Stephen McNeil to dictate where he is interviewed, and by who? Which reporter will stand up to the protective Liberal communications staff and say “No. We are interviewing him right here.” After all, Jamie Baillie gets scrummed and Premier Dexter has no choice but to be scrummed.

Ralph Surette, who, as Tory Rob Batherson pointed out, has proclaimed himself to be the “father-confessor” of New Democrats on the party’s left, would obviously prefer Maureen MacDonald to be Premier than Darrell Dexter.

But in his column too, he found Stephen McNeil lacking.

Surette: Here’s the big problem with the opposition. They have been virtually invisible…the Liberals are obviously hoping that an election will occur before the needle of public attention turns to them and exposes their limitations. Yet it would be unwise to elect them, especially to a majority, based on what we’ve seen so far.

If the public catches on to the columnists’ criticism, will McNeil and the Liberals have to begin to answer questions on their policies? Not unless the journalists demand it. A journalist’s job is to hold the government of the day to account. Fair enough.

But during an election campaign, the hard look at Stephen McNeil should begin.

The Liberals’ communication strategy

Howl.

“Each evening they come back, howling like dogs… snarling invective, drawn daggers in their teeth. They think they’ll never get caught.” – Psalm 59:6-7

Chronicle Herald Associate Publisher Ian Thompson, opening with a bible quote of his own from the Book of Matthew, says the NDP government has gone Biblical. It acted decisively to calls for urgent action on issues concerning citizens, and somehow this is wrong. That some of those calls for action came from the Herald itself, some just days ago, is testimony to the fickle times we live in.

But the real biblical story will come this morning, moments after acting Finance Minister Graham Steele issues another steady-as-she-goes fiscal update.

  • Stephen McNeil will howl wild allegations of trickery on the part of 30-year civil servants in Finance and Treasury Board who prepared the fiscal update for the NDP.
  • Liberal staff will take to Twitter to howl heaps of text at the Bond Rating Agencies who must be conspiring with those same civil servants and the NDP to lie about the Province’s credit rating being at an all-time high.
  • They will howl hypocritical harangues about “corporate welfare,” while simultaneously taking credit for $20 million in government support secured for the new ferry in Yarmouth, and posing for photo-ops at the Port Hawkesbury mill (that would be closed if they had the chance, taking nearly 3% of the economy down with it).
  • They will howl “foul play” at government announcements of recent months, like funding for children’s dental care, the Main Street program for tourism, and funding for mental health in schools – things they cut when they were in office.

The Liberals are promoting a politics of negativity in Nova Scotia, where they cheer for bad news, and attack good news as spin.

So we agree with Mr. Thompson: call the election. It’s time voters understand that Mr. McNeil’s bite will be quite a bit worse than his bark, and that Nova Scotians don’t dare take the risk.

How’s September?

Michel Samson deserves a fast review by the Auditor General

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different." - Michel Samson

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different.” – Michel Samson

Liberal MLA Michel Samson deserves a fast review of his expenses situation from the Auditor General. The longer the review, the more the public perception will be that Michel Samson is Nova Scotia’s Mike Duffy. The Speaker’s Office handed the file to auditor general Jacques Lapointe for a decision on May 1, and Lapointe has yet to report back.

Mike Duffy dodged questions on the tens of thousands of dollars in housing expenses.

Michel Samson has not dodged questions. He is encouraging the Auditor General’s review. And if the Auditor General agrees with the Speaker’s Office findings that Samson lives, not in Arichat, but with his family in his Halifax home, then we are confident Samson will do the right thing and pay back the taxpayer money spent.

Stephen McNeil should also come to the defense of his Cape Breton MLA. Why defend Manning MacDonald’s inexcusable month-long vacations to Florida, but sit in silence on Michel Samson’s south-end Halifax home? 

When it came to Manning, Stephen McNeil claimed there was no rule on vacations during the legislative session, and journalists caught him:


Stephen McNeil should defend Michel Samson or risk losing another Cape Breton MLA.