The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Seven

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Bumble Bee

In an otherwise excellent speech, in which he talked about how getting Nova Scotia off coal-power is important for both health reasons and for stable electricity prices, Pictou’s own Clarrie MacKinnon threw out a line about Stephen McNeil that became the story instead.

Clarrie MacKinnon: The only experience the Leader of the Opposition (Stephen McNeil) has on power electricity is the power it takes to run a washer or a dryer.

We believe that Stephen McNeil is in over his head on electricity as well, and many people are wondering if he is qualified to be Premier. But the quote was the final straw for reporters looking to do a story on the tone and tenor of the legislative session, and MacKinnon’s quote was the centre of that coverage.

To his credit, MacKinnon immediately apologized for the remark.

Honey Bee

Clarrie MacKinnon did offer Nova Scotians another significant reason to support Muskrat Falls in that speech, however:

I want to begin by talking about Hillside in my constituency and the legacy that has been left by Liberals and Progressive Conservatives to the people of Hillside. Now Hillside is in the lee of the coal-fired generating station in Trenton. I have been there on picket lines when I was in Opposition, I was there on picket lines when I was a part of this government because the people of Hillside have had fly ash coming out on them for years and years and years, and we are moving away from that. I’ve seen the window ledges, I’ve seen the cars, I’ve seen the swimming pools with fly ash. I’ve seen, worst of all, the slides and the toys of children covered with fly ash. Some people may snicker on the other side of the House but I’ve seen that. I’ve seen children playing in flowered fields and the flowers are covered with fly ash.

Hillside knows too well the effects of sticking with coal. Clarrie MacKinnon wins the Honey Bee prize for raising this again in the House.

Killer Bee

During a debate on why the Liberals criticize but don’t offer solutions, Kings North MLA offered this insight, winning the week’s Killer Bee prize for the quote with the most sting:

Jim Morton: We’ve had our economic difficulties here for many years as well, for decades, for more than a century. As I’ve said in this House before, my colleague for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has written a book called Away in which he describes one of the solutions that Nova Scotians have used for many years to deal with economic hardships and that’s to go somewhere else.

Throughout all this long history of troubles, who has had responsibility for governance in Nova Scotia? All I have to do is look to the other side. It is those folks on the other side who have had responsibility for governance in this province. They took turns in allowing Nova Scotia to flounder with old ideas that really favoured, in many terms, the privileged few. Some of us on this side of the House will know that Tommy Douglas has a great analogy in which he described that process as one of electing black cats and white cats. You could make a change without getting any change at all.

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

Allan MacMaster, and other Tories who want Nova Scotia to “go slow” on renewable energy, forget that the provinces with cheap electricity use hydroelectricity.

Allan MacMaster: What about $200 oil? We used to hear people talking about $200 oil. Oil is trading around $85 to $90 per barrel. No question, the price of fossil fuels has increased a lot in the last number of years, but there are reasons why it continues to fluctuate, and by that I mean it also goes back down.

The point of Muskrat Falls is stable rates for 35 years. Not a roller coaster of coal and gas increases and decreases, in world that is demanding more of both.


Cutting Steele

We know not everyone has time to tune into Legislative Television, particularly the Late Debates.  But we did not want anyone to miss these gems from Allan MacMaster, the Tory from Inverness, as he waxed philosophic about capitalism and “freedom” on Wednesday:

Allan MacMaster: I believe in capitalism. I have a business degree. I’m very much a believer in the free market, but this kind of activity where companies are just asking for handouts really bothers me, especially when we compare them to people who, say, fought for our country, who really gave us the freedom so that those companies could operate here with the freedoms they have here and be in an economy that is solid, where they can make money. That’s a blessing that they should be appreciative of. Instead, they don’t seem to be, because they just come to the government looking for a handout. 

Sadly, in addition to the strange juxtaposition of economic growth and supporting our troops, MacMaster joined the Liberals in attacking a specific company, in this case the Halifax Shipyard:

Allan MacMaster: What was particularly galling to me was Irving, because they won a taxpayer-funded contract. The taxpayers are already paying for this work to build those ships, and they need another $260 million. That equates to an extra 1 per cent profit margin on that contract for them. 

We expect better from the Tory backbench.  We do not see how joining the Liberals in this nasty business of slagging companies and their employees makes any political sense, no matter how much they might believe in the fanciful world of pure capitalism that MacMaster imagines.

More importantly, MacMaster shows that he, like Stephen McNeil, forgot how Nova Scotia won the ships contract. On Thursday MacMaster turned his attack to the government role in the bid:

Allan MacMaster: There was no need to pay Irving $260 million in terms of a forgivable loan. They won the tender to build the ships. They’re going to be making an enormous amount of money off that project. It’s a tremendously lucrative project for them- $30 billion over 25 years…taxpayers in Nova Scotia didn’t have to spend that money but this government chose to spend it for them.

Graham Steele: You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

Not very polite of the former Finance Minister, we suppose. But Irving would not have won the contract if the NDP government did not invest in their yard. Does MacMaster actually know about how the bidding worked? Sadly, if you look to Hansard for an answer, you will be disappointed:

Allan MacMaster: From what I have heard, if you look at the examination of the bids, there was a factor – I believe it was worth seven points on the submission they made – that had to do with the company could have asked the federal government for money to help spruce up their infrastructure to complete the contract, and it was worth seven points. Well, Irving won this bid by more than seven points, so they didn’t need the handout that they got from the government.

Aside from the faulty logic at work (it was a competitive bidding process), is MacMaster right? Was it really only worth just seven points?

You don’t spot the other team 20 points on a $25 billion contract.

Not quite.  The “Cost to Canada” component counted for 20 out of 100 points in the bidding process set out by the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.  By MacMaster’s logic, Nova Scotia would have given up 20, not 7, points. And lost the bid.  It is like spotting another team a 20 point lead and expecting to come out on top.

We do not doubt Allan MacMaster believes the ship contract was a great win.  We just do not think he understands how the ships were won.

The Strait Deal

600 mill workers. 400 forestry workers. 2.5 percent of the Nova Scotia economy. An investment that will pay for itself in 12 years.

While the Liberals are on board with the NewPage deal – Michel Samson is the MLA for part of the Strait, after all – Jamie Baillie and the Conservatives are sending mixed messages.

In Halifax, Jamie Baillie has wondered if the government could have invested in other jobs in the region (but has not speculated on what those 1000 jobs might possibly be) while in Cape Breton, Allan MacMaster defended forestry and the mill:

I think a lot of people around the province maybe don’t realize the asset in the machine that’s at the mill. The reason Stern was interested in buying the mill was largely because of the machine. We have the forest. We have the experienced workforce. But the machine is the real drawing card and what makes it different from other mills.

While Halifax voters may not understand the rural economy and the importance of an anchor industry in the Strait, Premier Dexter understands that the province needs to fight for jobs. A leader make decisions, not because they are popular in the capital, but because they are the right thing for families in Cape Breton and the economy of Nova Scotia.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week 3

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Honey Bee:

The Education Minister Ramona Jennex answered a great many questions well the past week, but it was Premier Darrell Dexter’s defense of the librarians that the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board planned to cut that wins the Honey Bee award for good work.

Premier Dexter: Well let me be really clear – any board that says it is going to cut the entire library service from their budget cannot be taken seriously. (Applause) It’s an abrogation of their responsibility to the children in their charge. As I said, I want to be very, very clear that this is nothing but a political game being played by the school board… The simple fact of the matter is that the school boards knows that to the families and children that they are supposed to serve, those cuts would be unacceptable. They are unacceptable to them, they are unacceptable to the community, and they are unacceptable to us, Mr. Speaker, be assured. (Applause)

Killer Bee:

When Argyle MLA Chris D’Entremont suggested Back to Work legislation should be used in labour disputes, the Premier won his second award of the week clearly outlining the difference between the parties when it comes to respectful labour negotiations:

Premier Dexter: I think we well know the opinions of the Progressive Conservative Party on this matter. We know that they have always chosen the options that most infringe upon collective bargaining rights. We know that they are opposed to good faith bargaining, that they want to have only their way when it comes to the administration of health care. They don’t want to listen to front-line health care workers, and we’ve experienced this. We experienced it through Bill No. 68 – and you’ll remember Bill No. 68. That was when they wanted to impose a contract, take away the right for people to even meet to discuss a contract, and I remember the health care workers (Interruptions) They said to us, Mr. Speaker, that Bill No. 68 was the worst thing that ever happened to them since the Liberals rolled their wages back.

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

First Contract Arbitration legislation was not a “job killer” in any other province in Canada. And when Nova Scotia did not have it, jobs did not move from other provinces to our province.

Allan MacMaster: Why doesn’t the government listen to small business and tear up that (first-contract arbitration) legislation? That would help to create jobs in this province.

The Conservatives and Liberal continue to bring this issue up, a constant reminder of their blind spot on employee issues.

Bumble Bee:

If you say someone wrote you an email, and then read from this email into the public record, you had better be prepared to prove there actually was an email.

Eddie Orrell: Mr. Speaker, last week the NDP rolled out their votes and pork-barrelling-first plan. We know about one vote that didn’t get bought. Some parents in Eastern Passage have questions. In an e-mail, one Eastern Passage mother was concerned that at the same time the NDP Government is making education cuts, they have $15 million laying around to create a high school…

Speaker: Order, please. Order. I would remind the honourable member that he must say who the person is before you read the e-mail. You have to say who it is and then say the quote. (Interruption) Without that, I find that it’s hard to deal with that question. That is the procedure that we follow here in this House. (Interruption)

(At the end of Question Period) I would like to make reference here to one of our former Speakers you would be well aware of, Murray Scott. I’m going to say that on October 16, 2003, Speaker Scott ruled with respect to a letter, the Speaker observed information that would reveal the author had been removed. He ruled that any document that is not tabled in its entirety is completely and therefore out of order. Speaker Scott ruled that thereafter, any member who is going to table or read a letter or quote from a letter should first announce that it is, in fact, signed by the author.

The Speaker must try to keep the proceedings of the legislature civil, which can be a difficult job during Question Period. It is good to see the Speaker also keeps a watchful eye on ensuring all evidence introduced orally is also tabled for all Nova Scotians to see.