There are plenty of political catch-phrases that we’d like to see retired in 2012, including “game-changer”, “post-partisan” and “moving forward”. Nova Scotia’s legislative calendar and best news stories, while not post-partisan, certainly were game-changers and definitely moved the province forward.
We’ve reviewed all the pieces of legislation debated in the House of Assembly and made you this list of the five best.
NDP Finance Minister Graham Steele
1. Graham Steele’s 2011 Budget.
If the best piece of legislation isn’t the budget, the government has introduced a bad one. 2011 may have been the most progressive budget we’ve ever seen. Nova Scotia’s a very poor province – tackling poverty should have been a goal decades ago. While it received little press, it was quietly the top priority for Finance Minister Graham Steele in 2011.
Here are a few of the reasons the centre and left-of-centre voters should have cheered for the 2011 Budget:
• The Nova Scotia Child Benefit was a 22% increase per child, per month, which was the first increase in a decade. Progress on reducing child poverty stalled under the Conservatives. Steps like this will ensure that trend is reversed.
• 250 additional child care subsidies add to the fastest expansion of affordable child care Nova Scotia has seen.
• Foster families received much needed help with the 10% increase to foster care rates – about $50 per child, per month.
• Indexing the NDP’s Poverty Reduction and Affordable Living tax credits to keep up with inflation will help 240,000 Nova Scotia households. Just the fact that many families qualify for the ALTC shows how poor we are on average.
• Disabled Income Assistance recipients who work will keep the first $300 of their earnings (double the current rate), and 30% of the remaining earnings. The right-wing may paint these measures to be insulting to the middle-class. We’ve never seen the social safety net that way. It’s not a hand-up or a hand-out. It’s a measure of equality and justice.
NDP Energy Minister (and Pictou West MLA) Charlie Parker
2. The Clean Energy Act.
One of the “game-changers” for Nova Scotia, the ambitious renewable electricity targets of 40% renewable electricity by 2020, were made a firm legal requirement in 2011. Praised by environmentalists across the country, and oddlyderided by Jamie Baillie and the Conservatives, this is the route to stable electricity prices, lowering green-house gas emissions, and creating good green jobs. The Clean Energy Act will ensure hydro, tidal, wind, solar and cleantech industries will be growth sectors in Nova Scotia. Companies across the province, including TrentonWorks, Chebucto Windfield, CADtech Innovations and Carbon Sense Solutions will grow in 2012.
NDP Health Minister Maureen MacDonald
3. Tattoos for Everyone.
Before the Body Art Act was introduced by Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, anyone could open a tattoo studio with no training. There were no inspections, no licence or certification required. Customers concerned about dirty needles, contamination or infection with hepatitis or HIV were on their own. Tattoo shop owners have been asking for regulations for a decade. With this act, those regulations are on their way. New Glasgow tattoo artist Sean Brophy has been very supportive of this legislation. “It is going to be a good thing. Our industry, our craft in Nova Scotia has been unregulated for its entire history.”
NDP Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks
4. Less Mercury, Lights Great.
How do you lower mercury levels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with one strike? Pass legislation ensuring all Nova Scotian roads and highways will be lit exclusively with LED lighting. The Energy Saving Roadway Lighting Act will create energy-efficient lighting across the province and likely manufacturing jobs at the LED plant in Amherst. The return of manufacturing to Nova Scotia under the NDP will be vital to the economies of rural Nova Scotia.
NDP Culture Minister Dave Wilson
5. The Rodney MacDonald Tribute.
Fiddlers, with the exception of former Premier Rodney MacDonald, helped artists across the province dance a jig this fall when Culture Minister Dave Wilson introduced legislation to establish Arts Nova Scotia. The Tories killed the independent arts council. It rises again, as sure as the sunrise, as sure as the sea, as sure as the wind in the trees, it rises again.
Note: Regular readers of the Pictou Bee will note Bill 102, the Act to Prevent Unnecessary Labour Disruptions and Protect the Economy, did not make this list. While a fine bill, it simply brought us on par with last century’s standard in labour law, as seen across the country. The right-wing used the bill to create some press-friendly theatre, but the bill deserved a more sombre debate.