The Mom and Pop Budget

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald delivers the Mom and Pop budget.

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald delivers the Mom and Pop budget.

Maureen MacDonald’s first budget as the NDP’s Finance Minister will do a lot of good for a lot of people, but mostly it seems directed at Mom and Pop voters.

The biggest news in the budget will play well with parents:

1. Insulin pumps for kids up to age 19 and supplies for those under 25.  Health Minister Dave Wilson had been pushing for very hard for this for some time and good on him for doing so.

2. Expanded newborn screening to include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and eight additional conditions.

3. Reversal of Liberal cuts to kids’ dental coverage:  children aged 13 and under will be able to receive universal dental coverage for check-ups and treatment. Nova Scotia now has one of the most accessible dental coverage programs in the country.

4. More mental health clinicians in more schools means children and adolescents get the services they need, sooner.

5. Continuing Ramona Jennex’s cap on class sizes for grades primary to three at 25 students.  Average class sizes in Nova Scotia will remain the smallest in a generation.

We’ll pore over the budget documents this weekend for future posts.

But at first blush, this looks to be the NDP’s best budget yet.

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34 Nova Scotia Firsts

Darrell Dexter’s introductory speech to the new session of the legislature provided a good list of Nova Scotian firsts. Presented all together, they show how well the NDP have done on a variety of fronts.

We have cut his speech down to this list of firsts, and divided it into categories.

NDP Health Minister Dave Wilson

NDP Health Minister Dave Wilson

Nova Scotia Firsts – Health

  • Canada’s first Emergency Department standards
  • Nova Scotia’s Collaborative Emergency Centres – CECs – a national first, greatly minimized emergency room closures while providing same-day or next-day appointments for medical care.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia’s highly skilled paramedics are delivering clot-busting drugs that save lives before a patient reaches the hospital.
  • Canada’s first-ever mobile emergency department will open this year as part of the New Waterford CEC.
  • Nova Scotia’s program of paramedics providing urgent care in nursing homes is another Canadian first, providing better care sooner without a stressful trip to Emergency.
  • for the first time, there is a strategy with funded action to provide real care and understanding to Nova Scotians with mental health issues and addictions.
  • Nova Scotia is the first province to adopt a physician resource plan. For the next 10 years it will influence decision making to make sure Nova Scotians have the doctors they need in the right place. The plan’s first step is the new ER coverage program, which matches doctors with ERs that would otherwise close.
NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald

Nova Scotia Firsts – Jobs and the Economy

  • the first-ever wide-ranging budget consultation, Back to Balance
  • for the first time in Nova Scotia, my government has taken action to ensure the protection of temporary foreign workers from exploitation.
  • the first province to sign a memorandum of understanding with the federal government that formalizes and strengthens the co-operative working relationship between Nova Scotia and Canada regarding consultation with the Mi’kmaq.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia has a five-year roads plan, updated annually so citizens can see for themselves the immediate, mid-term, and long-term plans.
  • Nova Scotia’s first-ever flood mitigation plan is in development.
  • my government will soon announce Nova Scotia’s first-ever sustainable transportation strategy.

    NDP Culture Minister Leonard Preyra

    NDP Culture Minister Leonard Preyra

  • for the first time ever in Nova Scotia, my government will provide a steady and reliable source of funding to support the wealth of talent in our cultural sectors.
  • Nova Scotia will become the first Canadian jurisdiction to offer Social Impact Bonds, encouraging investors to support innovative, socially responsible projects by charitable and non-governmental organizations.
  • in partnership with universities and the private sector, my government will launch Nova Scotia’s first Innovation Summit to spur commercialization of research and move Nova Scotia into a leadership position as a competitive and innovative force in the global economy.
  • my government developed Nova Scotia’s first comprehensive immigration strategy. Last year, for the first time, Nova Scotia exceeded expectations and surpassed its immigration targets. As a result of this success, the federal government has increased Nova Scotia’s allocation under the immigrant nominee program by 20 per cent.
  • my government, in partnership with the farm community, is undertaking the first ten-year strategy for agriculture, called Homegrown Success.

    NDP Labour Minister Frank Corbett

    NDP Labour Minister Frank Corbett

  • to show clearly that provincial departments and agencies serve all of the people, my government now locates new and consolidated departments and agencies outside the Halifax area. This is the first time ever for this fairer policy.
  • for the first time Careers Nova Scotia centres are able to provide increased access to career training and job-search opportunities across the province, ensuring that more Nova Scotians have the right skills for good jobs.
  • for the first time, Nova Scotian students can get academic credit for real-world, community-based experience.
  • as outlined in Nova Scotia’s first aquaculture strategy, my government will develop comprehensive regulations and set the highest standards for fairness, efficiency, and environmental safeguards in Nova Scotia aquaculture.

Nova Scotia Firsts – Energy

  • NDP Energy Minister Charlie Parker

    NDP Energy Minister Charlie Parker

    for the first time, local and community-owned renewable power projects are financially feasible and viable as a result of Nova Scotia’s Community Feed-In Tariff Program, COMFIT. COMFIT has been hailed as a global first and a model for other nations.

  • my government was the first in North America to place a firm cap on greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, making Nova Scotia a global leader in environmental responsibility.
  • for the first time in history, Nova Scotians can secure a power supply that comes with a 35-year guarantee of price stability.
  • Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador are undertaking the single greatest step in Atlantic Canada’s regional co-operation: the Muskrat Falls development and the associated Maritime Link. All four Atlantic Provinces and the federal government have supported this environmentally progressive project, which will transform basic elements of our regional economy while ensuring the lowest, fairest power rates.

    NDP Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

    NDP Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

  • this is the first time ever that two Atlantic Provinces have co-operated in this way to stand proud and improve the destiny of this region for generations to come, by making Atlantic Canada much more of a contributor to Canada’s prosperity and progress.
  • Nova Scotia was the first government in North America to mandate LED street lighting.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia law protects power-rate payers from the cost of high corporate salaries and bonuses

Nova Scotia Firsts – Social Justice

  • Nova Scotia’s first Domestic Violence Action Plan, developed in partnership with dozens of community-based groups, is now being implemented. Nova Scotia’s first domestic violence court, located in Sydney, is part of the action plan.
  • Nova Scotia’s Affordable Living Tax Credit and Poverty Reduction Tax Credit are the first significant new investments in living memory that reduce poverty and help lower income Nova Scotians make ends meet
  • Nova Scotia will soon have its first-ever housing strategy.

    NDP Education Minister Ramona Jennex

    NDP Education Minister Ramona Jennex

  • Nova Scotia’s first ever action plan to address bullying and cyberbullying is now underway across the province, backed up with new laws to deal with behaviour that can have tragic results whether it occurs in person or on-line.
  • starting to turn the corner must mean a better start for Nova Scotian children, so that from the first months of their lives they have every opportunity for success. My government is establishing a Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, to better coordinate and improve the many ways that the province supports infants, young children, and their families in the first years of life.

The Best in Nova Scotia Legislation

In our last look-back post on the year that was, we reviewed the 70 bills passed by the NDP government and made this list of the five best.

1. The 2012 Budget.

Nova Scotia is a very poor province, partly due to the lack of interest previous governments had in beginning to tackle chronic poverty, especially in small town and rural Nova Scotia. Thanks to the 2012 budget, low income Nova Scotians saw:

• an increase of 5% in the Nova Scotia Child Benefit, helping 24,000 families and almost twice as many children. Progress on reducing child poverty stalled under the Conservatives. Steps like this will ensure that trend is reversed.
• the fastest expansion of affordable child care Nova Scotia has seen.
• for the second year in a row, the Income Assistance Personal Allowance went up. It increased by $9 per month. This comes on top of last year’s $15 increase, the largest boost people on Income Assistance had seen in a decade.

2. The Tommy Douglas Legacy.

Sackville- Cobequid NDP MLA Dave Wilson, Nova Scotia’s new Health Minister, introduced legislation to replace the 39-year-old Health Services and Insurance Act.

One of the core beliefs of the NDP has long been its desire to provide and protect universal health care.

Now, fundamental pieces of the Canada Health Act are no longer missing from Nova Scotia’s legislation, things like prohibitions against extra billing and user fees and safeguards against queue jumping. These protections are now a part in Nova Scotia’s health-care system.

3. The Wheels on the Bus.

Antigonish NDP MLA Maurice Smith had his first important piece of legislation, as Transportation Minister, passed last year. The Inter-city Bus Service Act will make sure students and seniors have a sustainable replacement to Acadian Lines in the new Maritime Bus Company. Towns across Nova Scotia  benefit enormously from a permanent bus service.

4. Feminism: the radical belief that women are people.

The NDP’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act helps victims of domestic violence move on with their lives without without worrying about financial penalties from breaking an existing lease.

“Victims of domestic violence are already suffering enough without having to worry about the financial implications of getting out of an abusive relationship. They shouldn’t feel trapped in a lease or be held financially liable for a home they were forced to leave to escape a violent situation.
– John MacDonell

5. The Green Economy Act.

NDP Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau passed amendments to the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. From a goal of increasing the number of Nova Scotia farms and the amount of local food we eat, to tougher targets on a host of other environmental concerns from energy efficiency to climate change, this act was one of Canada’s environmental highlights of the year.

“Nova Scotians have clearly told us that they want their environment protected for future generations. As a fisherman who lived through the cod moratorium, I know the importance of balancing economic prosperity with environmental protection to ensure opportunities exist for future generations. That’s what this bill is about.” – Sterling Belliveau

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Five

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

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

We have written before about how Stephen McNeil is in over his head on his electricity plan. He offers one-liners and slogans but no understanding or insight, and wins the Drone of the Week prize.

Stephen McNeil: The best thing we can do is break that monopoly and allow competition in the energy market.

Killer Bee

When Conservative MLA Chris D’Entremont accused the Health Minister of playing political games with health, Sackville Cobequid MLA Dave Wilson returned the favour, and pointed out that the NDP has been very fair to communities with opposition MLAs.

Dave Wilson: I was right back then when I said they (Rodney MacDonald’s Conservatives) played political games when it came to long-term care facilities. I’m very proud of the fact that this government, when we took over, opened Collaborative Emergency Centres in Opposition ridings, something that I don’t think we would have seen under a former Progressive Conservative Government. I’m very proud to ensure that we’re addressing the issues in health care where and when they need it. It doesn’t matter what riding they are from.

The NDP has opened 5 Collaborative Emergency Centres in Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal, Parrsboro, Springhill, Tatamagouche and Pugwash. 4 of the 5 are represented by the opposition. Dave Wilson wins this week’s Killer Bee prize for reminding the opposition that the NDP invests in all parts of the province.

Bumble Bee

How long has Stephen McNeil been an MLA? He should know the difference between a Point of Order and a disagreement by now.

Stephen McNeil: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a Point of Order. During Question Period the Premier somehow suggested that I had not been filing my expenses. I want to be very clear with all members of this House that not only have I filed my expenses at any media outlet, some have come to my office and I have showed them my expenses.

Frank Corbett: If you review Hansard, Mr. Speaker, which I expect you will, that you will find that the question was his Leader’s expenses, and if there is an issue with them he can table his Leader’s expenses since his time being Leader of that Party today in the House.

Gordie Gosse: Order, order. It’s not a Point of Order, it’s a disagreement on facts between two members.

Stephen McNeil wins his second prize of the week, the Bumble Bee prize for the error-prone.

Honey Bee

Bus service between Nova Scotia’s towns will live on, thanks to legislation Antigonish MLA Maurice Smith, Nova Scotia’s new Transportation Minister.

Maurice Smith: Bus travellers want to know they can count on an inter-city bus service to get them to and from university, to get them home for the holidays, arrive safely to medical appointments, transport parcels, and provide many other services. Bill No.133 also responds to the concerns we’ve heard from bus operators – they want to run a successful business here in Nova Scotia, they want regulation streamlined so it’s easier and more efficient to run a business, including the ability to more easily respond to evolving customer needs.

I was very pleased to have lots of company on Friday when I first introduced the bill. There were representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, Students Nova Scotia, and the Department of Seniors – and Mike Cassidy, the president of Maritime Bus, also made the time to attend Friday’s bill briefing to show his support, which I very much appreciated.

Replacing Acadian Lines with the Maritime Bus Network is incredibly important to university towns like Antigonish and Wolfville, businesses sending packages, and seniors heading to medical appointments across the province.