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 Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week 6

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:

A point of order raised by Liberal Andrew Younger received a thorough smack-down by Speaker Gordie Gosse this week, winning Younger this week’s Bumble Bee prize for the error prone.

Gordie Gosse: The member for Dartmouth East (Younger) suggested that because the Department of Finance “. . . sets the estimates for all other departments . . .”, in his words, questions can be asked of the Minister of Finance in Question Period with respect to all departments of government.

I have had research carried out by the Clerk’s Office and I am advised that nothing could be found to support such a proposition

At this point I would like to caution all members that while I am generally not inclined to intervene on the subject matter of questions asked by members, I think there have been some cases lately of questions that have begun to cross the line into becoming unparliamentary.

We appreciate the work Gosse is doing to create the right tone in the legislature. During Question Period, Opposition MLAs ask Ministers about their Departments, not whether they ate three-day old macaroni (an actual question from last week’s Question Period).

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 don’t know if Alfie MacLeod will run again or retire when next year’s election is called, but his short memory when it comes to his Conservative government’s advertising make for softball questions for the government. Government ads are government ads, not political ads. Alfie MacLeod wins this week’s Drone of the Week prize.

Alfie MacLeod: When will the Minister of Communications Nova Scotia stop trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians with their own money and put an end to the NDP propaganda plan?

Frank Corbett: Let’s start with a quote then I’ll delve in, a quote from the member for Argyle (Chris D’Entremont), “I don’t think government as a whole does a good job of (promotion). Not enough Nova Scotians know what kind of programs are out there. . . I don’t think we spend enough time explaining or advertising or getting those programs out there.” I will table that, Mr. Speaker.

They go on about the amount of money we spend. It’s 27 per cent less (than the Conservatives spent).

Killer Bee:

As NDP bill after NDP bill moved from Second Reading to Law Amendments on Monday with little comment from the opposition, NDP MLA  Howard Epstein opened his remarks on the Community Easements Act with a quip designed to jolt the opposition benches back to attention and won this week’s Killer Bee prize for the cheeky:

Howard Epstein: What an interesting and surprising afternoon it has been. I don’t know if I can remember when we saw so many government bills go through so quickly in such a short time. I’m not sure if this is because the Opposition has decided that they want to set records and they thought they’ve found themselves in a race or whether, surprisingly, they have suddenly found themselves in agreement with the government’s agenda. (Interruptions)

Honey Bee:

Winning his second prize this week, Howard Epstein’s comments on the Community Easements Act did everything a government’s MLA should do. He explained the bill the opposition MLAs who don’t understand the law, and explained to the journalists watching why the bill is newsworthy. Howard wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work. Read on. This is a good bill, and worth your time.

Howard Epstein: Perhaps I’ll just jump immediately to the point that the honourable member for Dartmouth East (Andrew Younger) raised a moment ago, since he seemed particularly focused on the issue of whether the legislation is necessary at all. He seemed to be under the impression that easements of exactly the kind that are being provided for in this bill are able to be established through the existing legal regime, essentially through contractual arrangements… I want to say to the member that he should really be aware that the problem of easements is a complex area of law

It’s very easy to put your foot amiss when it comes to the problem of who is entitled to a valid legal easement. That’s why it is that it makes sense to have a clear statutory framework that engages with this issue. It’s why it is that it makes sense that if we are interested in establishing community easements that we have a bill that resolves any of these legal questions. The whole point is to avoid the possibility of lawsuits…

Even if you could imagine a set of circumstances in which the community members were able to win such a lawsuit and establish a right of way, the owner will not have been compensated. The owner won’t have been paid anything. If a long-standing usage emerges and can be proven, the inhibition on the original owner’s land arises and has been established through court action, but no payment is made.

What we’ve done here is fashion a piece of legislation that provides the opportunity for individuals and groups and communities to negotiate with each other a financial arrangement designed to achieve what the group sees as a desirable result and which becomes acceptable to the owner of the land. We need a legal framework in order to accomplish that…

We’re finding that now it’s still a robust, modern tool that we can reinvent without the complexities of triggering possible lawsuits. That’s what this bill does, that’s what the minister outlined when he explained to us what the bill was designed to do.

We can think of other regimes that are in place. In the United Kingdom there are what are called “right to roam” laws… No Canadian province has that… These have been in place for about five or six years now and essentially it allows non-owners to walk up and down, all over the coast of the United Kingdom and to walk across paths that go across the land of other people. They can’t light fires and they can’t interfere with crops and they can’t come too close to the home of someone, but if there’s open land, there’s a legislated right to roam…

We are beginning to engage with what are community interests and one of the ways we are engaging with community interests is this bill. So I’m very proud to say that, after looking at it, we have found a way to follow through on a specific promise that was made by the government and to do so in a very innovative way. I look forward to the opportunity to vote for it.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week 5

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:

There was a rare event on Thursday, April 26th. A resolution criticizing the NDP from Liberal Manning MacDonald was read in the legislature. The problem? It was read by Wayne Gaudet. It served as a reminder of how rare sightings of the Liberal MLA have been this spring session. Or for that matter, last fall’s session as well.

For poor attendance, Manning MacDonald receives this week’s Bumble Bee prize.

Killer Bee:

The Conservatives and Liberals are fond of using phrases like “union buddies” when describing this province’s labour leaders and the NDP. They have used far worse names as well, which is part of the reason the Conservatives and Liberals struggle with building a working relationship with Labour when they are in power.

Conservative Chris D’Entremont went with “union boss pals” last week, and when asking “which side are you on?” unknowingly using a phrase from a Labour standard, setting up a wise answer from Deputy Premier Frank Corbett.

Chris D’Entrement: The member for Argyle (D’Entremont is speaking of himself in the 3rd person here) knows that the NDP’s union boss pals are the driving force behind labour disputes. The NDP may not like being on the opposite sides of their buddies, but government has the responsibility to do what’s right on behalf of citizens who elect them. So far the NDP Government has failed in that responsibility, so it begs the question, which side are they on?

Frank Corbett: With that line of questioning I’m reminded of an old union song of, “Which side are you on, boy, which side are you on?” We’re on the side of Nova Scotians.

Workers and their advocates were watching the NSGEU negotiations closely last week. For cheerfully reminding them of the NDP’s strong labour past, while in tough negotiations with labour, Frank Corbett wins this week’s Killer Bee prize for smart politics.

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

Is there a business case for bringing back the CAT? No. Is there one to be found for a ferry that both shuttles American tourists and ships Canadian freight without a federal or provincial subsidy? Unlikely. What about a business case for the second ferry option where there is a million dollar subsidy from a few levels of government? Now that is far more likely.

Now that the NDP have committed to a truly independent panel to review the business case, the MLA for Yarmouth has essentially received ‘Yes’ for an answer but seems determined to get a ‘No’, winning him the Drone of the Week prize.

Zach Churchill: We don’t know what resources have been allocated by this department to actually restore a ferry service if the panel says that we should. So my question to the minister is, what resources are allocated in the 2012 budget to restore a ferry service?

Percy Paris: I don’t know why we would put in a line item for something that doesn’t exist. Secondly, the fact that we have put together an expert panel has been endorsed by the international ferry association, by individuals and groups and organizations that have far more expertise than the member for Yarmouth does.

Honey Bee:

Receiving a variety of questions from a variety of opposition MLAs on wait times gave the NDP’s Health Minister Maureen MacDonald an opportunity to point out the steady progress the government is making.

Maureen MacDonald: The department is working hard to address wait times and to meet our wait time guarantees. As I indicated, there are five areas that the national wait time guarantee program was focused on. Breast cancer mammography wasn’t one of those areas that the provinces and the federal government had agreed to but, nevertheless, it’s a very important area and we do have a phenomenally successful and comprehensive screening program for breast cancer here in Nova Scotia – largely thanks to the dedication of the staff who lead that program…

While we still have more work to do in the five areas of wait time reduction, we are making progress. For example, radiation therapy has increased from 62 per cent within the benchmark in 2009, we are now at 83 per cent. So I take great pride in knowing that we are moving in the right direction in terms of improving waits for important health care treatments…

I remind the honourable member that during the estimates I provided a detailed breakdown of the number of GPs who had come to Nova Scotia in the last year and started to practice here, the number who had left, the number of specialists who had come, and the number we have lost. We actually had a net gain in both GPs and specialists. Nova Scotia, by any account in all independent national reports, leads the country in the number of physicians that we have per capita…

That does not mean we can rest on our laurels. We have the highest numbers of physicians per population, but the distribution of those physicians can be very problematic in that we have shortages – chronic shortages in some areas, and difficulty getting physicians into certain parts of the province. More important is the need to plan for the future needs of the population. The physician resource plan will do exactly that.

For her continued strong work promoting her department’s achievements in the legislature, Maureen MacDonald wins this week’s Honey Bee prize.

The Bee’s 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.

Bumble Bee:

Rural MLAs care about the same things as their Halifax counterparts, but have an additional responsibility to help Nova Scotia’s farmers, fishers and forestry workers. Jamie Baillie just doesn’t seem to understand Cumberland County. In Question Period he asked the Agricultural Minister about food safety, with questions that at least seemed designed to anger farmers.

Jamie Baillie: If there is one thing he can do, can he assure Nova Scotians today that our supply of meat that is processed in Nova Scotia is safe to eat?

John MacDonell : Mr. Speaker, yes I can.

Jamie Baillie: I don’t know how the minister can say that because the Auditor General found that there is no formal policy in place for auditing the food processing facilities of our province… My question for that minister is, how can he possibly make that assurance to Nova Scotians when those audits are not being done by your own department?

John MacDonell: I think he (Baillie) is confusing two things. One is the issue around audits, the other one is the issue around inspections. One of the things that the Auditor General did say is that the provincial Meat Inspection Act requires that animals are inspected prior and after slaughter, and he indicated this is being done… Before any plant can operate in this province, the inspector goes in and does a walk-through of that plant and tells them that they can start or not. So when he says some haven’t been audited or inspected for a month or more, if they only do one slaughtering in a month, there is somebody in there that day to ensure that that plant can go.

Jamie Baillie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I’m sure all Nova Scotians will be rushing out to the nearest deli taking great comfort from that answer from the minister here this afternoon.

For the sake of Nova Scotia’s farmers, community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets, we hope they DO take comfort in the Minister’s answers and ignore the parachute MLA in Cumberland South. Jamie Baillie’s scare-tactic wins him the Bumble Bee Prize.

Killer Bee:

In Question Period, Conservative MLA Keith Bain asked Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, who is in charge of the Chief Information Office a question about a provincial disaster plan mentioned by the Auditor General. After reminding Bain that the preceding government left them with plans jotted on a piece of paper after 10 years in office, and announcing the new plan will be in place by the end of December, Corbett offered this Killer Bee Prize of a joke on the Politics of Negativity for the gallery of the legislature:

That group is so pessimistic that when they smell flowers, they look for the funeral procession. (Laughter)

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

In Question Period last week, Liberal MLA Zach Churchill, speaking on First Contract Arbitration legislation said:

I won’t stand up and suggest what the Leader of the Third Party said, that this is part of some sinister, job-killing plot or scheme, because I don’t think that’s the case.

And then Conservative MLA Keith Bain stood up and repeated his party’s belief that the Act to Prevent Unnecessary Labour Disruptions and Protect the Economy is a sinister, job-killing plot or scheme. As has been pointed out repeatedly, this type of legislation has been introduced and passed in Canada by governments of all political leanings. Yet, the conspiracy theory continues. Silly, yet worthy of the Drone of the Week prize.

Honey Bee:

Marilyn More has a quiet voice and seems exceedingly polite for a profession that sees a lot of bluster and bravado. Under repeated questioning and catcalls she professionally answered for her government, winning this week’s Honey Bee Prize for good work. A sample:

This government has taken a very balanced approach to improving the economy and stabilizing the workforce in this province. We’ve lowered the small business tax rate and we’ve improved equity tax and film tax credits. We’ve provided new incentives for innovation and productivity, and we’re also looking to see what changes we can make to make sure we have the most stable labour environment possible.

Believe me, if this government could put its arms around the province and prevent all the international economic factors from affecting us we certainly would, but that’s not the reality.

In terms of trying to improve labour stability in this province, every Party in Canada that’s ever been government has brought in first contract settlement legislation – the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP, the PQ, and the Social Credit as well. This is seen as a way to prevent stoppages and lockouts in those extreme situations – probably only two or three a year – which will happen in Nova Scotia. It’s a way to prevent those work stoppages and lockouts from happening to disrupt those businesses and the productivity of this province.

I’m very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable member has asked about the timing of this legislation. I think the best time to be thoughtfully discussing these things is when it’s not crisis-driven. (Applause)