Open House

And so it begins. The last session of the legislature before the September election.

Back to work, for the last session before the election.

Back to work, for the last session before the election.

While it won’t receive much attention in the media, the NDP have to believe that balancing the budget in such troubling economic times will have a positive affect on voters’ opinion of Darrell Dexter and his government. Gaining slightly in the last opinion poll, the NDP hope to close the gap a few more points before the writ is dropped. The NDP have stuck to their 4 year plan to get back to balance, and Nova Scotia’s economic prospects continue to brighten.

At the start of last fall’s session, Stephen McNeil pledged to clearly explain Liberal policies for journalists, saying they would “lay out their vision and plan.” So what, dear readers, is their plan and vision? Do you know?

We know McNeil’s Liberals are against helping IBM and Projex move jobs here. But what are they for?

We know they are against the NDP’s highly successful Collaborative Emergency Centres. But what are they for?

We know they are against reducing the HST by one point in 2014 and another point in 2015. But what are they for?

Stephen McNeil has failed to say what his Party’s plan is. His vision, if he has one, is hidden by a fog of negativity.

Expect the Liberals to continue to give Nova Scotians no answers. Their strategy is to lie in wait, run commercials, and say as little as possible. Journalists are the only ones who can demand answers from Stephen McNeil, but so far members of the press gallery have been reluctant to ask any questions.  Questions such as: why are the Liberals against job creation investments, and what would they do instead? Why are the Liberals against Collaborative Emergency Centres, and what would they do instead? Why are the Liberals against reducing the HST, and what would they do instead? Alas, we may never know.

The Conservatives will continue to try to introduce Jamie Baillie to Nova Scotians, and preach their gospel of balanced budgets, lower taxes and program cuts. It’s a strategy that has worked well for them before. The Liberals provide weak leadership, and make such terrible decisions when in power, that a promise of strong fiscal discipline sways many a voter outside of the capital. The problem for Baillie is that the NDP are poised to deliver a balanced budget – a significant feat only one other province (Saskatchewan) is likely to match.

The Spring Session is always dominated by the budget. But the NDP, which has more than their share of policy wonks, also likes to talk vision.  That is why they do Throne Speeches, which the two older parties hate. They hate them because it shines a light on the fact the opposition do not have any fresh ideas. And it drives them nuts having to confront, yet again, a party that shop-talks on the floor of the House.

Legislation you should expect to see:

– help for at-risk seniors
– help for at-risk children
– help for at-risk puppies and kittens
– a significant step forward for municipalities to provide services
– changes to improve consumer protection

Enjoy the session. Keep on sending in your tips.

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The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week One

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

Premier Darrell Dexter had a very good week as the Legislature opened. He promised to press the opposition on their plans, or their lack of plans, and put the Liberals back on their heels.

Stephen McNeil’s recent pledge to party faithful, in front of Globe and Mail and CBC journalists, that he would cut energy efficiency programs was a serious error that did not go unnoticed by the government.

Premier Dexter: Unfortunately, this is a problem that the Liberal caucus has – they speak from inexperience. We know what they’re doing. They want to haul people down the road of deregulation. They have said, if you can imagine, that they are going to cancel all of the energy efficiency programs …  a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face-stick-your-head-in-the-ground policy, which is exactly what we can expect from the Liberal Party.

For putting a spotlight on the Liberal’s energy policy, Darrell Dexter wins the Honey Bee prize for good work.

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

The new line of the Liberal Party makes very little sense. They claim that by investing in Nova Scotia’s ship yards, manufacturing sector and forestry industry, Darrell Dexter has somehow lost jobs.

Stephen McNeil: If it wasn’t for this government, 1,310 other Nova Scotians would be working today.

But by not investing in these industries, a Liberal government would have thrown thousands of people out of work. They are attacking the livelihood of families, not corporations. Stephen McNeil’s rhetoric on corporate welfare wins him the Drone of the Week prize.

Killer Bee

During an aside on his discussion of the disastrous P-3 school deals signed by the previous Liberal government, NDP MLA Mat Whynott listed budget items that could very well be cut by Liberals if they were ever in power again.

The MLA for Hammonds Plains – Upper Sackville had mentioned the NDP’s Affordable Living Tax Credit, the Poverty Reduction Tax Credit, the Caregiver Program, and the increases to child benefits as things the Liberals would cut when he was interrupted by Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill.

Zach Churchill: All I would ask is that the member opposite provide any sort of documentation that can help prove his point. Table the documents, then. If you believe it, table the documents.

Mat Whynott: Mr. Speaker, the document that I’m talking about, for the honourable member for Yarmouth, is called the budget. It’s called the budget. It’s tabled every year. That’s the document I’m talking about.

The Liberals, of course, voted against the budget. For shutting down the most fustian and jejune MLA in the Legislature, Mat Whynott wins this week’s Killer Bee prize.

Bumble Bee

While still occasionally mentioning their unhealthy attack on renewable energy, the Tories are getting better on the electricity file. Jamie Baillie needs to avoid these sorts of stumbles.

Jamie Baillie: The Premier has already hitched his wagon to a gigantic mega project, Muskrat Falls, which is a 50-year decision that this province had to make in a very short period of time and yet he has rigged the review of Muskrat Falls because he insists that they can only look at alternatives that are consistent with his renewable energy plan.

Darrell Dexter: They have the right to look at any experts’ reports they want. They can look at natural gas.

A small error, but worthy of this week’s Bumble Bee prize for the error prone. Baillie used to promote the Muskrat Falls deal, just like he used to promote renewable energy. He should go back to his previous positions.

Open House

The session’s theme: Jobs and the Economy.

The Opposition want to focus on jobs and energy this session. All signs show that to be just fine with the Darrell Dexter and the NDP.

Both opposition parties, while they have no credibility on the issue, are still using rhetoric about “corporate bailouts”. Those words may play well in Halifax, but it is a strange way to try to win an argument in rural Nova Scotia. Helping to keep families afloat during a worldwide economic downturn is what smart governments do. They do it because it pays off. The investments pay for themselves through income tax, sales tax and job spin-offs. Expect the Liberals to drop the term to win back rural support, but expect the Conservatives forge on with Jamie Baillie’s attempt to rebrand the Conservatives.

The Conservatives may feel they are in a tough spot, but a year is a lifetime in politics. Expect them to try to present both a distinct alternative to Darrell Dexter’s NDP government, and a clear break from their past. Jamie Baillie needs to distance himself from Rodney MacDonald. He can do that by moving to the right – being more vocal on labour unions, on two-tier healthcare, and on taxes.

The Liberals will be under the microscope this session. Stephen McNeil, in a promise during a CBC interview, pledged to clearly explain Liberal policies for journalists, saying they would “lay out their vision and plan.” That could be an issue, as McNeil seems in over his head on energy policy, and waffles on far too many economic issues (a balanced budget, the Ships Start Here contract, the Lower Churchill Falls hydro project, etc). We have also heard that one of our favourite Liberal MLAs is not re-offering. We hope this does not prove true.

It took a hundred years for the Liberals and Conservatives to break Nova Scotia – the NDP should be able to undo 25 or so years of damage in their first five. On healthcare, poverty reduction, renewable energy and roads they are making great strides. The opposition parties will have to put on a brave face if the US economy (and thus our small town economies) improves. Job numbers are already higher than when the NDP inherited the Tories’ broken economy. If Nova Scotia’s prospects continue to brighten, the NDP MLAs will see gloomy faces in the opposition aisles.

Legislation you should expect to see:

– changes to improve consumer protection
– new rules for buses
– the Fall Capital Plan
– wilderness protection
– new Electoral Boundaries

Please continue to send us your tips and your story ideas. Enjoy the session.

Power Play

We expect electricity prices will remain an important part of politics this fall, and think the NDP and the Conservatives can both score points on this issue from the left and right wings as the Legislature begins its session.

Stephen McNeil is in over his head on energy policy, and that gives Darrell Dexter and Jamie Baillie room to move on the issue.

Putting the HST back on home heating, making dangerous promises in their TV attack ads, and fighting Efficiency Nova Scotia’s independent status – McNeil’s power plan would make their worst moves on energy since the Liberals started to tax electricity.

Jamie Baillie can make up the ground he lost if his Conservatives downplay their odd attacks on renewable energy and continue to focus on the UARB instead. Tilting at windmills was a major error by the NSPC.

Darrell Dexter, by announcing legislation limiting power rate increases and executive bonuses, proves the NDP is no friend of Nova Scotia Power. And by negotiating a greenhouse gas reduction agreement with the federal government, the NDP to will save ratepayers from paying $1.3 billion.

The Liberals have worked hard to make power bills the defining issue of 2012. Unfortunately, their leader’s plan comes dangerously close to qualifying as a prank instead of a policy plank.