The Bees Knees – Prizes for Week Three

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

Liberal MLA Diana Whalen challenged NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald’s revenue projection assumptions in the balanced 2013-14 budget.

The problem? The major banks think the Finance Department’s projections might be too conservative in their outlook.

Maureen MacDonald: All of the economists in the big financial institutions in the country looked at the assumptions that were put together by the economists in the Department of Finance, and they compared those assumptions with their own forecasts, and they find the assumptions to be reasonable. In fact, they found the assumptions in the Department of Finance to be conservative compared to their forecasts for the coming year.

Whalen wins the Bumble Bee award for trusting her political researchers over the Canada’s leading economists.

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

Liberal MLA Keith Colwell complains about government spending on advertising. He says there is too much. And he says there is too little. This week, he was claimed John MacDonell could not get the word out about the Heating Assistance Rebate Program. MacDonell swatted Colwell’s complaint away:

John MacDonell: I think I have answered this question once a year for three years. I would think the member opposite would be aware, because his office should have received the applications that all MLAs received to give out to their constituents. If anybody is coming in there looking for an application, they should be able to get it from him.

For recycling a question for the third year in a row, Keith Colwell wins the Drone of the Week prize.

Killer Bee 

While we do not agree with Jamie Baillie’s stance that we should move away from Nova Scotia’s renewable energy goals, we share his concerns about Stephen McNeil’s electricity plan:

Jamie Baillie: For the Liberal Party to run TV ads promoting a policy that actually jacks our power rates up even more and manages to eliminate any hope of private investment in renewables at the same time – that is an amazing trick. The very policies that they promote have been proven a failure in New Brunswick, in Ontario, in Texas, in California, in all of those places the very policies that they advertise on TV, both drive up our power rates and stop the investment in renewables at the same time. That is why it’s important that they, too, be held accountable for what they say not just today, but for the future.

Baillie wins this week’s Killer Bee prize for taking on McNeil Liberals on multiple fronts, including on electricity.

Honey Bee

This week Colchester – Musquodoboit Valley NDP MLA Gary Burrill issued a challenge to Conservative MP Scott Armstrong to a debate on federal cuts to EI.

Burrill also got his provincial Conservative colleagues on the record on the changes to the EI appeals process. He introduced this resolution in the Legislature:

Whereas the system of appeals for employment insurance has, for many years, been comprised of Boards of Referees, tripartite bodies including local representatives from the business community and the labour movement, ensuring that appeals of decisions affecting EI claims have been heard by independent referees knowledgeable concerning local conditions…

Whereas the constituency offices of many MLAs have commonly provided advocacy, support, and representation services to constituents before Boards of Referees, very often resulting in much-needed reinstatements of EI benefits and much-merited reversals of disentitlements, disqualifications, penalty assessments, and the like; and

Whereas the federal government has abolished the system of EI appeals based on a national network of Boards of Referees, and replaced it with a centralized appeal system lacking entirely in local representation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly unreservedly condemn the eradication of the Board of Referees appeal system by the Government of Canada, and hereby register its profound disagreement with the removal of local labour and business leaders from the appeal process available to EI claimants in Nova Scotia.

Burrill’s resolution was met with a chorus of No’s from the Conservative benches, a mistake for a party in second place in much of rural Nova Scotia. Gary Burrill wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work.

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.

Killer Bee

During a series of questions about Muskrat Falls by Liberal MLA Andrew Younger, including the cost of energy imports from Hydro-Quebec, the Energy Minister gave a nod to the NDP’s new commercial ‘Ask Newfoundlanders’ about the Liberal’s pledge to buy power needed to meet renewable energy targets from the 4th largest energy utility in the world.

Charlie Parker: Mr. Speaker, I guess the honourable member probably has a better direct line to Hydro-Québec than others would have.

The quip wins Pictou West MLA Charlie Parker this week’s Killer Bee prize.

Bumble Bee

When the NDP recently announced they would be introducing tougher animal care laws, the SPCA and others applauded them. But not everyone cheered. The Liberal Caucus Office’s Director of Communication took to Twitter say legislation is not needed to deal with those who abuse animals. Disturbingly, the staffer went on to say the NDP was “screwing the pooch” on the issue, a bad choice of phrase considering the topic.

In Question Period, Kings West Liberal MLA Leo Glavine was more careful in his choice of words when questioning of NDP Agriculture Minister John MacDonell. However, Glavine too said legislation wasn’t needed.

This misstep by the Liberals further illustrates a fog of negativity that seems to have blinded that party. Just because you are the Official Opposition, does not mean you need to oppose everything.

Honey Bee

While most observers said the buzz words from Darrell Dexter’s Speech From The Throne last week were “turning the corner”, we preferred the repeated phrase “for the first time”. Gathered together in one speech, the NDP have quite a record of “firsts”.

For such a positive speech, without even a modest attack on the opposition, Darrell Dexter wins this week’s Honey Bee prize.

Honey Bee #2

Normally, we give a Drone of the Week award, but this week in the Legislature was quite spirited, with little nonsense. And MLA Chris d’Entremont had his best week in years – we felt he was also deserving of a Honey Bee prize.

We’ve posted d’Entremont’s questions about the Liberal trust fund here, but he showed he is more than willing to hit back against Stephen McNeil on policies too:

Chris d’Entremont: You know, the Liberals take the cake. While the Liberal Leader has no original ideas, only they could take a failed idea from one province and make it the centrepiece of their energy policy. In fact, it takes a special kind of talent to borrow a policy from another place that abandoned it because it was proven to drive up rates and impede the move to cleaner energy at the same time.

While we think the Conservatives’ promise to freeze rates hard to believe (how much will that cost the government?), d’Entremont is right to raise concerns about the Liberal’s commercial-sized plan on energy.

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