The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Seven

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

Honey Bee

Chester – St. Margarets’ NDP MLA Denise Peterson-Rafuse introduced Nova Scotia’s first long-term housing strategy in the Legislature, presenting a very good blueprint to build better housing options for Nova Scotians.

Peterson-Rafuse: As the Minister of Community Services and the minister responsible for housing, it is my priority to make life better for Nova Scotians through safe and affordable housing. On Monday our government announced the province’s very first long-term Housing Strategy. I don’t know why previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative Governments have always operated without a clear plan to deal with this crucial issue, but those days are finally over…

Saving money for a home can seem like a distant, if not impossible, dream for many hard-working families. We will be there to help these people who need a hand up, not a handout. Nova Scotia will become a leader in innovative financial solutions to help Nova Scotians who may not yet be in a position to secure a mortgage from a bank or a credit union. We will enable Nova Scotians to save for a down payment, build equity and buy their home. We will offer lease-to-own options such as dedicating part of a tenant’s rent to building equity in their home. We will offer a graduate home ownership program that lets recent graduates get a jump-start in building equity and provide an incentive to stay right here at home.

Peterson-Rafuse wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work on the NDP’s Housing Strategy.

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

Bedford Liberal MLA Kelly Regan had nothing positive to say about the largest investment in affordable housing in Nova Scotia’s history.

Kelly Regan: Let’s be clear – this isn’t a strategy. It’s a framework. It’s a wish list.

A strategy is a framework. You build regulations and programs and services by following a strategy. And let’s be clear, Kelly Regan and the Liberals have not presented a strategy or a framework or a blueprint of their own.

Kelly Regan wins this week’s Drone of the Week prize for continuing on with the Liberal Party’s Politics of Negativity.

Stephen McNeil’s Deficit Problem

The Liberals are good at complaining.

They complained about the deficit for years, but never said they would balance the budget, or how. They have called for, and will continue to call for (once the Estimates process is underway this week),  increased funding in pretty much every government department. But they won’t say where the money would come from to pay for those promises.

Stephen-McNeil-LiberalIt’s time to start asking Stephen McNeil serious questions about the deficit he’s proposing to run on, and the financial mess he is prepared to leave for future generations.

McNeil likes to complain about user fees, but he won’t commit to freezing them, or say where the revenue will come from to make up the difference and balance.

He has complained about “taxes”, but has no actual plan to reduce them, or which ones.

Worse than his non-answers on important economic questions is his voting record.  Stephen McNeil complained about the HST increase, but voted against the NDP’s legislation to reduce it next year.

Blogger Parker Donham, wonders if there is anything more hypocritical than the analysis of provincial budgets:

The finger-waggers never acknowledge the tradeoffs required for a government of the day to indulge their pet priorities. They never say, “Cut them, so you can fatten me,” and, “My cause is more deserving than their cause, because…”

Budgets are about choices. “We’re going to do this. We’re not going to do that. Here’s how much it will cost.”  You can agree with the choices or disagree with them, but it’s silly to pretend that funding one thing doesn’t mean unfunding another, or that programs can balloon while taxes plummet.

The problem for McNeil is that, while easy, this approach means his Liberals cannot help but contradict themselves. And they do: day after day, week after week, on issue after issue.

It is time for journalists to force Stephen McNeil to answer some questions about the choices he would make.

The Bee’s Knees – Prizes for Week 4

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:

When an MLA, in Question Period, throws a pitch at a Minister, it might be a fastball, a curveball or an occasional softball. Last week Kelly Regan played tee-ball. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report showing that from 2003 to 2009 progress on reducing child poverty stalled, and Regan wanted to know if the government cared. The first problem with the question? The NDP was elected in 2009, the year the study’s data ended. The second problem? The NDP had done a lot to address the issue in its first two years. The third problem with the question? The Liberals has voted against all the NDP measures to reduce child poverty. Bedford Liberal MLA Kelly Regan wins this week’s Bumble Bee Prize.

Killer Bee:

Jamie Baillie had a rough week. His one issue, a stand against First Contract Arbitration legislation, wasn’t resonating with the public. And then the Liberals, normally following the Conservatives on workers’ issues, gave up on the Tories stalling tactics causing Baillie’s hoist motion to fail. We’ll give him some credit though, for allowing the Premier to point out who’s creating rural jobs, and who’s voting against them, winning Darrell Dexter the week’s best quote:

Jamie Baillie: Mr. Speaker, over the last few days the Premier has repeatedly denied that there is a crisis in rural Nova Scotia. That is very distressing, but there is some hope because denial can be the first step on the road to recovery.

Premier Dexter: Mr. Speaker, I always tell people admitting you’re a Tory is the first step on the road to recovery. (Laughter) What I will do is, I will table for the honourable member the press release with respect to the $8.8 million investment that we made in Irving Shipbuilding’s ship repair unit in Shelburne, one that was matched by an additional $16 million by Irving themselves, one that is leading to good jobs in rural Nova Scotia. What’s more, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the Opposition voted against that investment.

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 Conservative’s hoist motion to delay the passage of First Contract Arbitration Legislation meant that each MLA could stand up and speak for an hour, repeating their speeches from the previous days. It’s a delaying tactic, and a standard part of our parliamentary tradition. But it does create terrible theatre. Here’s Allan MacMaster, winner of he Drone of the Week Prize for mangled metaphors.

Then you are showing real leadership, where you are maybe taking the company out of the hands of some – maybe it’s a large, private employer – and you are really having to deal with the same things that they have been having to deal with, and the same pressures. Then all the talk goes out the window, then the rubber hits the road, then the numbers don’t lie and then there’s an opportunity to turn that business around…

If you want to carry the big stick, why not walk the walk, as they say. I would love to see it and I say that in good spirit, because there’s always opportunity. If you really want to make a difference, instead of coming at it from a piece of legislation like this and saying, well, we’re not going to do the work, we’re just going to scrape our little piece out of whoever is doing the work, that’s not leadership.

I think we’ve all received that e-mail at one time or another about the ant and the centipede or something – it doesn’t really matter – but it was talking about how one worked hard all year to collect the provisions for the winter and the other did nothing towards that but wanted a fair share of it when the winter came…

So with those remarks, I’m going to start to wind down. I have to have another drink of water, I’m getting a bit parched, but I say that in good spirit because, you know, we’ll come and go from here. I think the average life of a politician is seven years.

Honey Bee:

During Opposition Days in the Legislature, MLAs debate topics like this:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly remind the Government that they cannot continue to tax Nova Scotians into submission and strongly urge them to end their campaign of higher taxes, increasing power rates, and higher prices for gasoline.

Now, we’d expect anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric to come from the Conservatives. What’s sad about the state of Nova Scotia politics is that this motion came from a Liberal, Geoff MacLellan.

Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MLA Gary Burrill’s measured response, using refreshingly big words, was excellent, winning him the Honey Bee Prize for good work:

Gary Burrill: Their primary approach to the serious present difficulties would be simply to cut taxation, which means, of course, to cut hence public spending thereby stifling the very demand, the absence of which is the thin edge of the recessionary wedge to start with. That is to say, in the situation in which we find ourselves, what is required is not less taxation. What is required in Nova Scotia is intelligent taxation. When I say intelligent taxation, I’m not speaking about a theoretical matter or about an abstraction, I’m thinking about quite specific things.

For example, I’m thinking about the addition in 2010 of a new income tax bracket for those with incomes in excess of $150,000 by means of which the government was put in a position, financially, where it was able to cease provincial taxation on all seniors receiving the supplement thereby stimulating economic demand. (Applause) When speaking about intelligent taxation, about the unique, made-in-Nova Scotia manner in which relative to the 2 per cent increase in the HST in which the low-income offset for that was designed and implemented, what we call the Affordable Living Tax Credit, by means of which, at that time, there was a net transfer of income to those households with an income under $34,000 thereby again stimulating demand, which is what you need to do in a recessionary situation. None of this comes into view at all through the fog of negativity that we have in this resolution.

Secondly, I wish to state my agreement with the introductory clause of the third “whereas” of this resolution, which reads as follows: “Whereas the NDP promised to make life better. . .” This clause brings into view the question of course, better than what? The answer I propose to this is as follows: better than the type of government that has been suggested this week in the contributions of the Opposition Parties.

Twitter Cops – How the Nova Scotia NDP, PC and Liberals Fare on Twitter

For some, Twitter is about community and social media should be ‘social’. For others, it’s just another PR device they are forced to use. We follow the #nspoli tag on Twitter closely to keep an eye on what politicians and their political staff are up to, and often see the public calling them out on their lack of understanding on the Rules of Engagement. We’ve deputized two readers as Twitter Cops. Here are their reports:

M. Zhang (@yaomifanma on Twitter)

Politicians are allowed to have personal lives. And being slightly irreverent when using social media is fine by me. So if they use their Twitter account for both work and play that’s OK cola. But do it right. There aren’t soooo many rules to follow. Don’t spam. Talk to people instead of just pushing out your own message. And what the (flip) is up with talking about what you had for lunch and then tagging #nspoli.

@JamieBaillie

He chose the pie.

But if you make that mistake, then what the (flip) is up with ignoring people who remind you that that talking about your ham sandwich is not what #nspoli is for? Jamie Baillie wants to show he’s human by talking about his tough decision between ordering blueberry pie and cheesecake? Ok, yeah but why the (flip) does his staffer tag that tweet with #nspoli? Why be purposefully disruptive people on Twitter interested in discussing or debating real issues? Kelly Regan, Jamie Baillie, and all the other offenders – just because you’re a politician doesn’t make attending a (flipping) barbecue or a ballet a political action.

A. Sparling (@alliesomething on Twitter)

I would certainly call any political party without an adequate social media presence at risk of being irrelevant, but doing it correctly is just as important.

Twitter is about conversations, and the #nspoli hashtag was a way for people to talk, debate, and sometimes troll. Imagine if you had a club of people, some you liked more than others, that you got together with every day and all of the sudden there were frequent commercial breaks in the middle of your meetings. That’s what the latest social media strategy for Nova Scotia political parties seems to be.

Of course, what parties are tweeting is political, and I am glad they are involved in the discussion, but it is starting to feel like vomit. There are only so many times I can see someone retweet the same press release before you start to get very angry. If it were general members of the public, it would be acceptable, but seeing the same people every day RTing and RTing at the same old bits of information and adding #nspoli every time is stale.

There is no DISCUSSION. There is no COMMUNICATION. Parties that do not actually talk back or engage people turns Twitter into a pool of vomit instead of dialogue. If we are all just seeing who can shout the loudest, then no one is really heard.

We counted how many conversations the three Nova Scotia political parties had with citizens. Here is the chart for the first 10 months on 2011 for the @nsndp @nspc and @nsliberal accounts.

Nova Scotia Political Party Use of Social Media

A chart of how the NSNDP, NSPC and NS Liberal Parties use Twitter to engage with people.

FootNote: We do not count Retweets (RTs), Follow Fridays (FFs), or “Thanks for the RT”, “Thanks for the FF”, or quoting, as conversations. If we did, the chasm between the parties would be a canyon.