Liberals entitled to their entitlements?

Stephen McNeil’s decision to let Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald take a month-long vacation while the Legislature sat could mean a fine for the MLA this week as the all-party Management Commission meets to review the case.

Frank Corbett, one of the NDP’s commission members, said he will propose a specific penalty when the commission meets on Thursday. “He has been absent for extended periods of time for the last couple of years, and we think that something should be done,” Corbett told the Chronicle Herald.

Corbett said there are valid reasons to be absent but a month-long vacation is certainly not one of them. Tory Leader Jamie Baillie seems to have the common sense to agree. And PC Party House leader Chris d’Entremont said he will likely support docking Manning for his paid vacation.

The NDP have also released a video showing Stephen McNeil getting caught by journalists on the issue. McNeil claimed there was no rule and wanted clear guidelines. The problem? There is a rule. And clear guidelines. McNeil really embarrassed himself on this issue. Liberals feeling “entitled to their entitlements” is something Nova Scotians really dislike about his party.

In in the final third of the video, Stephen McNeil is asked a follow-up question – should the Liberal Caucus hand back the funding it got connected to Manning MacDonald? His answer? No.

Auditor General reviewing question of Michel Samson’s living expenses

Nova Scotia’s auditor general says he has started to review the living expenses of Liberal MLA Michel Samson, who represents the riding of Richmond, but may have lived in Halifax since his re-election in 2006.

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different." - Michel Samson

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different.” – Michel Samson

The issue came to light when Michel Samson asked for a review of his living arrangements after a reporter’s investigation raised a number of questions about the house the taxpayer rents for him in the city.

Since then the Speaker’s office has determined Samson lives full time in Halifax, spends most of his time in the city and can no longer bill taxpayers for his monthly rent.

Since 2006, Samson has billed taxpayers for more than $115,000 in rent. The Auditor General has not said if it will ask Samson to pay it back.

Stephen McNeil has been mostly quiet on the issue, although has defended fellow Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald’s terrible attendance record in the legislature, including a four week vacation to Florida he took the House was sitting.

We hope Stephen McNeil will begin to defend Michel Samson with the same vigor he defended the delinquency of Manning MacDonald.

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.

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

Here are the people Liberal MLA Geoff MacLellan opposed investing in this week: DSME workers in Pictou, mill workers in the Strait, forestry workers in Queens County, shipyard workers in Shelburne and IT workers in Halifax. One reader cheekily suggested that the Liberals were exhibiting signs of being fair to all regions of the province by opposing jobs in all parts of the province. Glace Bay MLA Geoff MacLellan wins this week’s Drone of the Week prize.

Honey Bee

Premier Darrell Dexter reminded Liberals of the two of Stephen McNeil’s biggest errors on electricity this week – on efficiency programs and power bill taxes.

Premier Dexter: The consumer groups, ecology groups right across the province said what they wanted was an independent efficiency organization that would be free of government, paid for so that they could deliver services that would benefit the entire population of Nova Scotia. Ratepayers, as a result of this, saved $100 million. In fact the savings are actually greater for the poorer Nova Scotians because it makes up a bigger part of their bill.

What they tried to do is manoeuvre around what they said. The Leader of the Official Opposition voted against the HST coming off of home electricity then he voted in favour of the Progressive Conservatives putting it back on. He campaigned against it twice. In the leadership debate – he would remember, I certainly do – he said taking the HST off was bad, bad public policy. Does he believe it or doesn’t he? (Applause)

For continuing to take the battle to the opposition benches, Darrell Dexter wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good political work.

Bumble Bee

While the rest of the Liberals were pretending to forget their history of supporting tax credits for business development, retiring Liberal Manning MacDonald went off message.

Manning MacDonald: Stream was in Glace Bay long before this government ever came to office in Nova Scotia. It was brought to Nova Scotia – it was brought to Cape Breton – by a payroll rebate system that the previous Liberal Government of this province set up.

Manning MacDonald is correct. The Liberals have always supported big business. Unfortunately for him, the Liberals are now pretending to be against big business. He wins this week’s Bumble Bee prize, for providing another example of the Liberal’s weather vane politics.

Killer Bee

Normally, when an MLA uses an unparliamentary phrase, they retract it and replace it with a more benign word. Not so with Pictou’s own Clarrie MacKinnon.

Clarrie MacKinnon: As I listened to families, small business owners, and young people in Pictou County and all parts of Nova Scotia, I feel their energy and I feel their enthusiasm. There is hope, there is hope coming from this side of the House, not the despair and hopelessness that exists over there. IBM could have picked any place in Canada to bring their expertise, research and jobs. I think they chose the best place to build their future.

I just want to reiterate that this side of the House has real leadership as we go into the future. We are not looking at the Headless Horsemen on the other side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, and that just came to mind, looking at them. Thank you.

The Speaker: Excuse me. “Headless Horsemen” is probably not parliamentary language. I would ask the member for Pictou East to retract that statement.

Clarrie MacKinnon: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to retract the “Headless Horsemen” comment, but I do not have other adjectives.

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.