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.


Budget Bouquets

We know what the opposition parties are saying about Maureen MacDonald’s first Nova Scotia budget. They had their negative lines written before it was even introduced. But what about the independent observers out there? Here is a review:

Nova Scotia's NDP joins Saskatchewan and BC as the only provinces able to balance their budget this year.

Nova Scotia’s NDP joins Saskatchewan and BC as the only provinces able to balance their budget this year.

Valerie Payn, President, Halifax Chamber of Commerce:

The Chamber commends the provincial government for slaying the deficit. Eliminating the deficit was a cornerstone piece of the Chamber’s policy priorities for 2013, and we are pleased to see that the government is out of the red and back to black. Nova Scotia’s jobsHere Strategy has assisted small business through many incentives, and we are pleased that the government will continue to fund this strategy for Chamber members…

We commend the government for following through on its commitment to further reduce the small business tax from 3.5% to 3%.. We are also encouraged to see that the government remains committed to rolling back the HST by 1% in 2014 and 1% in 2015.

Jonathan Williams, Executive Director, Students NS:

Nova Scotia students are very pleased as the Province has invested $4.6 million to improve the student assistance program for the third year in a row, bringing the government’s total new investments in student assistance to almost $23 million over the past three years. StudentsNS understood that the government is working under significant financial constraints and so we made modest but important requests for this budget. The government listened and has delivered on two of our most important requests, and that’s a big win for us.

The new commitments include:

An increase in the grant to loan ratio from 35/65 to 40/60 for $1.9 million
An increase in the maximum weekly student allowance to $180—$2.7 million

Lisa Matte, Canadian Diabetes Association:

The Canadian Diabetes Association commends the Government of Nova Scotia for the recent 2013 budget announcement for improved support for children and young adults living with type 1 diabetes. New funding will be used to provide insulin pumps to individuals 19 years of age and younger, and supplies for insulin pumps to individuals under 25 years of age.

An insulin pump program will not only improve the health and quality of life for many Nova Scotians living with type 1 diabetes, but will also improve the sustainability of the province’s healthcare system.

Ken Chan, Cystic Fibrosis Canada:

Our advocacy efforts paid off! Nova Scotia’s Finance Minister announced this afternoon that they are expanding screening. Thanks to Premier Dexter for bringing in cystic fibrosis newborn screening for families in Nova Scotia.

The Bees Knees – Prizes for Week Two

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 can not claim to have problems with the math in the budget and claim the civil servants in the Finance Department who crunched the numbers in the budget are great employees.

Diana Whalen: It’s based on inflated, wishful thinking, rose-coloured glasses or whatever you want to call it, it’s not going to be sustainable, it’s not going to be reliable… I wanted to thank the Finance Department, who I know work very hard. The staff at the department work really hard to pull this together. It’s not done overnight. It takes months and months, so I think they deserve a vote of thanks.

You do not get to thank the staff and the Department of Finance and call their work incompetent. Whalen wins the Bumble Bee prize of the week for calling into question the work of an entire department and trying to smooth things over with a few nice words.

Honey Bee

Nova Scotia’s first female Finance Minister wins the Honey Bee prize this week for her Balanced Budget which gives back to families, kids and seniors:

Maureen MacDonald: I recall the many years the now-Premier and our Caucus spent fighting on behalf of seniors and their families, so that they no longer had to pay the costs of medical expenses in long-term care. This was a long-needed change in how our province respects seniors, and ensures that they are treated with the dignity they so rightly deserve after years of building the society and economy of our province.

Killer Bee 

Jamie Baillie wins the week’s Killer Bee prize for the quote with the most sting, in this case attacking McNeil’s credibility and integrity on his mishandling the Liberal Party’s emerging toll-gating scandal:

Jamie Baillie: Here is a [Liberal] Party that can’t even manage a tiny little caucus office without the help of a consultant. Here is a [Liberal] Party that can’t even run a surplus in their own little book of accounts asking the people if they can run the entire Province of Nova Scotia. They have not won an election in this province, a majority election, in 20 years because Nova Scotians will not trust them as long as they hold on to that dirty money in that trust fund, and they won’t this time either – and no one can say oh that’s in the past as long as the current leadership hold on to it.

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

Jamie Baillie also gets the Drone of the Week award, however, for making a gelatinous cube over what was obviously a computer error at the NLSC over the April 1 long weekend.

April Fools indeed.

The Mom and Pop Budget

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald delivers the Mom and Pop budget.

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald delivers the Mom and Pop budget.

Maureen MacDonald’s first budget as the NDP’s Finance Minister will do a lot of good for a lot of people, but mostly it seems directed at Mom and Pop voters.

The biggest news in the budget will play well with parents:

1. Insulin pumps for kids up to age 19 and supplies for those under 25.  Health Minister Dave Wilson had been pushing for very hard for this for some time and good on him for doing so.

2. Expanded newborn screening to include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and eight additional conditions.

3. Reversal of Liberal cuts to kids’ dental coverage:  children aged 13 and under will be able to receive universal dental coverage for check-ups and treatment. Nova Scotia now has one of the most accessible dental coverage programs in the country.

4. More mental health clinicians in more schools means children and adolescents get the services they need, sooner.

5. Continuing Ramona Jennex’s cap on class sizes for grades primary to three at 25 students.  Average class sizes in Nova Scotia will remain the smallest in a generation.

We’ll pore over the budget documents this weekend for future posts.

But at first blush, this looks to be the NDP’s best budget yet.