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

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Five

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

We have written before about how Stephen McNeil is in over his head on his electricity plan. He offers one-liners and slogans but no understanding or insight, and wins the Drone of the Week prize.

Stephen McNeil: The best thing we can do is break that monopoly and allow competition in the energy market.

Killer Bee

When Conservative MLA Chris D’Entremont accused the Health Minister of playing political games with health, Sackville Cobequid MLA Dave Wilson returned the favour, and pointed out that the NDP has been very fair to communities with opposition MLAs.

Dave Wilson: I was right back then when I said they (Rodney MacDonald’s Conservatives) played political games when it came to long-term care facilities. I’m very proud of the fact that this government, when we took over, opened Collaborative Emergency Centres in Opposition ridings, something that I don’t think we would have seen under a former Progressive Conservative Government. I’m very proud to ensure that we’re addressing the issues in health care where and when they need it. It doesn’t matter what riding they are from.

The NDP has opened 5 Collaborative Emergency Centres in Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal, Parrsboro, Springhill, Tatamagouche and Pugwash. 4 of the 5 are represented by the opposition. Dave Wilson wins this week’s Killer Bee prize for reminding the opposition that the NDP invests in all parts of the province.

Bumble Bee

How long has Stephen McNeil been an MLA? He should know the difference between a Point of Order and a disagreement by now.

Stephen McNeil: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a Point of Order. During Question Period the Premier somehow suggested that I had not been filing my expenses. I want to be very clear with all members of this House that not only have I filed my expenses at any media outlet, some have come to my office and I have showed them my expenses.

Frank Corbett: If you review Hansard, Mr. Speaker, which I expect you will, that you will find that the question was his Leader’s expenses, and if there is an issue with them he can table his Leader’s expenses since his time being Leader of that Party today in the House.

Gordie Gosse: Order, order. It’s not a Point of Order, it’s a disagreement on facts between two members.

Stephen McNeil wins his second prize of the week, the Bumble Bee prize for the error-prone.

Honey Bee

Bus service between Nova Scotia’s towns will live on, thanks to legislation Antigonish MLA Maurice Smith, Nova Scotia’s new Transportation Minister.

Maurice Smith: Bus travellers want to know they can count on an inter-city bus service to get them to and from university, to get them home for the holidays, arrive safely to medical appointments, transport parcels, and provide many other services. Bill No.133 also responds to the concerns we’ve heard from bus operators – they want to run a successful business here in Nova Scotia, they want regulation streamlined so it’s easier and more efficient to run a business, including the ability to more easily respond to evolving customer needs.

I was very pleased to have lots of company on Friday when I first introduced the bill. There were representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, Students Nova Scotia, and the Department of Seniors – and Mike Cassidy, the president of Maritime Bus, also made the time to attend Friday’s bill briefing to show his support, which I very much appreciated.

Replacing Acadian Lines with the Maritime Bus Network is incredibly important to university towns like Antigonish and Wolfville, businesses sending packages, and seniors heading to medical appointments across the province.

Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

Antigonish NDP MLA Maurice Smith had his first important piece of legislation, as Transportation Minister, debated this week. The Inter-city Bus Service Act will make sure students and seniors have a sustainable replacement to Acadian Lines. Towns across Nova Scotia will benefit enormously from this bill.

Halifax Needham NDP MLA Maureen MacDonald also had her first important piece of legislation debated this week under her new role as Finance Minister. The Importation of Wine for Personal Use Act will please Nova Scotia wineries, allowing tourists to bring purchased wine home across provincial boudaries, and let vineyards like Benjamin Bridge, L’Acadie Vineyards, and Domaine de Grand Pré create wine clubs to ship to new customers.

While Maurice Smith, a legal aid lawyer, is not questioned about whether he has the experience necessary to be the Minister of Roads, Maureen MacDonald, a social worker, sees more than her fair share of heckling from the Liberal opposition.

Maureen MacDonald proved herself to be one of the greatest health ministers that Nova Scotia has ever seen. Her work in that department is proof enough that she can handle the move to Finance.

After a dust-up two weeks ago over a perceived slight of social workers that resulted in MacDonald asking Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil for an apology, we asked our readers to write in with their thoughts on whether Maureen MacDonald is qualified to be Finance Minister. Here are three readers’ responses.

A Liberal supporter wrote in, suggesting Question Period insults are just part of the game.

Heckling is no big deal. I listened to the tape, and you can hear a half dozen Liberals shouting, but can’t make out what they’re saying at all. Their microphones are off. All I could make out was “you’re a social worker.” No biggie. I’m not saying Maureen is lying about what was said, just that heckling is no big deal. All in the game yo, all in the game.

My preference would be a Finance Minister with an M.B.A. That would be a better fit.

One of Canada’s finest Finance Ministers, Manitoba’s now-Premier Greg Selinger, excelled in the finance portfolio as the NDP turned that province’s economy around. Selinger has a degree in social work from the University of Manitoba.

A few social workers wrote in as well. We will print just one of these letters, with apologies to the many other responses writing in.

This is typical male chauvinism. Social workers, nurses, teachers… professions that are female-dominated are often not taken seriously. The idea that Stephen McNeil, whose experience is as an appliance repairman, can be taken seriously as a potential Premier, but Maureen MacDonald gets shouted down – it’s gross.

We do not know if sexism is at play here. We believe that Maureen MacDonald has proven to be up for the task. The challenge for Stephen McNeil will be to show Nova Scotians he is qualified to run a whole province.

And to round things out, here is a letter from one of our less partisan Conservative readers:

Is Maureen MacDonald qualified, as a social worker, to be Finance Minister? Of course. Attacking her is a rookie mistake by the Liberals. Not everyone would be up to that job, but it’s about your leadership experience – not your employment avenue. There are a few MLAs from each party that could conceivably be Finance Minister. Fewer still could be Premier. Other than Dexter, MacDonald is probably the only other NDP MLA who could lead the whole province. Stephen McNeil isn’t even the Liberal’s strongest MLA.