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.

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34 Nova Scotia Firsts

Darrell Dexter’s introductory speech to the new session of the legislature provided a good list of Nova Scotian firsts. Presented all together, they show how well the NDP have done on a variety of fronts.

We have cut his speech down to this list of firsts, and divided it into categories.

NDP Health Minister Dave Wilson

NDP Health Minister Dave Wilson

Nova Scotia Firsts – Health

  • Canada’s first Emergency Department standards
  • Nova Scotia’s Collaborative Emergency Centres – CECs – a national first, greatly minimized emergency room closures while providing same-day or next-day appointments for medical care.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia’s highly skilled paramedics are delivering clot-busting drugs that save lives before a patient reaches the hospital.
  • Canada’s first-ever mobile emergency department will open this year as part of the New Waterford CEC.
  • Nova Scotia’s program of paramedics providing urgent care in nursing homes is another Canadian first, providing better care sooner without a stressful trip to Emergency.
  • for the first time, there is a strategy with funded action to provide real care and understanding to Nova Scotians with mental health issues and addictions.
  • Nova Scotia is the first province to adopt a physician resource plan. For the next 10 years it will influence decision making to make sure Nova Scotians have the doctors they need in the right place. The plan’s first step is the new ER coverage program, which matches doctors with ERs that would otherwise close.
NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald

NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald

Nova Scotia Firsts – Jobs and the Economy

  • the first-ever wide-ranging budget consultation, Back to Balance
  • for the first time in Nova Scotia, my government has taken action to ensure the protection of temporary foreign workers from exploitation.
  • the first province to sign a memorandum of understanding with the federal government that formalizes and strengthens the co-operative working relationship between Nova Scotia and Canada regarding consultation with the Mi’kmaq.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia has a five-year roads plan, updated annually so citizens can see for themselves the immediate, mid-term, and long-term plans.
  • Nova Scotia’s first-ever flood mitigation plan is in development.
  • my government will soon announce Nova Scotia’s first-ever sustainable transportation strategy.

    NDP Culture Minister Leonard Preyra

    NDP Culture Minister Leonard Preyra

  • for the first time ever in Nova Scotia, my government will provide a steady and reliable source of funding to support the wealth of talent in our cultural sectors.
  • Nova Scotia will become the first Canadian jurisdiction to offer Social Impact Bonds, encouraging investors to support innovative, socially responsible projects by charitable and non-governmental organizations.
  • in partnership with universities and the private sector, my government will launch Nova Scotia’s first Innovation Summit to spur commercialization of research and move Nova Scotia into a leadership position as a competitive and innovative force in the global economy.
  • my government developed Nova Scotia’s first comprehensive immigration strategy. Last year, for the first time, Nova Scotia exceeded expectations and surpassed its immigration targets. As a result of this success, the federal government has increased Nova Scotia’s allocation under the immigrant nominee program by 20 per cent.
  • my government, in partnership with the farm community, is undertaking the first ten-year strategy for agriculture, called Homegrown Success.

    NDP Labour Minister Frank Corbett

    NDP Labour Minister Frank Corbett

  • to show clearly that provincial departments and agencies serve all of the people, my government now locates new and consolidated departments and agencies outside the Halifax area. This is the first time ever for this fairer policy.
  • for the first time Careers Nova Scotia centres are able to provide increased access to career training and job-search opportunities across the province, ensuring that more Nova Scotians have the right skills for good jobs.
  • for the first time, Nova Scotian students can get academic credit for real-world, community-based experience.
  • as outlined in Nova Scotia’s first aquaculture strategy, my government will develop comprehensive regulations and set the highest standards for fairness, efficiency, and environmental safeguards in Nova Scotia aquaculture.

Nova Scotia Firsts – Energy

  • NDP Energy Minister Charlie Parker

    NDP Energy Minister Charlie Parker

    for the first time, local and community-owned renewable power projects are financially feasible and viable as a result of Nova Scotia’s Community Feed-In Tariff Program, COMFIT. COMFIT has been hailed as a global first and a model for other nations.

  • my government was the first in North America to place a firm cap on greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, making Nova Scotia a global leader in environmental responsibility.
  • for the first time in history, Nova Scotians can secure a power supply that comes with a 35-year guarantee of price stability.
  • Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador are undertaking the single greatest step in Atlantic Canada’s regional co-operation: the Muskrat Falls development and the associated Maritime Link. All four Atlantic Provinces and the federal government have supported this environmentally progressive project, which will transform basic elements of our regional economy while ensuring the lowest, fairest power rates.

    NDP Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

    NDP Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

  • this is the first time ever that two Atlantic Provinces have co-operated in this way to stand proud and improve the destiny of this region for generations to come, by making Atlantic Canada much more of a contributor to Canada’s prosperity and progress.
  • Nova Scotia was the first government in North America to mandate LED street lighting.
  • for the first time ever, Nova Scotia law protects power-rate payers from the cost of high corporate salaries and bonuses

Nova Scotia Firsts – Social Justice

  • Nova Scotia’s first Domestic Violence Action Plan, developed in partnership with dozens of community-based groups, is now being implemented. Nova Scotia’s first domestic violence court, located in Sydney, is part of the action plan.
  • Nova Scotia’s Affordable Living Tax Credit and Poverty Reduction Tax Credit are the first significant new investments in living memory that reduce poverty and help lower income Nova Scotians make ends meet
  • Nova Scotia will soon have its first-ever housing strategy.

    NDP Education Minister Ramona Jennex

    NDP Education Minister Ramona Jennex

  • Nova Scotia’s first ever action plan to address bullying and cyberbullying is now underway across the province, backed up with new laws to deal with behaviour that can have tragic results whether it occurs in person or on-line.
  • starting to turn the corner must mean a better start for Nova Scotian children, so that from the first months of their lives they have every opportunity for success. My government is establishing a Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, to better coordinate and improve the many ways that the province supports infants, young children, and their families in the first years of life.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Four

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

Honey Bee and Bumble Bee

In the Legislature, Notices of Motion are used by MLAs for two primary purposes; to recognize people in the community for their work, and to get under the skin of your political opponents.

Rarely are these resolutions newsworthy. But NDP Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald is determined to receive an apology from Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil for saying social workers are not qualified to be in charge of finances.

Maureen MacDonald: Whereas the Leader of the Liberal Party said in this Legislature that a social worker lacks the qualifications to be Minister of Finance; and

Whereas social workers are caring professionals whose training and skills include setting priorities and securing resources to meet often complex needs in situations that range from the mundane to those of life and death; and

Whereas there are and have been many social workers in positions of leadership in public office – for example, Kathy Dunderdale, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Liberal Party apologize to the social workers of Nova Scotia for demeaning their capacity to assume positions of responsibility and leadership in matters pertaining to public administration.

As Nova Scotians begin to wonder about Stephen McNeil’s qualifications to be Premier, Maureen MacDonald wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work for reminding us that Liberals are developing a history of dismissing the experience of women, whether an actress like Truro MLA Lenore Zann, a teacher like Ramona Jennex or a social worker like MacDonald.

Stephen McNeil wins the Bumble Bee award for waking up a hornets nest of NDP activists on the left who have a high regard for Maureen MacDonald. We received 14 emails from NDP supporters on McNeil’s attack – a record for one quote since we began giving out these weekly prizes.

Killer Bee

To listen to the Liberals and Conservatives talk in the Legislature, you would think they had never been in power in Nova Scotia. Either that, or their history was full of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Kings North MLA Jim Morton wins this week’s Killer Bee prize for pointing out that the NDP’s goal of giving youth a reason to stay in this province would never be necessary if the Liberals or Tories had made economic growth a priority.

Jim Morton: If you look at our history, we’ve been “Goin’ Down the Road,” as a great Canadian film of the late 1960s showed, for a very long time. You know that history of going down the road is something that my colleague, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley chronicled in a book that he prepared, called Away, which I think demonstrates so clearly that we’ve been going down the road to look for work for 150 years. During those 150 years, I think a reasonable question is, who has been presiding over that state of affairs here in this province? I don’t have to tell many people in this House who that is – it’s those guys over there.

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 Liberal MLA from Preston, Keith Colwell, has already forgotten that Darrell Dexter won the 2009 election, not by promising everything under the sun, but by making 50 commitments for their first mandate. So far, they have met 49 of those 50 goals.

Keith Colwell: I can recall when the Premier of the province, the Premier who’s there today, was on this side of the House and promised everything under the sun to everybody who walked forward. It didn’t matter who they were, he promised it to them.

Colwell, as is often the case, is wrong. John Hamm credited the NDP with behaving responsibly during their time in opposition. The Liberals are the ones who promise to raise nearly every budget line while reducing taxes. Keith Colwell wins the Drone of the Week prize for confusing red with orange.

The Curious Case of the Orange Lunchbag on Twitter

7 weeks after blogger Parker Donham first voiced suspicion that the selection of the color orange in a bag carrying children’s books and given out in schools was a political decision, and went so far as suggesting the NDP should reimburse the taxpayers before writing his apology post stating “I was wrong”, the Nova Scotia Liberals raised the issue repeatedly in the Legislature and on Twitter.

The Curious Case of the Orange Lunchbag on Twitter:

SK_Moore: NS Liberals slams $527k in spending on orange lunch bags.

TokenGranola: Don’t you feel just a *little* queasy about going after an initiative designed to address literacy for low-income kids?

Tim_Bousquet: Not to keep pimping @kempthead but he was all over the orange bags like 3 months ago or something. Why is this news now? I thought it was bullshit first time around.

KennedyJosephin: so the NDP spend $ on lunch bags, here’s an idea buy books!!!!

HFX_Lauren: you do know their ARE books and learning tools inside that lunch bag right?

anitahovey: Ok…seriously? $500K on orange lunchbags?

Nicki_doyle: Utter nonsense. Libs obsessed with a colour not a policy.

RealDealNS: NS Liberals playing politics with children’s literacy. Those “lunchbags” could mean the only books in some low income homes.

NSLiberal: Casey: Half million for lunch bags – why not use that $ to implement task force recommendations?

RealDealNS: Seems Karen Casey thought it was a good idea when she was handing them out…

Liberal MLA Karen Casey handing out "lunchbags" when she was Conservative Education Minister. Oops.

The majority of low income families do not have a single book for their children. But in the debate on the orange lunchbags, there has been a surprising lack of conversation about what is inside the bags: books.

The single biggest barrier to the development of literacy is access to books in the home. Tackling that problem will create a generation of lifelong readers.

The books: Jack and the Missing Piece (a picture book), I Went Walking (a children’s book), and My Toys (a children’s book).

There’s also Paws and Claws (a musical CD by Halifax children’s musician Maria Alley).

The horror. The horror.