On the Line

Why are the Liberals now Nova Scotia's least labour friendly party in Nova Scotia?

Why are the Liberals now Nova Scotia’s least labour friendly party in Nova Scotia?

Did the three three men vying to be Premier of Nova Scotia pass the last Labour Day before the election celebrating workers’ rights, marching in solidarity with nurses, teachers, cleaning crews and coffee shop workers. Or did they take the day off – a victory won for us by the work of the labour movement?

Once upon a time, even American Republicans cheered about their strong ties to organized labour. Now, Liberals in Canada, and of course Tories, shy away from topics ranging from the minimum wage to maternity leave.

On Labour Day, while marching and speaking at a union rally in Halifax, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter announced an important policy plank that will help workers take care of their families – better access to parental leave.

More Nova Scotians will be able to take parental leave knowing their job will be waiting for them when they return. Premier Darrell Dexter announced plans today, Sept. 2, to amend the Labour Standards Code to allow someone employed for six months with an employer to qualify for pregnancy/parental leave.

Jamie Baillie did not hide completely on the one day of the year politicians focus on labour issues. On Twitter he offered this:

Let’s take a moment today to reflect on the valuable contribution the men & women who work hard in all kinds of jobs, make to our economy. Together, we all want a growing economy, safe work conditions, and a shared, prosperous future for all Nova Scotians.

Stephen McNeil was quiet on workers’ issues this year.

We’ve talked about the Liberal Party’s history of labour relations in Nova Scotia. It bears repeating.

The last time the Liberals were in power saw the worst period of labour unrest in Nova Scotia’s recent history.

  •     Angry nurses suggested wildcat strikes after the Liberal government refused to give the chief negotiator a mandate to resume talks.
  •     Nova Scotia’s 60,000 public-sector workers said they’d walk off the job if the Liberal government didn’t restore collective bargaining.
  •     Nova Scotia’s teachers agreed to support the general strike over a 3% rollback in wages and benefits by the Liberals and a three-year salary freeze.
  •     All police forces in the province outside of Halifax signed on to take part in a wide-scale walkout against the Liberal government.

“Collective bargaining has not been abolished,” Liberal Human Resources Minister Eleanor Norrie said in the legislature at the time. “Collective bargaining has been suspended.”

Nurses, public sector workers, teachers and cops would do well to remember those savage days in Nova Scotia. The Liberals flash left, but turn right, causing quite the spectacular crash.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week 8

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:

The federal Conservative cuts to Parks Canada (Fortress of Louisburg in particular) saw Pam Birdsall and Manning MacDonald sticking up for Nova Scotia. But When Alfie MacLeod stepped up for the Conservatives, he chose to protect his Harper cousins in attempting to adjourn debate. He was defeated.  Alfie MacLeod wins the last Bumble Bee award of the session for trying, and failing, to limit debate.

Killer Bee:

In response to MacLeod’s remarks defending the Harper government, Pictou East MLA Clarrie MacKinnon’s opening stirred up a hornet’s nest in the opposition benches:

Clarrie MacKinnon: I really didn’t intend to speak on this but what really got me upset was my good friend, the member for Cape Breton West. I lived in that constituency, I know him well, I like him a lot but I can’t believe that he is an apologist for the Harper Government, I just can’t believe it. That is what he was doing in his remarks, he was saying that there were no job losses. (Interruptions)

The Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member for Pictou East has the floor.

Clarrie MacKinnon: Instead of taking the Harper Government to task for the cuts, he tried to transfer the blame to the provincial minister responsible for tourism and that is not fair. I used to think there were some Conservatives who were progressive. I don’t think there is anything such as a Progressive Conservative any more. (Interruptions)

The last Killer Bee prize of the session goes to MacKinnon for saying out loud what so many voters have begun to wonder.

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

Again and again, Conservative MLAs make themselves red-in-the-face with thoughts of labour voices finally getting a seat at the decision-making table. This week, Victoria-The-Lakes MLA Keith Bain, wins the Drone of the Week prize for criticizing labour advocates Linda Power and Ray Larkin. Governments have to work with all communities, including Labour, or have to work through some very tiring labour pains.

Honey Bee:

In a debate on Community Access Program (CAP) sites, Kings North MLA Jim Morton reminded Nova Scotians of the importance of the program the federal Conservatives have just cut, and winning the final Honey Bee prize of the legislative session.

Late in the evening of Thursday, April 5th, you will remember – as all my colleagues in this House will remember – that was the evening before a long weekend that began with Good Friday – The federal government sent a letter to CAP site officials across the country advising them that the program, which had been in place for more than 10 years, would be discontinued.

I think that decision tends to fail to recognize the value of those Community Access Program sites. These are valuable community resources. They contribute to economic development by giving everyone in the community access to information. They’re an important social resource, because they allow people to connect with family and friends, to make contact with the services they need throughout the community, and in fact, throughout the world.

In many cases what they’ve done is help introduce older Nova Scotians, in particular, to the world of computer technology and help them become more comfortable with a modern means of being in touch with each other. They’ve certainly created a means of access for economically disadvantaged or poor Nova Scotians, for those people who may be temporarily poor because they’re unemployed and don’t have the means to provide themselves with that kind of computer access. Those people who are receiving income assistance, or who maybe are living on minimum wage, have found a Community Access Centre as one of the important ways of staying in touch with the wider world.

There were 500,000 hours of CAP site Internet time logged in the fiscal year that just ended. The usage numbers over the years since 1995, when the program was implemented, have either remained stable or escalated. There has been no indication that the interest in this program has diminished.

The Bee’s Knees – Prizes for Week 7

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

Killer Bee:

When back-room boy turned Conservative leader called the capital budget an election “spending spree”, Darrell Dexter fired back, winning the last Killer Bee prize of 2011:

Premier Dexter: Unless the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is suggesting that we shouldn’t be replacing bridges, or that we shouldn’t be paving roads, or that we shouldn’t build infrastructure, it is necessary to have a capital plan each and every year. This is a good plan; it is set out for everyone to see, which I know is a novelty for the Progressive Conservatives.

Bumble Bee:

Liberal Zach Churchill’s new to the MLA position. He reminded people just how new last week, and won the Bumble Bee prize for the error prone:

Zach Churchill: Will the Premier tell members of this House when – or if – his government is going to call Bill No. 105 for second reading?

Premier Dexter: Mr. Speaker, my question would be, why didn’t they call it on Opposition Day?

Zach Churchill: This government knows that the agenda of this House is in their hands, Mr. Speaker, nobody else’s.

Premier Dexter: If there was ever a misrepresentation of the manner in which this House works, you just heard it. The member knows that they have control over Opposition Day. They can call any piece of legislation they want to and they chose not to call 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

Conservative MLA Chris D’Entremont doesn’t seem to have much affection for labour, and attacked Rick Clarke’s testimony before the Legislature’s Law Amendments Committee. Here’s his worst of several stabs at the Federation of Labour president:

Chris D’Entremont: My question to the Premier, when will the Premier fire Mr. Clarke and stop protecting this individual who has so clearly violated the trust of members of this the people’s House, and therefore Nova Scotians?

Lawyer Ray Larkin explains why this sort of attack by the Nova Scotia PC Party is bad for democracy:

The Law Amendments Committee of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly is a unique Canadian institution of which Nova Scotians can justifiably be proud. Every citizen who wants to be heard on a bill before the House of Assembly can appear and express their views…

Into this unique democratic institution now comes the threat of personal attack by MLAs and even censure by the Legislature for comments made to the committee. How better to chill freedom of expression…

The take no prisoners approach of legislatures which we see in the United States has created a politics of personal destruction that most Nova Scotians abhor. Now that politics has raised its head in the Nova Scotia legislature. What a shame.

For importing a piece of Tea Party politics, Chris D’Entremont wins the last Drone of the Week prize of 2011.

Honey Bee:

NDP Health Minister Maureen MacDonald has had a good two years. She has introduced good legislation, has decent relations with DHAs and health care unions, and her Better Care Sooner plan and Collaborative Emergency Centres are giving more communities the care they need. She did plenty of heavy lifting for the government in the Legislature’s last week.

When Liberal MLA Leo Glavine claimed a rehab pool was closed due to budget restraints, MacDonald was quick to correct him with information he could have easily researched himself – the pool was leaking and endangering equipment on the floor underneath:

Maureen MacDonald: I can’t understand what the honourable member is saying. Is he saying that the Capital District Health Authority should operate an unsafe facility; is he saying that it’s okay to have the problems that they’ve identified continue and flood out the therapeutic facilities beneath this pool – is that what the honourable member is saying?

Glavine tried again, on the topic of the Home Oxygen Program, suggesting that people are afraid to speak out “for fear that service will be discontinued. They are also fearful that once they do speak out, the limited choices available in each of the districts may become that much more limited.” MacDonald called Glavine again on his odd statement:

Maureen MacDonald: I still haven’t found a little dungeon over in the Department of Health and Wellness where we lock up people who express their dissatisfaction with the health care system. It doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for a lot of people, in terms of expressing their views…

And when Andrew Younger demanded to know the details of an announcement about the 5th Floor of the Dartmouth General before the announcement took place, MacDonald took him to task as well.

Maureen MacDonald: It is fairly obvious that the honourable member can’t handle good news and I hope to see him when we have a little more good news before the end of the month, to see how apoplectic he’ll be at that point.

Always sharp, Maureen MacDonald wins the last Honey Bee prize of 2011 for her good work on the health file.

The 7 Weeks of Bee’s Knees prizes:

Week One: Darrell Dexter (+1), Chuck Poster (-1), Michel Samson (+1), Keith Colwell (-1)
Week Two: Darrell Dexter (+1), Stephen McNeil (-1), Michel Samson (+1), Diana Whalen (-1)
Week Three: Frank Corbett (+1), Jamie Baillie (-1), Marilyn More (+1), Keith Bain (-1)
Week Four: Darrell Dexter (+1), Kelly Regan (-1), Gary Burrill (+1), Allan MacMaster (-1)
Week Five: Junior Theriault (+1), Keith Colwell (-1), Sid Prest (+1), Jamie Baillie (-1)
Week Six: Howard Epstein (+1), Manning MacDonald (-1), Vicki Conrad (+1), Jamie Baillie (-1)
Week Seven: Darrell Dexter (+1), Zach Churchill (-1), Maureen MacDonald (+1), Chris D’Entremont (-1)