Nova Scotia’s beaming premier-designate addressed a packed hall of cheering fans Tuesday night after winning a Liberal majority.
As soon as he took the stage, Stephen McNeil vowed to stay on track with the promises he made through the campaign.
“It is with a deep sense of responsibility and purpose that I will make certain that our plan is delivered and our commitments are kept,” McNeil told his supporters, repeating the Liberal theme of Nova Scotia First.
“You have entrusted our team, with the great task of making this vision a reality. My commitment to you is that we will work tirelessly, to ensure that we give you honest, hardworking government that you deserve.”
McNeil’s goal is to turn Nova Scotia into a prosperous province that focuses on families and communities. How does he plan to do it? Here are four key changes he says are on the way:
1. Slice health authorities
A key part of McNeil’s campaign is to merge health boards, axing the number of regional authorities in the province from 10 to 2. The Liberals said their plan to streamline will save $13 million annually, and they’re pledging to put that money back into frontline care.
“The needs of the patient must always come first,” McNeil said in his acceptance speech.
2. End the monopoly on electricity rates
McNeil said his election will mean the end of Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly on consumers in the province. His plan is to open the market, and allow private power producers to sell directly to customers.
The premier-designate believes competition will help stabilize the market.
The Liberals admit competition won’t appear overnight, but they now have the mandate to start making changes.
3. Freeze taxes
McNeil said he would be prudent when it comes to tax changes, and promised only to cut the harmonized sales tax if the province reaches surpluses that would make up for the lost revenue.
The NDP passed a law that is set to cut the HST in 2014 and 2015, but McNeil said he may have to amend that depending on the health of the province’s pocketbook.
4. Invest in education
The Liberals ran on a promise to restore recent cuts to the education department to the tune of $65 million. The party is also promising to spend $3.7 million for graduate research scholarships.
Students could see a change in the number of their classmates, with McNeil vowing to cap class sizes to 20 students in Primary to Grade 2 and 25 students for Grades 3 to 6.
“Education is the greatest gift we can give to one another,” McNeil said. “It is the great equalizer in this country.”