Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to rescind legislation that prompted Crown attorney strike

The Nova Scotia government will repeal a controversial piece of legislation that led to a strike by Crown attorneys last fall. The president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association says both sides have moved on and their relationship is as good as ever.

Justice minister says the move is part of new contract reached with prosecutors

Nova Scotia Crown attorneys went on strike for several days last October to protest legislation that would have removed their contractual right to arbitration. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government will repeal a controversial piece of legislation that led to a strike by Crown attorneys last fall.

The Liberal government introduced Bill 203 last October as contract talks with the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association seemed to break down. The bill, which forced the Crowns back to work, would have stripped the prosecutors of the contractual right to arbitration.

But after the government passed the bill, Justice Minister Mark Furey announced it would not be proclaimed and the two sides would return to contract talks, a move that eventually resulted in a new four-year deal. The contract is retroactive to April 1, 2019, and includes a seven per cent pay increase over the life of the agreement.

On Tuesday at Province House, Furey confirmed that his government would rescind Bill 203 during the legislature's current session.

"It's a commitment we made to Crown attorneys in the negotiations and discussions and, as we speak, we don't see a need to keep it where it is," he said.

A 'good faith' move

Perry Borden, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association, said they were prepared to fight the bill, which they deemed unconstitutional, in court.

Borden welcomed the "good faith" move by the government, which his association has known for several months would be coming and was part of reaching a final agreement.

"I think it's truly a win-win for everybody," he said in a telephone interview.

At the time of the dispute, Borden and others expressed concern about what Bill 203 would do to recruitment and retention of Crown attorneys in the province. On Tuesday, he said morale among prosecutors has been great since the impasse was resolved.

The protest solidified for Crowns just how united they are as a group and Borden said his association's relationship with the government is "as good, if not better" than before Bill 203 was introduced.

'We have thick skin'

Although things got heated at times last October, culminating with Furey blaming the job action for cases being thrown out, Borden said the minister apologized and no one is holding any grudges.

"We have thick skin. We're able to move beyond this and I think the relationship has fostered to a point where we're able to exist as we existed prior to Bill 203."

Furey said Bill 203 was a good piece of legislation "given the circumstances at the time," but noted talks with representatives for the Crown attorneys were very productive and removed the need to keep the bill on the books.

"We feel the appropriate steps have been taken and Crown attorneys continue to provide exemplary service to the public," he said.

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