Nova Scotia

N.S. legislature to open early to tackle education reform and pot laws

A jam-packed agenda and looming deadlines have pushed the province’s governing Liberals to open the provincial legislature on Feb. 27 — the earliest spring sitting since 1995.

'There’s no value in delaying so let’s get into the legislature and let’s get to work,' says House leader

MLAs will be returning to Province House early this year. (Robert Short/CBC)

A jam-packed agenda and looming deadlines have pushed the province's governing Liberals to open the provincial legislature on Feb. 27 — the earliest spring sitting since 1995.

"This became about how heavy a legislative agenda we have before us and what kind of time we would need to get it done," said Liberal House Leader Geoff MacLellan. "There's no value in delaying, so let's get into the legislature and let's get to work."

There's no shortage of work ahead of provincial legislators; they need to hammer out laws for recreational marijuana before July 1, work on redefining electoral boundaries, pass a budget, and write legislation to dissolve the province's elected school boards.

Geoff MacLellan is the Liberal Party's House leader. (CBC)

All of these pieces of proposed legislation have the potential to become very contentious very fast. 

"There's strong views on many of these issues, which is going to take the full sum of time to do it," said Chris d'Entremont, the Progressive Conservative House leader. 

He said his party isn't happy with the Liberals' plan to sell marijuana through NSLC outlets and they want to know exactly what will be done to help police catch people driving while high.

"Those are going to be challenges that we're going to have to voice when we get there. If we're feeling that way, if we're hearing those kinds of things, I'm going to bet we're going to have long days at law amendments when these things come forward," said d'Entremont.     

Chris d'Entremont is the PC Party's House leader. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The government's plan to do away with the seven elected English-speaking school boards and move vice-principals and principals out of the teachers union could also cause a ruckus inside and outside the legislature, said NDP House Leader Dave Wilson. 

He said in the past when the government has made sweeping changes like combining its health authorities into one, people protested.

Dave Wilson is the NDP's House leader. (CBC)

"There were a lot of people who were affected by that and of course we've seen in the past hundreds if not thousands of them come down to the legislature and voice their opinion about what legislation is on the books or on the floor of the legislature. I would predict that we might see that happen in this upcoming session," said Wilson.

Even as all that's going on, a budget will still need to be passed and the regular business of the legislature has to go ahead. 

MacLellan said all of these issues are time-sensitive and have to be dealt with in the spring sitting. As for how long the legislature will stay open and if it will have to continue later than usual, MacLellan wouldn't hazard a guess.