Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teachers 'worried about the next 4 years' under Liberals, says union

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union says its members were "very engaged" in the provincial election and will continue to watch how the Liberals move forward with promised education reforms.

Teachers union is discouraged but willing to work with the government, says president Liette Doucet

Students and parents protest outside the legislature in Halifax on Dec. 5. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A second majority win by Stephen McNeil's Liberals is cause for concern among teachers still stinging from a bitter contract dispute that unfolded just months before the election was called, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union said Wednesday.

Liette Doucet said she was willing to give McNeil the benefit of the doubt as he embarked on his second mandate, but remained skeptical of a government that ultimately imposed a contract on the union's roughly 9,000 members. 

"I wasn't happy that the McNeil government managed to squeak out a majority," Doucet said in a phone interview from Vancouver, hours after the Liberals secured 27 seats in Nova Scotia's 51-seat legislature.

Tuesday's vote also saw the Tories take 17 seats, becoming the Official Opposition, and the NDP finish with seven.

Doucet said she was prepared to work with the government.

"It didn't matter which government came in; I am willing to work with government — always," she said. "The question is: will the government be prepared to work with us?"

4 years of worry

Teachers have an acrimonious relationship with the premier and his government, stemming from a drawn-out contract dispute that saw work-to-rule action, a one-day strike and eventually, an imposed contract.

Doucet described teachers as being "very engaged" in Tuesday's provincial election, adding they were undoubtedly disheartened by the outcome.

"[Teachers] haven't been treated fairly by this government," she said. "They're worried about the next four years."

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet said Wednesday she is disappointed that Stephen McNeil's Liberals have won a second majority government. (CBC)

Still, she said, the union has to look to the future.

Union will be watching closely

The loss of six Liberal seats, including those belonging to two cabinet ministers, sends a message to the party, Doucet added. 

The government will need to follow through on its promises of education reform and show a willingness to treat teachers fairly, she said. The union, meantime, will keep a close eye on how the Liberal budget unfolds.

The fiscal blueprint introduced in April included money for new school psychologists and speech-language pathologists, 30 new early learning centres, more apprenticeship programs and mental health support, further expansion of reading recovery programs and a provincewide breakfast program.

"We'll have to see if McNeil keeps his promises," said Doucet. 

"We're hoping there is more money for education. We're hoping our students receive the support that they need, especially by way of more teachers and more specialists.

"We're hoping there is money there and that it comes through for us."

'It's another day' for NSGEU

Nova Scotia General Employees Union president Jason MacLean said while he would have preferred to a see a minority government, "a majority is fine." He said the union will continue to work with the province to "make Nova Scotia a better place."

"A lot of people are happy today and a lot of people are upset. I'm just saying it's another day and we need to move on." 

The NSGEU, which represents 7,300 civil servants, announced earlier in May it planned to seek arbitration with the province over a new contract.

NSGEU president Jason MacLean expects dealings with the province moving forward will be 'business as usual.' (CBC)

MacLean said McNeil's smaller majority should be a wake up call.

"What he should be doing is just taking a look at what missteps may have been made over the last three and a half years and really change his way," MacLean said.

MacLean expects dealings with the province moving forward will be "business as usual."

"I have a rapport with the premier and we will talk out some issues and if we have to disagree and butt heads on something, I'm sure we'll do that but we've kept it professional," he said.

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