Spring session of N.S. legislature will start with many empty seats
Premier says he wants 'collaborative' sitting
When Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc reads the speech from the throne today, he'll deliver it to a mostly empty legislative chamber.
Just 12 of 51 MLAs will be allowed to sit at Province House this spring to respect COVID-19 protocols.
Premier Iain Rankin says it will be "interesting" to have most provincial representatives logging in rather than filing onto the floor of the legislature.
"Ideally there will be more co-operation and less spirited heckling," Rankin said of the hybrid model. "The tone of our government will be a collaborative one, working with other parties if they choose to join us on that journey."
PC Leader Tim Houston, leader of the province's Official Opposition, isn't worried about MLAs logging on to take part in the proceedings.
"Should work smoothly, I mean everyone else has figured out how to use technology, Zoom meetings and all that stuff," said Houston.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill welcomed the call for a more co-operative approach from the governing Liberals.
"The new premier has clearly indicated that a collegial approach is the one that is to be preferred by him," said Burrill. "It's obviously the one that's to be preferred by us.
"And I think that one of the things that will make the session singular is that we will see the extent to which that's true."
Houston said he too is ready to embrace less division in the House.
"We'll work with anyone that wants to help Nova Scotians," he said. "That's exactly the reason why we're here."
Rankin confirmed his government would be reintroducing the Biodiversity Act. It died on the order paper when former premier Stephen McNeil prorogued the legislature last November.
Rankin also said the governing party planned to amend the Crowns Land Act, as well as bring in legislation related to last spring's mass shooting that began in Portapique and left 22 people dead.
Houston said his party would focus on health care.
According to Burrill, the NDP plans to focus on a host of issues, including affordable and accessible child care, paid sick days for all Nova Scotians, permanent rent control, changes to the long-term care system and more action on climate change.
The Rankin Liberals will also bring in a budget this spring. Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis has said he will table it later this month.
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