Nova Scotia

Premier Stephen McNeil knows what he wants in a prime minister

When the dust settles after the federal election this October, Premier Stephen McNeil knows what kind of prime minister he wants to see elected.

'I would like to see us have a national vision,' said Stephen McNeil

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says a prime minister should be able to bring provinces together to work on national strategies for energy, healthcare and immigration. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

When the dust settles after the federal election this October, Premier Stephen McNeil knows what kind of prime minister he wants to see elected. 

McNeil said he wants someone who will meet with the premiers on a regular basis and provide leadership on some key issues facing Nova Scotia.

'A national vision' needed

"I would like to see us have a national vision," said McNeil. "This is no slight at any one party, it may seem like it but it isn't."

McNeil, a Liberal, is actively knocking on doors to help federal liberal candidates running in Nova Scotia. 

He's also well aware that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has sat down only once in nine years with the premiers as a group. What McNeil sees as potential nation-building projects continue to divide regions of the country.

"When was the last project that connected us?" McNeil asked. 

Energy to connect country

"I think energy would be a great opportunity. I've been very supportive of the [Energy East] pipeline coming from western Canada to eastern Canada, it makes absolute sense to me."

McNeil also supports moving hydroelectricity from Newfoundland and Labrador to the west, a project that can't get off the drawing board without federal leadership and interprovincial co-operation.

Health-care co-ordination

Healthcare is another issue that the Nova Scotia premier contends requires more leadership from Ottawa. 

Reducing prescription drug costs through a national pharmacare program is something that could benefit all provincial governments by reducing costs, but that too won't happen without participation from Ottawa.

"We need a national strategy on mental health and we need the federal government to be part of that," said McNeil.

"We very much opposed the way the federal government was distributing health funding based on population. We believe you need to be taking into account the aging population and the formula needs to reflect that — so that's the reason we think the federal government needs to be at the table."

A report written by economist David Chaundy for the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council estimates changes to health transfer payments beginning in 2017 will cost the province hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  

They were made by the federal government with no consultation with the premiers.  

McNeil worries paying for healthcare will be tougher in the very near future unless the province can attract more people to live here.

Immigration needs federal leadership

"Immigration is a huge issue," said McNeil.  

"I would dare say without solving that problem, all of the other ones are just going to compound. We need help from the national government, whoever is in power, to help us with those numbers."

McNeil says his government will push all the federal leaders to commit to raising the cap on the number of immigrants the province can bring in through its own provincial nominee program.

That stands at 700 — a portion of the 2,600 newcomers who arrived here last year. 

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