Throne speech promises to replace Motor Vehicle Act, cut red tape
Opposition calls the speech an 'empty piece of nothingness' and 'an orgy of zeros'
The throne speech from Premier Stephen McNeil's government on Thursday promised an overhaul of the Motor Vehicle Act and efforts to reduce red tape, but largely focused on accomplishments to date, prompting one opposition MLA to call it "an orgy of zeros."
The Liberal government will introduce the Traffic Safety Act to replace the Motor Vehicle Act — which it described as outdated — during the fall session, according to the speech read by Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc at Province House.
"The new act will make our roads safer for all users — drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians."
The speech also promised legislation to support business growth and reduce red tape, and a plan this fall to make Nova Scotia "an accessible province by 2030."
But the majority of the 12-page speech focused on what the Liberals see as their accomplishments to date — increased exports and tourism, better access to training and entrepreneurship for young people and an all-time population high, along with continued efforts to improve health care and education.
Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters that doesn't mean there aren't other legislative plans to come, but he wanted the speech to recognize the work so far and the people who helped along the way. He said his government would speak about legislative plans as they're ready, and the government would continue to live within its means.
And while the speech touched on the need for better access to primary health-care services, opposition members said it fell well short of providing any kind of insight into how the government plans to address shortcomings in the system.
Tory health critic Eddie Orrell called the speech "disappointing," and said people in under-served communities, such as Cape Breton, deserve more information.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill called the speech an "empty piece of nothingness" that gives no details about how the government will deal with pressing health-care and societal issues.
"At its core all it says is the government is wonderful and everything is in a state of wonderful wonderfulness," he said. "It's a self-congratulatory orgy of zeros."
The speech touched on steps so far to encourage doctors to take more patients and new medical school graduates to stick around. It also mentioned the redevelopment plans for hospitals in Cape Breton and Halifax, noting they will see "significant investment to modernize services and structures."
The Liberals say those changes should improve services, access to care, technology, and recruiting and retention efforts.
McNeil told reporters health care remains a key focus for his government and efforts to open more collaborative clinics would continue. But he said the government has faced the double challenge of addressing aging and failing infrastructure as well as confronting staffing shortages, a problem almost the entire country is facing.
Part of the government's plan will include creating more room for local voices in decisions and planning by the province health authority, he said.
"We will continue to make that transition, though, into our reality that is our health-care facilities are changing. That doesn't mean they're closing, it just means the services they're providing in those need to reflect our communities."
Along with outlining some plans for the future and work underway, as is customary, the speech also mentioned notable Nova Scotians who died in the last year, including Ben Sylliboy, Freeman Douglas Knockwood, Philip Riteman and Dr. Robert Burden.