Nova Scotia

MLAs don't expect to settle in long as spring sitting begins

Nova Scotia MLAs return to Province House Tuesday for the start of the spring sitting, but with an anticipated election, most don't expect to be in their seats next week to debate and scrutinize the budget, which will be introduced Thursday.

House Leader Michel Samson won't commit to keeping legislature sitting through to budget vote

The Nova Scotia legislative chamber. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia MLAs return to Province House Tuesday for the start of the spring sitting, but with an anticipated election, most don't expect to be in their seats next week to debate and scrutinize the budget, which will be introduced Thursday.

The premier has promised a budget will be tabled, but neither he, nor his House leader, Michel Samson, will pledge to keep the legislature sitting long enough for the government's fiscal plan to come to a vote. 

"Our intention is to bring in the budget and to have the process be started, for debate to take place on that budget and we'll see where we go from there," Samson told CBC News when pressed about whether the government would commit to keeping the House sitting for the roughly two weeks it usually takes to pass a budget.

Budget needs close look: Baillie

The leader of the Official Opposition, Jamie Baillie, said he would like to see the budget undergo the usual line-by-line examination, in part because of the governing Liberals's recent spending spree.

"All of a sudden McNeil has changed his tune from there's no money for anything, to there's money for everything," he said.

"That to me is a big reason why we need to take a close look at the budget and I believe that every member should be allowed to vote yes or no to the McNeil record before there's an election."

'There's a process'

The Nova Scotia Legislature. (Robert Short/CBC)

There are currently 78 bills before the House but only one is proposed government legislation, the Accessibility Act.

The Liberals would like to see it passed before the House is dissolved but neither opposition party is in a hurry to fast track this bill or any other.

"There's a process of bringing it before the House for committee of the whole, so that we can discuss it again as those who are elected to try to make improvements if we need to and then, of course third reading," said NDP House Leader Dave Wilson.

"So unless they're planning on continuing next week I don't see in the process how that would pass before they pull the plug."

What needs to happen

If McNeil wants to set an election date he must seek the permission of the lieutenant-governor, who must first dissolve the current House, then order the writ be issued.

J.J. Grant will be at Province House on Friday for a celebration to mark the end of his five-year term as lieutenant-governor.

The Trudeau government has yet to name a successor so he will remain on the job until that happens.

It's unlikely McNeil would overshadow that event by calling an election Friday, but a visit to Government House on a Saturday would not be without precedent.

Premier Rodney MacDonald paid a visit to Lt.-Gov. Myra Freeman on Saturday, May 13, 2006, to call an election after a spring sitting that was just seven days old.

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.