Nova Scotia legislature fall sitting could be quick and quiet
Government House leader says Liberals will 'ensure that public services are maintained'
Having just started the fourth and probably final year of its mandate, the McNeil government is likely hoping for a quick, quiet fall sitting as MLAs return today to the House of Assembly.
And Wednesday evening it acted to try to guarantee that.
A strike vote by teachers later this month could have disrupted the fall sitting but at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday the McNeil government issued a news release stating it was asking for a conciliator to file a report. That essentially pushes off any job action, including a strike, for at least 45 days.
Under the law, a 14-day cooling off period starts when the conciliator files their report. After that there's a 30-day window for the parties to try any last-ditch negotiations.
Premier rules out neutral third party
Premier Stephen McNeil has already ruled out using a neutral third party, such as a mediator, so that means unless there's a change of position on either side, a labour disruption, if there is one, will almost certainly happen after the house completes its work this fall.
Government House Leader Michel Samson won't say how the Liberals will respond if teachers do vote to strike, but promised the government would "ensure that public services are maintained regardless of any type of labour disruption."
"I think we've shown that in the past and we'll continue to be responsible to the people of this province," he said.
Teachers, who have twice rejected tentatives agreements, will vote on whether to strike Oct. 25.
Another contract vote
The province's largest union, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, plans to finally vote next month on a tentative agreement reached with the province almost a year ago.
Samson acknowledged the labour situation had shifted significantly since the public sector and teacher deals were struck.
"It's been a bit of a strange process where we have union executives that recommended offers to their memberships and in one case, the teachers, it was rejected twice," he said.
"With the public sector union, the NSGEU, no vote has been held yet, so it has been a bit of a strange process but I think Nova Scotians are sending a clear message to our government that we're on the right track."
Not surprisingly, opposition leaders offer a different assessment. Both PC Leader Jamie Baillie and NDP Leader Gary Burrill said they plan to hold the government to account this fall.
For Baillie, the issue is a lack of action.
"To me, when the government has such a weak record, when people cannot actually point to an accomplishment after three years, that's a problem for them," he said.
For the NDP, poverty is the issue.
"The government has a great deal to account for," said Burrill. "I think it's a striking thing that in these three years since we passed them the keys to the office of the provincial government, there are 7,500 more people being served from food banks; 2,500 of them are kids."
Samson said the government plans to introduce legislation this fall to help disabled Nova Scotians and to provide improved services to seniors and those who receive child support.
The lieutenant governor is scheduled to read the government's speech from the throne today starting at 2 p.m.