Legislative Spring Session Wraps Up Oped

first_imgIt was springtime last year when government started the process of providing genuine leadership and a better deal for today’s families. Since then, the government has inherited great challenges. Nova Scotia has among the worst debts of any jurisdiction in the country. The province was on a rapid path to a $1.4-billion deficit. There are long waits and high administration costs in health. We had the worst economic performance in the last 20 years. And we have an aging workforce and are on the brink of population decline. Now, a year later, government is wrapping up its first spring session in the House of Assembly, and I’m happy to report that it was a productive sitting focused on many of the difficult challenges facing the province. In just under seven weeks, government passed 29 bills that make life better for families. We also passed a budget that begins the hard work of getting the province back to balance — a budget that will also ensure better health care for Nova Scotians and create good jobs and grow the economy. To help get back to balance, government increased revenues and introduced measures to make life more affordable for many Nova Scotians. We worked to make life more affordable for seniors by eliminating provincial income tax for 18,000 seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Beginning July 1, Nova Scotia households with low and modest incomes will receive a refundable tax credit payment every quarter. The Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit will offset the restoration of the HST and provide additional net income for these households. The annual amount of the credit will be $240 per household, plus $57 for each child younger than 19. We are making life more affordable for those who are most vulnerable through the Poverty Reduction Credit, which will provide tax-free payments to help about 15,000 low-income Nova Scotians, many of whom have a disability. And for the first time in 10 years, we are increasing funding for transition houses. These are the right decisions for Nova Scotia families. In response to the auditor general’s report, government introduced new regulations for MLA expenses. These clear guidelines create an open and accountable system that will help restore Nova Scotians’ faith in their elected representatives. Last month, the province announced its new Renewable Electricity Plan that creates jobs, stabilizes energy costs and makes Nova Scotia one of the most progressive energy jurisdictions in the world. As part of that plan, the province has set a new goal of 40 per cent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. That is nearly four times higher than 2009 levels. The government is banning the use of cosmetic pesticides starting in 2011, has raised the insurance cap to ensure fair compensation for victims of car accidents, and has proposed better training in the security industry. This government knows that to create good jobs and grow the economy, you need to invest. Over the last few months, the province made strategic investments to support local industries, including shipbuilding, aviation, and high-tech electronics. In addition, the budget will create 7,000 person-years of employment by maximizing federal infrastructure money. We have partnered with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea to develop the former TrentonWorks site into the company’s North American base for producing wind turbine parts. This joint venture creates hundreds of jobs and takes advantage of the burgeoning green economy. We also invested $12 million to help the Nova Scotia Community College system expand its programs and build new facilities, and provided millions more to projects and grants targeting seniors and children that will make like better in every region. Finally, government is making health care better by hiring an emergency room advisor and implementing a plan to cover travel and accommodation costs for those who must leave the province for health care, just like we said we would. In addition, the province has also invested $50 million to programs such as the Capital Health Community Living Initiative, the development of Cancer Research Centres in Halifax and Sydney, and the construction of the Colchester Regional Hospital. These are the right decisions for Nova Scotia families. But of all the achievements and announcements, one of the most important was the government’s recent free pardon and apology to Viola Desmond. Mrs. Desmond, of Halifax, was an African Canadian wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for sitting in the white peoples’ section of a New Glasgow movie theatre. It was a historic day for the province as it was a chance to finally right the wrong done to Mrs. Desmond and her family, and it was an opportunity for us to acknowledge the incredibly brave actions of a woman who took a stand against racism and segregation. It is moments like these, moments when we are changing the landscape of Nova Scotia and making life better for families in every region, that I am truly proud to be the premier of this great province. -30-last_img read more