NS Politics Potpourri

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NS Politics Potpourri

Several members of the Liberal riding association in Cape Breton North have resigned after Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil decided to hand-pick a candidate to run in the byelection next month.

The seat became vacant when Progressive Conservative MLA Cecil Clarke resigned in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Liberal MP Mark Eyking in last month's federal election.


David Young

I'm beginning to wonder if Stephen McNeil orchestrated this little stunt to try and help the Conservatives retain the seat, rather than the possibility of it going to the NDP, who finished just 164 votes behind Cecil Clarke in the 2009 provincial election.

PC - 3476, NDP - 3312, LIB. - 891, GR. - 100

With polling showing the Liberals still in third place in Atlantic Canada, McNeil probably is afraid that an NDP pick-up would slow any momentum they had gained when the Liberals took Yarmouth from the Tories in last year's by-election.

Stay tuned!



The Nova Scotia government says a confusing trail of tax and water bills in Bridgetown shows that a forensic audit is needed.

Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell ordered the audit on Friday, three days after the entire town council resigned over the town's ongoing money problems.

Department staff have spent the last few days reviewing the town's financial records.


David Young

Jack Layton is speaking today at the N.S. NDP's Annual General Meeting, at St. Mary's University.

The place will be packed, so I hope some YouTube videos will be forthcoming with highlights.



Check out the latest CRA poll for Nova Scotia. NDP support has surged by 8 points to 42% - back firmly in majority territory!



What is likely to happen in the Cape Breton North by-election set for tomorrow?

David Young

Most pundits say that it's a two-way race between Conservative Eddie Orrill and New Democrat Russell MacDonald.

The polls have shown the NDP to be continuing to lead the province, so there is no great voter backlash against the ruling party at the mid-way point of their mandate.

As was the case in the 2001 by-election here, when the riding chose a Conservative over the vacating Liberals, voters could be looking to elect a member on the government side.

Local issues will be the deciding factor when it comes to voter turnout (at least the weather doesn't appear to be a factor!)

Stay tuned!



In the end it wasn't even close.


Cape Breton North By-election - Election Night Preliminary Results

  • 3,975 (55%) - Eddie Orrell - PC
  • 2,265 (31%) - Russell MacDonald - NDP
  • 931 (13%) - Brian Joseph McGean - Lib
  • 72 (1%) - Jonathan Dean - Atl


geez, sure looks like few people voted in Northern Cape Breton. I don't understand why they would vote conservative considering that Cape Breton north would not be considered an area of people with money and in fact would be quite working class.


Essentially this was a hold. Not a giant surprise.

David Young

The results were bad news for the Liberals.

After taking the Yarmouth seat from the P.C.'s in a by-election last year, and poaching the former P.C. member for Colchester North, Karen Casey, failing to be a factor in this race shows that the Liberals aren't the only opposition to the governing New Democrats.

Now I've started hearing rumblings that long-time NDP M.L.A. Howard Epstein may be looking at running for Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality, since Peter Kelly has gotten into hot water over the money given to the promoters of those outdoor concerts that didn't draw the crowds they had thought they would.


David Young

Whoops!  Double post!



Nova Scotians on social assistance will no longer be able to get medical marijuana, gym memberships or hot tubs as a special need.

The Department of Community Services is tightening the rules for its special needs funding.

Until now, some people on income assistance were able to force the department to pay for pot or massage therapy, for example, because the rules were vague about what qualified as a special need.

Between 20 and 25 people who already receive support will continue to get it.



The NDP government announced reductions in funding across the provincial health districts today..in typical political fashion on a Friday afternoon, with up to 13-14 million dollars annually in one rural district alone. The unavoidable elimination of facilities, services and positions looms large, along with the accelerated privatization of long term care for the elderly.


Not only are the cutting the big health and education budgets. But it never even at least comes along with any long term stuff about spending what is left more judiciously, re-orientation- whatever. Just across the board cuts you could and would get from anyone.

I would bet they have a three year paln for the big cuts that everyone sees- the three year overall being the timeline before you start gearing for the next election.

Basic script and logic goes something like this:

**  You cant cut both education and health at once, the outcry would be too much.

**  While the health budget is very sensitive, education has more 'clientele in the pipeline'. Everybody cares about health and education- but by far those who care the most are those who have family members closely engaged. Simple math: there are a LOT more parents [and grandparents] of kids in school than there are patients and their family members. And the cuts to schools is going to be a long as well as bloody battle. So get that one going right away.

**  As the biggest dust begins to settle from the attacks on school funding, its time for health care. Former darling of the NSNDP left, Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, has sat on her duff for two years. Now its time to roll out the medicine brewed in the Premeir's Office and Finance. [Maureen essentially bought into all this long before they won government. But thats a tangent.]


What's with all these cuts to health and education? I thought Nova Scotians elected the NDP? Or in the case of Nova Scotia, does "NDP" stand for "No Difference Party?"


I smell trademark infringement.


Here is the steaming pile served up by the Minister for NDP supporters.


Dear New Democrats,

I recognize that health care continues to be an important issue for families in all regions of this province.

The NDP understands that people want, and need, access to better care in their communities.  That is why when our government came into office, it committed to provide better care for Nova Scotia families.

That is a commitment we take very seriously, and it is a commitment we are fulfilling through our Better Care Sooner plan.

But we cannot ignore the fact that health care costs in Nova Scotia have doubled in the past decade.  Health care now accounts for 40 per cent of the provincial budget and costs continue to rise.  Controlling the growth in health care spending is an important part of another government commitment - to get back to balance and protect the programs and services that Nova Scotians depend on.

On Friday, I told district health authorities across the province that they will need to reduce their budgets by three per cent in the coming fiscal year.  I also told them that they will need to do this without affecting patient care.

I recognize this is no easy task.  However, I am confident that our DHAs will continue to find strategic and innovative ways to cut their costs while delivering the level of care Nova Scotians need, and expect.

This is the earliest a Nova Scotia government has ever provided the districts with their budget targets.  I hope that the extra time will help the districts to come up with innovative ways to deliver better care, while addressing ballooning health care costs.

I want to assure you that despite these reductions, mental health and addictions programs across the province will be safe.  In fact, earlier this week I announced $370,000 in additional funding for a program that will help people in the Annapolis Valley area struggling with opiate addictions.

We also continuing with our plan to keep emergency rooms open and reduce wait times by announcing more collaborative emergency centres across the province.

Last week, I was in Tatamagouche to announce a new CEC at the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital, and yesterday, Premier Darrell Dexter and MLA Brian Skabar were at the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital to announce a CEC for Pugwash and the surrounding communities.

These collaborative emergency centres are an important part of Better Care Sooner.  They bring together emergency departments and local family practices to provide better care and increased access to emergency services.

Each model is different, depending on the unique needs of the community, but all the centres will offer same-day or next-day access to medical appointments and 24/7 access to emergency care.

I will be announcing site of the province's fourth collaborative emergency centre later this month, and we hope to announce another four CECs in communities across Nova Scotia in the following year.

I know that when it comes to health care, more than anything else Nova Scotians want stability.  I am proud to say that we are ensuring that peace of mind through our Better Care Sooner plan.

Maureen MacDonald


The announcement of the cuts of course went out on Friday afternoon. But we'll say something to the base right away.

The last coupld months we've been getting a steady diet of this stuff: every time there is something negative or outright retrograde- which is pretty frequent- the base gets a dose of special stroking.


Worth noting that the inner sanctum of the government has shown themselves more concerned with their standing among the base than they are with the general public.

The different communications for each around the latest bad news announcements are prepped at the same time. The public gets theirs on Friday afternoon. But there are no illusions the base wont be paying much attention- so its in the Inboxes of members and identified supporters for prime time Saturday.


Maureen has asked for cuts of 3% - 4%?


Officially it's 3% in reductions.  One has to bear in mind however that salary increases due to collective bargaining obligations, and year to year inflationary costs must be absorbed within the existing envelope.  The reality is 4 to 6%, with upwards of 3% of it being demanded through stealth.


If that soundssmall to you, I'll explain why not at all.

And it is not just the fact of cuts. Persoanlly, I accept that there would have to be cuts to the health budget.


There is a well founded case to be made for cuts to the health budget- captive of the ill health industry- and to re-orientation of spending emphasis.

And social democrats are the ones best positioned to launch this debate. Most of all an NDP government. It will not be easy. But we arent asking for silver bullets or even polished complete solutions- just a start. Simple things like engaging the public.

There was absolutely zero of that. In fact, we get what could not be better designed as the polar opposite:

If anyone is positioned to figure out how to make the cuts, it is the provincial government. But no, lets just fob it off on the health boards, to fumble around duplicating each other, and let them take the shit for making speaking cuts X and Y.

Chicken shit in the extreme.

Maureen MacDonald has been virtually absent for two years, which is just what the Premeir's office wanted. And she bought into this shit a good 2 years before they got elected.


Premier Dexter is not ruling out an election for next year. May will only be 3 years since the last election and now the possibility of a 2012 election. I don't quite understand why he would consider wasting money on an early election, seems opportunistic to me.


Premier won’t 'rule anything out' on possibility of election in 2012


If he calls an election in the Fall of 2012 it will be 3.5 years into his mandate - that is within the normal window of 3.5 to 4.5 years that is a typical term. If he thinks he can win one year from now - why not?


You dont need to wonder why.

They perceive they can get away with it. Like Chretien when facing fragmented opposition- hey its good now, who knows about next year... let's do it.

That said, my read is that Dexter is not even floating this as a trial balloon. He was asked. And while not ambushed, he had only two choices

1.] to say something like "I really cannot see doing that"


2.] what he said: I wouldnt want to rule that out.

The decision to do that or not would be 9 months from now.... even if he isnt looking at the escape hatch now, who knows about then.


NDP support surges in Nova Scotia! They are now at 45% compared to the PCs at 29% and the Liberals sinking like a stone to 22% (familiar pattern!). Gov't satisfaction up to 55%!



Stockholm wrote:

If he calls an election in the Fall of 2012 it will be 3.5 years into his mandate - that is within the normal window of 3.5 to 4.5 years that is a typical term. If he thinks he can win one year from now - why not?

I just feel it's a waste of money to have more elections then are needed, I don't understand why there are not fixed date election there. I feel not having fixed date elections, or not signaling well in advance when you'll have an election, is just simply taking advantage of your position as the government and undermining the opposition parties. Did you agree when Harper called an election in 2008?


No. But I didnt think there was any point rounding about it- even with such a generally democratically challenged crowd,

The opposition parties and personnel here are both underwhelming to say the least. Its also several months since the last really deep cuts, and several more before the next round are revealed.

If they continue relatively unscathed, they may well go for it.

David Young

From my perspective here in Lunenburg, N.S., I can't see Premier Dexter calling an election before 2013, to be sure that the jobs which are coming from the shipbuilding contract have started up.  Happy voters with jobs aren't likely to vote out the incumbent government.

Plus, there will be legislation to redistibute the provincial riding boundaries next year, which I believe won't be coming until the fall sitting of the Legislature.  There has to be time for new Chief Electoral Officers to be hired (and getting rid of some of the old Tory cronies that have been in those positions!) amongst other ground-work before the next election takes place.

Right now, I'd say it's 75-25 the odds against an election next year.



Minority Ridings Lose Special Protection

The NDP government has eliminated special protection for four seats in the legislature - three in Acadian areas and one in an African-Nova Scotian district - in the next setting of electoral boundaries

David Young

I was speaking with Darrell Dexter at Tom Mulcair's post-debate get-together at the Victory Arms pub, and one topic of conversation that came up was about people announcing that they were seeking the Tory nomination in some ridings already.

Darrell said that with the boundary re-alignment commission's report not due until the fall sitting of the legislature, it didn't make much sense for anyone to announce they were putting their names forth for the next election untill after the boundaries have been redrawn.

So much for all the wasted speculation about a sudden trip to the polls this summer in Nova Scotia.




N.S. university students protest funding cuts 

As part of a government-wide effort to eliminate the provincial deficit, Nova Scotia's New Democratic government is cutting base funding to post-secondary institutions for the second year in a row.

Universities are expected to respond with another tuition hike, leading to complaints that students will end up racking up even higher debt.

"Do you think Darrell Dexter graduated with $30,000 of debt?" said Chris Ferns, president of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers.

"All we have is a government whose policies on post-secondary education are the worst we've seen in nearly 20 years."


Halifax regional council is holding an emergency session to discuss the day-old transit strike that has left tens of thousands of people without bus or ferry service.

The city's politicians were set to meet privately at noon Thursday, less than 12 hours after Metro Transit workers walked off the job to back their contract demands.

Metro Transit says 50,000 to 55,000 people rely on the region's transit service every day.



School Boards Get Funding Cut

Neoliberalism's button people have gone once again to their mattresses.

The $13.4 million cut follows a $17.6 million funding reduction last year and officials with the Education Department said the latest decrease could result in larger class sizes and will mean fewer teaching positions.

Jack Beaton, the superintendent of the Strait Regional School Board, said last year, savings were found in administration, professional development and infrastructure. "The difficulty this time around is that those opportunities were used up in last year's efforts for the most part," he said. "This year it's going to be likely that it's going to have more impact on the classroom."

John McCracken of the Canadian Union of Public Employees said last year's funding cut resulted in the loss of 45 positions at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the bulk of which were special education assistants.


 From the Department of Irrelevant Trivia:


"Do you think Darrell Dexter graduated with $30,000 of debt?" said Chris Ferns, president of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers.

Actually, I believe Darrell did finish his education with a debt in that vicinty- considering it was over 20 years ago, it would be at least that much in current dollars.



NSNDP Military-Industrial Megabucks Lotto

Schools and Hospitals cut, but on the flip side, the Irving empire is $260 million dollars richer with this latest windfall, courtesy of the Nova Scotia NDP Government. 

Irving Shipbuilding Inc. is getting $304 million from the Nova Scotia government to help prepare for the construction of the Royal Canadian Navy's next fleet of vessels.

The government's assistance package, announced Friday, includes a forgivable loan worth up to $260 million and a repayable loan of $44 million for human resources, technological and industrial development.


Strange how those billionaire families can con government into believing that they needed help in competing for the contract, and that if they did not get it, they knew where the blame would fall. Hard for the rustic soul to understand the complexities of the modern political world, but there you go.


That's it is it?  Rustic souls?  Hillbilly logic too dense to comprehend?  Increasingly it seems they know exactly what to do, no organiztion required.


Interesting how everyone says how BC didnt offer as much government money into the pot, and look who got ther big contract?

But wait a minute, It was Irving bidding againat the company in BC. And the goal is the lowest bid price. So there are two ways to lower the bid price: Irving expects less profit, or the NS government throws in more subsidy money.


There is a lot of deatil and discussion about the governments slashing of education budgets in this thread of cautionary tale [for Canada's NDP] of the NS NDP

Wilf Day

KenS wrote:

And yes, I am bitter.

I was merely bitter about this Nova Scotia government I invested so much in to get here, before drastic cuts to education first reared their head last year.

Now that they are personally responsible for my wife losing her job because they are wedded to the religion of winning through tax cuts- not just eliminating the deficit- I'm stark raving fucking angry.

NorthReport wrote:

Maybe some of us are being too harsh on Dexter as sometimes you just gotta move to where the jobs are.


Declining enrolment is the result of young parents having to move away to find good jobs. Also, young parents who have already moved away, but now have kids about to start school and would dearly love to move home so their kids could grow up in a good and familiar community, but can't find work back home.

Ken, I'd be interested in your take on what Dexter should have done to get those parents home or keep them home. Keeping half-empty schools open is not a plausible option in any province under any ideology, is it?


Declining enrolment in the public school sector is due to many factors, not the least of which are the tax deductions for the religious and / or private school sector. 


The schools are not "half empty".

This is a smoke screen for the depth of the cuts. Modest cuts would have taken care of the declining enrollments.

But only one-third of the position cuts this year are chalked up to declining enrollments. Two-thirds of them are a consequence entirely of the depth of cuts.

'How to avoid' is the wrong question. Why are they so wedded to the religion of winning votes by tax cuts that they would go this far? If ending the deficit was the sole goal, cuts this deep were not necessary. But if you want to do tax cuts next year that requires some tougher building inn of new fiscal room.


And the reason that the school boards would take such a drastic measure as cutting ALL library staff and giving up on the libraries is that the cuts don't stop with last year and this year. The government has made it clear to the Boards to expect more next year. The provincial deficit will be gone, but need room for those tax cuts.

With unrelenting cuts the Boards dont even have the option of doing some kind of holding pattern with the libraries.


With these announcements of axing all the libraries, it will be interesting if we see the Education Minister trotting out to say that wasnt necessary.

[Like we gave you plenty of money, why did you go and do that?]

She will or she wont? Not sure which I would bet on. But it has happened before after the school boards make their announcements.


KenS wrote:

With these announcements of axing all the libraries, it will be interesting if we see the Education Minister trotting out to say that wasnt necessary.

[Like we gave you plenty of money, why did you go and do that?]

She will or she wont? Not sure which I would bet on. But it has happened before after the school boards make their announcements.

I'm reading what you are saying about the NS NDP's tax-cuts driven austerity.  I hope these school-librarian cuts blow up on the NDP, there is no question Dexter et al should wear it.  Although this local school board made the decision to cut libraries, others are closing schools, neither will go over well in communities.  Cutting librarians should set off the alarm that this is a service cut, students lost their libraries, people lost jobs, we're into the meat of services now, well beyond cuts by hiring freeze or attrition.

Earlier you made the point that the NDP had largely overcome the "high tax party" appellation of having raised the HST despite campaigning on "no new taxes".  I think Dexter and Steele still feel vulnerable to the "high tax party" attack and so are advancing HST tax-cutting as their central plank of a second term, thereby claiming a likely Libs/PCs campaign angle as their own.  Sad really, but also a betrayal.

The NS NDP agenda is no longer about getting to balance in a recovering economy, it is now clearly about cutting taxes and cutting services.  It's time for a fightback to break out now to stop the NDP cuts and ensure adequate revenue is maintained to preserve services.


I think its charitable to say Dexter and Steele feel vulnerable.

It doesnt really matter, because its no excuse for adopting the tax cut religion wholesale.

But for what its worth, I know them both pretty well. I even like them as people. But I think they have both LONG shown they are prime candidates- vulnerable social democrats if you like- to actually getting off on this role of cowboys doing what has to be done. And I know for a fact that as far back as at least 7 years ago, Darrel was not dettered in the slightest by hearing 'this is the sort of thing you expect from the Liberals and the Tories'.


Again with ominous news out of Nova Scotia: 

HMCS Windsor, one of Canada's trouble-plagued submarines, will go into the water this week.


Darrel Dexter has been saying that the local school board is just playing games, and pretty much saying they will not let them cut library services.

So my wife's job may yet be spared. This has the opposite reaction you might expect with her, myself, and another of the librariarns who is also long active in the NDP: happy for keeping the job [maybe], but bullshitter Dexter just makes us want to wretch.