From a strictly ‘let’s get at it’ point of view, the spring sitting of the Nova Scotia legislature was productive. That’s often the case, however, with a government enjoying a comfortable majority.
Despite it being a relatively short session, Stephen McNeil’s Liberals managed to get 27 bills through. Naturally, among the many bread-and-butter issues, it’s the more contentious ones that stand out and continue to attract comment.
Probably the biggest was the essential services legislation adopted as nurses in Halifax briefly walked off the job, with the union demanding a set nurse-to-patient ratio. Critics go as far as calling it draconian – and that’s pretty much the tone we can expect when sides get heated up on a labour issue.
Key factors to remember in such a case include: the duration this claimed nurse shortage has been shaping up; improving such shortages if at all possible is a long-term job, not a quick response to an employee walkout; and what can the province’s taxpayers afford?
Looked at in that light the government attempt to see that critically ill Nova Scotians aren’t denied nursing care becomes a lot less “draconian.”
In office since last October, the Liberals have by now seen the tough job ahead in a province with ebbing rural populations and a serious challenge in growing commerce. It’s a similar uphill battle the former NDP government faced and – no ill omens intended – look what happened to them.
But the public needs to understand that improvements to the economy can only come in the long term. Whether opposition politicians understand that is a moot point – the typical approach is condemnation when things haven’t turned on a dime. Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie has dismissed the government as incompetent on that score.
That assessment is premature. But the Liberals must immediately listen closely to owners and implement business-friendly policies to see even a hint of economic improvement before the next election.