*This story appears in the Fall issue of The Union Stand.
This fall, McNeil’s Liberal Government began its seventh Legislative sitting since taking office in 2013. It officially marks this government’s third anniversary in office, and it’s fair to say it’s been an eventful three years for NSGEU members and their families.
The last three years have seen NSGEU members take to the streets in defense of hard won workers’ rights, and we’ve seen those efforts pay off. The McNeil Government has introduced Essential Service Legislation, Bargaining Councils for our healthcare sector and of course the infamous Bill 148, aimed at reducing wages and eliminating Long Service Award for public employees. For the most part, the NSGEU has fared well in the face of these heavy-handed tactics. We have fared well because we’ve been willing to stand up for past achievements and we continue approaching each fight under the mantra: “We will not negotiate less for our sons and daughters.”
So, where do go from here?
The fall of 2016 sees Nova Scotia much closer to the next election than we are to the last. That reality will have a big impact on what sorts of priorities the government and opposition parties set for themselves.
For the McNeil Government, they’ll be hoping Nova Scotians are beginning to forget and willing to move on from recent missteps – missteps like the film tax credit cut and funding cuts to organizations like long term care facilities and the CNIB. As we march closer to the next election, Premier McNeil will also obviously be treading very lightly around what happens during the next phase of NSTU teacher’s negotiations.
For the Progressive Conservatives, they have drawn a line in the sand around the federal government’s proposed new carbon tax and the government’s failure to deliver on the “one doctor for every Nova Scotian” promise from the 2013 Liberal platform.
The Nova Scotia NDP Caucus has outlined three areas of focus for this fall: long-term care funding, eliminating NSCC tuition fees and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This fall sitting will also mark a couple of notable firsts for two NDP MLAs; it will be the first sitting for newly elected MLA Lisa Roberts and newly appointed Leader in the House, Sterling Belliveau.
For the NSGEU, it’s no secret that our members have been a preoccupation for our current Premier during his time in power. Nearly all the contentious legislation that’s been introduced in the past three years has taken direct aim at NSGEU members and their families. We’ll continue to voice our concerns directly to Premier McNeil when he tries to take our province in the wrong direction. And of course, like most others in Nova Scotia, we’ll be watching and standing closely beside teachers as they navigate the fall-out of rejecting their recent tentative agreements and voting to take strike action.