Political Update

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 edition of the Union Stand

The Fall 2023 session of the Nova Scotia Legislature wrapped up on the evening of November 9th. It was a short, four-week session marked by the passage of significant (and sometimes contentious) legislation.
If the Fall session’s legislative agenda were to have a theme, it would have been the lack of consultation by the Houston government with key stakeholders. The current government seems driven to amalgamate as much power within the hands of the Premier and cabinet ministers, while reducing the important role the legislature and all of its elected members should have in governing the province.
The key pieces of legislation were:

Bill 323 (Regulated Health Professions Act):
The government claimed that this bill would streamline health-care professional regulations and reduce red tape and attract more professionals to the province. This bill will impact many occupations represented by the NSGEU already government by their own Acts. The bill was passed and the NSGEU will be monitoring the government’s implementation carefully.

Bill 329 (HRM Charter and Housing Act):
This controversial bill grants the housing minister broad powers to make decisions on development in Halifax without consulting the municipality or residents. While the government used expediency as their excuse, it was an outright power grab, with the provincial government inserting itself into municipal planning and decision making.

Bill 334 (Health Services and Insurance Act)
The objective of this legislation is a good one, to provide universal mental health and addictions care to people in need. But like a lot of recent legislation from this government, it lacked any kind of consultation or outreach to those it most impacts.
The bill gives the Minister broad powers to contract out mental health and addictions services and removes the requirement to seek the approval of Cabinet before doing so. Nova Scotians have called for more scrutiny of these kinds of agreements. This bill hands all decision making to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.With the passage of this bill we will all have to remain vigilant as government will try to increase the use of private sector resources in health care and possibly open the flood gates to Public Private Partnerships in mental health and addictions services.
Your union will be actively monitoring this.

Bill 339 (Financial Measures Act)
The Financial Measures Act was an omnibus bill, a bill that normally deals with numerous small changes in a variety of Acts. However, Bill 339 included a significant change to the Public Service Superannuation Act which governs the PSSP pension plan. Bill 339 changed the Public Service Superannuation Act to allow private sector employers to be admitted to the PSSP.

The NSGEU supports the governments direction to increase private sector participation in the Public Service Superannuation Plan (PSSP) however with such a significant change, the NSGEU felt that other needed changed were neglected. For example, the PSSP is not providing cost-of-living increases also known as indexing for its retirees, thereby reducing retiree incomes year after year. Especially in these times of runaway inflation.

The NSGEU asked government to consider changes to the formula used to determine cost of living increases that would move the plan from a five review to having a review in any calendar year where the Consumer Price Index exceeds 3% and the plan funding exceeds 105%.
The Fall session was a mere four weeks and illustrated how eager government can be to avoid consultation and public input. However, following the rancorous debates and the use of traditional delaying tactics and actions that further reduced decorum on the floor of the legislature, there were commitments by all three party leaders to work together to find a way to improve how our Legislature works.

Nova Scotians deserve a system that is driven to get results to improve the lives of Nova Scotians and less focused on the acrimony and theatre that can consume debate on the floor of our Legislature.

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