N.S. legislature wraps up after routine 25-day fall sitting
The Nova Scotia legislature is seen in Halifax in this undated file photo.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Thursday, October 11, 2018 6:21PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, October 12, 2018 7:49AM ADT
HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia legislature wrapped a routine 25-day fall sitting Thursday that was largely marked by opposition complaints about the Liberal government's lack of openness.
Twenty-five bills were passed during the sitting, which also saw committee changes that drew opposition ire
The Liberals used their majority on the powerful public accounts committee to change the practice of allowing all three parties to choose topics and decide who will come before the committee.
Under the change, topics will come directly from reports filed by the province's auditor general.
But Premier Stephen McNeil maintains alternate topics can still come through a public accounts sub-committee -- and points to another change that will see a committee created that is solely dedicated to health care.
McNeil says the province's largest budget item is health care and no other government has opened the Health Department up to the public scrutiny that will come with the new committee.
The premier also said that the lack of public demonstrations -- of the kind that have marked previous sittings of the house -- is a sign the government's difficult decisions around the province's finances are beginning to pay off.
"I think it indicates what the last four years was about," said McNeil. "The hard work that we've had to put in to ensure that we put ourselves in a position to make investments ... and put legislation in that allows us to continue to move the economy forward."
McNeil pointed to legislation around establishing Develop Nova Scotia as one of the main achievements of the sitting. Formerly the Waterfront Development Corp., the entity will be responsible for, amongst other things, developing high speed broadband services in under-serviced rural areas of the province.
He also pointed to legislation that would implement measures to accommodate internal free agreements with other provinces.
"These are important steps from an economic point of view," McNeil said.
But interim Progressive Conservative Leader Karla MacFarlane said the sitting dealt with "a lot of housekeeping bills," while questions remain about persistent family doctor shortages and around the implementation of legal cannabis on Oct. 17.
MacFarlane, who will step down once the party chooses a new leader at a convention at the end of the month, was asked whether there was anything that should have been addressed by the government but wasn't.
"I was really disappointed that they didn't look at my bill with regards to bedsore accountability or even come back with a bill," she said. "This would have allowed us to create an online system ... that would have brought more accountability to the process."
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the government was "so many miles off the mark" during the sitting. He pointed to a lack of investment in such things as long term care and decisions like endorsing the one-year pilot project to burn tires for fuel at the Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield, N.S.
"There is a sense that the government is lost in a fog of self-congratulatory entitlement," said Burrill.
Among other bills passed during the sitting: A sweeping replacement for the Motor Vehicle Act that likely won't be in place for up to two years while a series of 95 regulations are trimmed down and modified.
Other pieces of legislation will see the creation of a new gender identity option for birth certificates and prohibit conversion therapy, while another new law would ensure more stringent regulations and oversight of funeral homes and crematoriums.