N.S. to begin pre-primary for some four-year-olds this fall, premier says
Published Friday, June 16, 2017 11:37AM ADT Last Updated Friday, June 16, 2017 5:16PM ADT
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia parents will see the initial rollout of a pre-primary program for four-year-olds this fall, Premier Stephen McNeil says, even though he won't recall the legislature until sometime in mid-September to pass the budget.
McNeil said the startup of the pre-primary program doesn't need to wait for the budget -- it would be covered through $168 million worth of special warrants approved earlier this month.
"I don't need the budget to let that happen," said McNeil. "There's 30 (locations) that will go in this September, that's work that's ongoing."
The Liberals have already said the initial plan is aimed at about 750 four-year-olds across the province, with 25 children and two early childhood educators in each class, but McNeil said Friday further details are to come.
On the campaign trail, McNeil said the play-based program -- which encourages the development of skills such as speaking, socializing and listening -- could save parents up to $10,000 a year on child care costs.
Once fully implemented after four years, the cost would be about $49.4 million a year.
McNeil said the legislature will likely re-convene in mid-September, when the government will re-introduce the budget shelved when he called the May 30 election.
He said it will contain all the measures in the original budget, along with a few additions he wouldn't reveal.
"There may be some addition to it based on what we heard during the election campaign," was all he would say.
McNeil's decision to push the budget into the fall drew scorn from Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
"That's not any way to run a province really," said Baillie of the special warrants.
"We want to see real improvements in health care, we want to see real improvements in our classrooms. They are all on hold until we see the real budget."
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said what matters to him is that the government uses the summer months wisely to introduce measures to improve the budget -- such as increased funding to nursing homes, for example.
"There's a wonderful opportunity before the government to say we heard people during the election, that there are key areas that we need to modify and improve."
The disagreeable tone over the budget was typical of a day where tri-partisan unity lasted scant minutes after Liberal MLA Kevin Murphy was elected for the second time as the legislature's Speaker.
The Liberals also tried to nominate two backbenchers as deputy speaker -- Chuck Porter and Suzanne Lohnes-Croft -- but were quickly cut off by the opposition parties, who promptly nominated Tory Alfie MacLeod and NDP member Lenore Zann.
Porter was eventually elected in the three-way runoff.
"It's quite common that the deputy speaker comes from the opposition side," Baillie complained afterwards.
"They (Liberals) have said they want a more cooperative tone, but they had a chance to prove that today and they didn't."
All 51 members of the legislature were also officially sworn in on Friday including seven new Tories, four new NDP members and two new Liberals.
The Liberals won 27 seats in the provincial election followed by the Tories with 17 and the New Democrats with seven.