For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia’s legislature will meet Tuesday with a full complement of 55 members.
The fall session will open with a speech from the throne that will set the course for the province’s new progressive conservative government, which came to power in the August 17 elections.
Nova Scotia voter turnout in Tuesday’s election was 55 percent, nearly a record low.
The Conservatives captured 31 seats after running a campaign almost exclusively to fix the province’s ailing health care system, an approach Prime Minister Tim Houston said will not change once the session is underway.
“I think Nova Scotians can expect to see a continuation of the stamp we put on the campaign,” Houston said after a cabinet meeting last week. “We have our mandate from the people of Nova Scotia and that is to fix health care and that will continue to be our focus.”
The prime minister gave few details about pending health care legislation, but said other areas will also be addressed, such as a lack of mental health services and a shortage of affordable housing.
“I really don’t know how many laws yet,” the prime minister said of his next agenda.
The party’s electoral platform projected $ 553 million in new spending during the first year in office, including $ 430 million for health care alone. Houston promised that that money would go toward a pension plan for physicians, which would expand operating room hours on weekdays and add 2,500 more long-term care beds.
Parties Focus on Health and Long-Term Care in Nova Scotia’s Election Campaign
Since taking office, the government has renewed the provincial health authority, firing its executive director and removing its 14-member board and replacing it with a four-person “leadership team.” Houston and its health officials also toured the entire province last month, speaking with front-line health workers about ways to reform the system.
However, Liberal leader Iain Rankin, whose party lost power in the elections, said the government’s top priority should be addressing the “immediacy of the housing problem,” particularly in the Halifax area, where tent camps Campaigns for the homeless have been springing up in various city parks.
Rankin said the rent control order that was imposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis should be maintained until the housing shortage and the problem of rapidly rising rents are addressed. Liberals will also be interested in seeing what the government proposes for the healthcare system, he told reporters earlier this week.
“We will hold them accountable for their promise to Nova Scotia that they will arrange medical care,” Rankin said.
NDP leader Gary Burrill said the Conservative government has spoken in “wonderful generalities” about its agenda since it was elected and will now have to acknowledge its promises.
“Key areas like housing, healthcare, the environment, really need to be addressed,” Burrill told reporters last week. “In fact, they have to present the things that are needed.”
Has NS Prime Minister Tim Houston broken an electoral promise?
Regarding his conduct in the legislature, Houston said his administration will proceed with an open mind. He said that a government should participate in the proper consultations before bringing the legislation to the floor of the house.
“If someone brings a perspective or point of view that just wasn’t considered, it should be considered,” Houston said. “If it results in changes to the legislation, our government will have the confidence to make those changes.”
Members of the legislature have not all met at once to debate bills since the session that concluded in early March 2020. A hybrid format was implemented for the recent spring session, limiting the majority of members to virtual participation.
Returning members will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and will be required to wear masks during the fall session.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 11.
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