Positive ideas – PC MLAs working hard to make good things happen

(From left to right) PC Labour and Advanced Education critic Eddie Orrell, Saint Mary’s University student Dave Hoskin and Rob Batherson at a Young Conservatives event in October 2017 at the Grawood at Dalhousie University.

Last week, the fall sitting of the Nova Scotia legislature wrapped up.

Although most of the focus was on the re-tabled 2017-2018 budget and the ongoing problems in health care delivery, there were a number of issues that Progressive Conservative MLAs championed in the legislature that you may not have heard about.

With PC Leader Jamie Baillie leading a team of 17 MLAs, this was the largest Progressive Conservative Official Opposition since the early 1970s. Opposition parties are sometimes accused of being unduly negative. Having worked for opposition MPs and MLAs – including Peter MacKay, John Hamm and the late Terry Donahoe – in the 1990s, I know this can be a tough balance to strike. Yet in our parliamentary system, opposition parties play a vital role in holding governments to account.

Having so many MLAs clearly allowed the party to promote some good ideas to help Nova Scotians. It’s too bad Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government rarely took the PCs up on these ideas.

Here are some of my favourite pieces of legislation sponsored by Progressive Conservative MLAs this fall (in order of when they were tabled in the legislature):

Bill 4 – the Dignity for Victims of Sexual Violence Act (PC Justice critic and Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane). This bill would enshrine the right of a victim of sexual violence to legal representation and provide financial support for victims who want, but cannot afford, legal representation.

Bill 5 (PC Justice critic and Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane) would amend the Provincial Court Act to require mandatory training for provincial court judges on sexual assault law, ongoing continuing education on the same subject matter and written decisions in sexual assault trials.

Bill 6 – the Sexual Violence Action Plan Act (PC Labour and Advanced Education critic and Northside-Westmount MLA Eddie Orrell). This bill would require all universities, the Nova Scotia Community College and private colleges to put in place policies to address sexual violence against their students.

Bill 23 (PC Environment critic and Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland) would amend the Environmental Goals and Sustainability Prosperity Act – the landmark environmental law passed by the last PC government in 2007 with all party support – to commit Nova Scotia to setting new goals to meet the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Bill 25 – the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Building Walk-in Clinic Act (PC Leader Jamie Baillie). This bill would require the Minister of Health and Wellness to consult with veterans on the creation of a walk-in facility for veterans at the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Building at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. It would also set a timeline for construction and provide for the necessary funding.

Bill 31 – the School Supplies Tax Credit Act (PC Education critic and Dartmouth East MLA Tim Halman). A longstanding commitment of the PC Party dating back to the 2013 election platform, Bill 31 would allow parents and teachers to claim 50% of the cost of school supplies from their income tax, up to a maximum of $200.

Bill 43 – the Healthier Schools Act (PC Leader Jamie Baillie). This bill would expand mental health supports for students and training for educators in our public school system.

Bill 44 – the Mental Health Court Expansion Act (Kings North MLA John Lohr). This bill would expand mental health courts to every region of the province.

Bill 45 – the Safer Homes Act (PC Deputy Leader and Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn). This bill would require housing authorities to maintain minimum standards and take prompt action to correct deficiencies. It would also require housing authorities to inform Housing Nova Scotia of its maintenance work and Housing Nova Scotia to report on this annually.

Bill 47 – the Seniors’ Bill of Rights (PC Leader Jamie Baillie). This bill would guarantee the rights of seniors in a residential care facility, a nursing home or a home for aged or disabled persons.

Bill 59 (PC Health and Wellness critic and Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin) would ensure that at least two members of the Nova Scotia Health Authority board of directors have expertise in the delivery of health care. Many physicians and other health care professionals in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island told me how frustrated they were with having no one with current health care experience on the health authority’s otherwise capable and competent board.

Congratulations are in order to Pictou East MLA Tim Houston for sponsoring Bill 38, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Act. The Liberal government allowed it to be put to a vote in the legislature, where Bill 38 was approved unanimously. October 15 will now be forever known in Nova Scotia as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

If only the Liberals didn’t stop there.   We could achieve so much more as a province if political leaders and parties could find more ways to work together.

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Want to know more about the 62 bills the Liberals, PCs & NDP introduced this fall?

The full list is at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/status-of-bills/C98/sort/number

You can sort through them and read the ones you want.