Dear Friends –
Thank you for the warm reception you’ve given me at your doors. I’ve been out delivering a survey asking you about your priorities – thank you for talking to me and for taking the time to complete the short questionnaire.
Many people wonder what MLAs do when we aren’t sitting in the Legislature. Since January, I’ve had a number of briefings from various government departments or programs, including: a general briefing with the Department of Community Services on programs; a meeting with the Departments of Education and Transportation & Infrastructure Renewal on the new high school; an update from the Maintenance Enforcement Program; and a meeting with the Infectious Disease Specialists at the QEII on Lyme Disease.
I’ve visited transition houses, homeless shelters, schools, food banks, businesses, and been briefed by people representing many organizations – from Autism Nova Scotia to League for Equal Opportunities. I’ve worked with my assistant to try to help constituents resolve their problems with government, and I’ve answered all kinds of letters and telephone calls. All of which is to say that I had no trouble keeping busy – even though the House was not sitting.
The government informed us on February 29th that the legislature will resume sitting on March 29th. The government plans to prorogue the House and then we will resume sitting the same day.
This means the NDP will have the Lieutenant-Governor read another speech from the throne (number four, if you’re counting), and the government will take a new course. This will be the fourth new course this government has followed since taking office in 2009.
It also means a number of good bills will die on the order paper – they will never be passed. The government has decided not to call the Code of Ethics Act – An Act to Establish a Code of Ethics for MLAs, which Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil introduced. It declined to call Diana Whalen’s Diabetic Persons Support Act – which would have provided insulin pumps under MSI. It didn’t call Andrew Younger’s Hydraulic Fracturing Act – which called on the Minister of the Environment to hold public consultations on whether hydraulic fracturing should be permitted in the province. And it declined to call the Debt Settlement Protection Act which I introduced and which would have protected people from unscrupulous debt poolers who take their money for months — without paying off their debts.
The NDP government did manage to pass such weighty bills as The Community Spirit Act (“an Act to Promote Community Spirit”). It rammed through legislation to create First Contract Arbitration for newly unionized workplaces – which is a bit ironic when you consider the NDP government thought FCA was good enough for business, but not apparently for HRM and the Transit Union. And it insisted on passing the Liquor Control Act, which prevents businesses selling wine kits from letting senior citizens brew their wine on their premises.
In the weeks ahead, the province will introduce a budget. We’ve been led to expect this budget will contain cuts. Please remember that no matter what level the government says these cuts are, they’ll actually be higher – because each department will have to absorb regular increases to run their facilities – like electricity and fuel costs and already-negotiated salary hikes.
We’ve been calling on the provincial government to let the federal government know that it should absorb the increased costs of its new Crime Bill, Bill C-10. I’m pleased to say the Premier Dexter has finally listened and agreed with us. Increasing penalties without addressing the root causes of crime will not reduce crime – and jurisdictions like Texas that have already followed this path are now repudiating it.
If you agree with the Liberal stand on what the government is doing, please let me know. If you disagree with what my colleagues and I are saying, please let me know as well. It always helps me to keep your opinions in mind as I work on your behalf.
I’m proud to bring the concerns of Bedford-Birch Cove to the Legislature and I thank you for all the support you’ve shown me.
On February 23, Opposition Leader Stephen McNeil and I met with a number of local business owners at the new offices of Platform – which rents out office and meeting space at the corner of Southgate and Larry Uteck Drive.
As well, I’ve been meeting over the past few months with various business leaders in the area about their concerns. There are a number of issues that are mentioned in almost every meeting:
Commercial Tax Rates/Assessments – rates are set municipally, but the legislation enabling the way we calculate tax is under provincial jurisdiction, as is the corporation that assesses properties. If you have concerns about this issue please let me know – we are looking at some options.
Minimum Wage – some business owners (particularly those in retail) have told me their wage costs are up 35 % over the past 2 and a half years, and they are struggling . But we know minimum wage increases are not the only way to help lower income families raise their family incomes – we can lower their income tax rates so they keep more of their paycheques.
Unfriendly Business Environment – We’ve heard this concern frequently from businesses, especially small businesses. For a variety of reasons, they don’t feel like the government wants them to succeed here. Please let us know about the challenges you face – and what you’d like to see done about them.
I expect to have another business roundtable soon – please let me know if you’re interested in attending. (We’re hoping to hold it early in the morning so it’s less likely to interfere with your business.)
Coyotes in Paper Mill Lake Area –
A number of residents have mentioned their concerns about coyotes in the area to me, and I want to update you on the situation.
The residents who spotted the coyotes indicated the animals were acting atypically and some looked unhealthy. I contacted the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) several weeks ago, and the Wildlife Officer in Waverley indicated to me at that time that they had several traps in the area. He also indicated to me that they had already removed one coyote from the general area – from just west of Highway 102.
Since that time, DNR has removed three more coyotes. They were suffering from mange and were in rough shape. DNR is continuing surveillance of the area.
(I would like to note that I am not in favour of a province-wide cull of these animals; every wildlife biologist I’ve spoken to has indicated that culls don’t work. Nature simply responds by increasing the frequency of litters – and their size. And I would like to note that the department does not remove all coyotes – they act only when they see concerning behaviour.)
For more information on coyotes, please check out: http://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/wildlife/nuisance/coyotes-faq.asp
If you do see more coyotes acting unusually, please contact Waverley DNR (861-2560). If you do contact the department, please let me know (407-3777) so I can follow up with them.
Heating Assistance Rebate Program
Applications for the Home Heating Assistance Rebate are currently being accepted. Applications for the rebate can be found both online and in my constituency office (located at 1550 Bedford Highway, Suite 555 – across the street from The Chickenburger). The heating assistance program will subsidize up to $200 for eligible applicants to help heat their homes. For more information or to see if you are eligible, please visit http://gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/individuals/heating-assistance-rebate-program.asp. The deadline for applications is on March 31st, 2012.
Electoral Boundaries Commission
After each census, the province selects an electoral boundaries commission and gives it terms of reference. This has been done and the latest commission is just about to begin its consultation meetings.
Boundaries often change because of population changes. Halifax – Clayton Park and Bedford – Birch Cove are the two fastest growing ridings, and we have the largest number of electors – almost 5,000 above the maximum the province is aiming for.
Obviously, I’d prefer Bedford-Birch Cove stay just as it is now. However, I know that – because of our phenomenal growth – its boundaries will change. I’d like those changes to be ones that residents are happy about and have had some input on.
I thought you might wish to share your thoughts on what the boundaries should be with the Boundaries Commission. You can make a presentation to the Commission (all the HRM dates are during March Break) or you can send them an email submission. You can find the information about the hearings at http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20120301005, and you can find more information on the commission (including how to make a submission) at http://nselectoralboundaries.ca/ . (The nearby hearings are listed at the end of this newsletter in the calendar of events.)
The commission will bring back its interim report at the end of May. If you don’t like it, you can object then. If you do like it, you should say so — because subsequent changes in other ridings unhappy with their new boundaries could change ours.
I’ve also sent the Boundary Commission a request to add another meeting date for HRM, since all their Metro hearings are during March Break.
…to the students at Bedford South School!
The children worked with the facilitators from the Empathy Project to come up with an organization they wanted to help – Bryony House — and then came up with the idea for a fund raising dance on Valentines Day. Each child paid $2 or brought in an item for donation to the women’s shelter, and they raised over $700 and gathered more than two van loads of donated clothing and household items for Bryony House. Congratulations to student Madison Slack who spearheaded the idea, and to the teachers who are helping to educate empathetic students!
Power of Positive Change Awards
The Province of Nova Scotia will recognize up to ten students with this award and a $2,000 bursary to be used at a post secondary education institution. The bursaries will be awarded to students who have demonstrated leadership in promoting safe and positive environments, building social cohesion and cultural diversity in their schools or communities. In recent years, two elementary students from our riding have won for their outstanding work. Nomination packages can be found online at http://powerofpositivechange.ca/nomination-package.shtml. Last day for nominations is April 18th, 2012.
Queen’s Jubilee Medal
60 000 extraordinary Canadians will be recognized for their contribution to their nation, province, or community. This award is given to those who have brought great credit to Canada. To eligible, the nominee must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. This medal can be awarded posthumously as long as the recipient was alive on February 6th, 2012 (the date of the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the Throne). Nominations are only accepted through mail. Nomination forms can be found both online and in my constituency office (located at 1550 Bedford Highway, Suite 555 – across the street from The Chickenburger). The deadline for nominations is April 30th, 2012.
Order of Nova Scotia
The Order of Nova Scotia is the highest honour awarded by the province and up to six people are inducted into the Order each year. If you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life or the social or economic well-being of our province, and you would like to nominate them, please visit http://www.gov.ns.ca/iga/order.asp#how for more details. Last day for nominations is March 16th.
Tuesday, March 13 – 6:30 p.m. Lyme Disease Information Session, Lower Sackville Wellness Centre, 564 Sackville Drive, Lower Sackville. Dr. Bryan Rade, ND will host a discussion on the issue of chronic Lyme disease in our province. To register for the event, please call Dr. Rade’s reception desk at 830-4615. Please note: this event takes place on the 2nd floor, and there is no elevator. If you use a mobility device and would like to attend, please phone reception to discuss alternative arrangements.
Thursday, March 15 – 7 – 9 p.m. Electoral Boundaries Commission meeting – Sackville Fire Hall, 1 Metropolitan Avenue, Lower Sackville
Saturday, March 17 – 11:30a.m., Bedford United Church will host its Saint Patrick’s Day Luncheon. On the menu: Hamburger Soup, Biscuits & Dessert. Tickets are $8 /$4 for children and they’re available by calling 835-7798
Saturday, March 17 – 1 – 3 p.m. Electoral Boundaries Commission meeting – Quality Inn and Suites, 980 Parkland Drive
Friday, March 23 – Bedford United Church will host a Family Movie Night on March 23rd, beginning at 7:00pm. Admission is free; donations are accepted. The movie being shown will be “Dolphin Tale”. For more information, please call 835- 8497.