NOTE: A social media version of this release is available at http://novascotia.ca/news/smr/2014-09-25-Throne-Speech . Photos and video will be added after the event.
Government’s positions on the issues and challenges facing the province were outlined today, Sept.
25, during the opening of the Second Session of the 62nd General Assembly of the Nova Scotia Legislature.
Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant opened the session with the Speech from the Throne, in which Premier Stephen McNeil stated how government will maintain its commitments, and openly provide reasons for its decisions.
“Our goal is to provide constructive change and a deliberate path forward for Nova Scotians,” said Premier McNeil. “These tasks require government to rebuild a relationship of trust and respect with those it serves. We must lead by clearly stating our positions and meet those commitments.”
In the last 11 months, government has:
— Removed the efficiency tax from electricity bills, which will bring savings across the province effective Jan. 1, 2015
— Taken definitive steps to address the deep wounds at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children
— Invested in education, to restore programs to prepare young Nova Scotians to excel in a changing work environment
— Laid the foundation for replacing a fractured health system with a unified authority to give Nova Scotians more timely access to care
— Addressed the longstanding environmental scar of Boat Harbour and will legislate solutions by mid-2015
— Heard the concerns of Pictou County residents and issued a ministerial order for Northern Pulp to reduce air quality emissions that exceed approved limits
— Rejected and replaced antiquated economic development practices
— Appointed the One Nova Scotia Coalition, a non-partisan group of Nova Scotians, to examine ways to confront many of the long-term challenges facing our province
“Each of these initiatives has been designed to respond effectively to the needs of individual Nova Scotians and their families, while promoting our collective interests,” said Premier McNeil. “However, these accomplishments must be put in the context of the province’s fiscal sustainability for years to come.”
That will include a more deliberate and careful approach to labour relations.
“The central challenge facing our public finances right now is the cost of labour,” said Premier McNeil. “The current public sector contract has cost taxpayers $711 million so far and about 58.6 per cent of the provincial budget is devoted to wages and salaries. To put the province on a sustainable course, all partners must be reasonable. Now is the time to work together and take the right actions to build a better Nova Scotia.”
To help balance the budget by 2017–18, government will eliminate programs not achieving desired results. It will determine how to best deliver services, including considering if they could be offered by the private sector.
Government will also focus on stronger environmental regulations and pursue greater regional co-operation with freer interprovincial trade. A new focus on entrepreneurship in the high-school curriculum will teach students how to build their own businesses and take advantage of existing and emerging markets.
Legislation will be introduced this fall to confirm the roles for economic development agencies to streamline the process.
Government will also play a key role in developing the Donkin coal project in Cape Breton, after a due-diligence process to ensure the owner can safely develop, operate and finance. Donkin would grow the economy, provide jobs for Cape Bretoners, provide revenue, and the coal could help reduce electricity fuel costs.
It will work with partners to retain youth, lead regional efforts to push for more flexibility in the national immigration system and realign the Nova Scotia Nominee Program to introduce a business stream to attract entrepreneurs and investors.
Improving educational programs is another key priority. Restored funding has helped improve the primary-to-12 education system and access to skilled trade education across the province. The first comprehensive review of the education system in many years will be completed next month. More than 19,000 Nova Scotians participated in the review panel’s consultations.
Legislation will be introduced to help people better fund their retirements though Pooled Registered Pension Plans, bringing lower management fees and plan portability if they switch jobs.
“Government will remain open and accountable and will encourage all Nova Scotians to take an active and equal role in addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities we collectively face,” said Premier McNeil. “By working together, we can create a better Nova Scotia, one that is more inclusive, more successful, and offers people real opportunities to stay, work and raise their families.”