Heavy agenda expected as Nova Scotia legislature opens for spring session - InfoNews

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Heavy agenda expected as Nova Scotia legislature opens for spring session

Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc delivers the speech from the throne at the legislature in Halifax on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. The Nova Scotia legislature will reconvene today for its earliest spring session in decades.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
February 27, 2018 - 4:19 PM

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's Liberal government reconvened the legislature Tuesday for its earliest spring sitting since 1995, but tabled no major bills despite what's seen as a full agenda in the coming weeks.

Major education reforms are high on the to-do list, but the government has signalled a willingness to hold off for now on legislation it maintains will be passed sometime later this spring.

The reforms are based on recommendations in a report released last month by education consultant Avis Glaze. They include eliminating the province's seven English-language school boards and the removal of 1,000 principals, vice-principals and supervisors from the ranks of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

"The fact of the matter is that bill wouldn't have been introduced today because of the complexity of a number of the acts that are associated with it that we will have to bring together," Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters.

McNeil, who met with union president Liette Doucet on Monday and emerged to say there is "room for compromise," stuck to his position following question period.

"I have agreed to go and look at some issues and I will get back to her (Doucet) if there are any changes," he said.

McNeil wouldn't say what the nature of any change might be, or even whether there would be any changes made at all in relation to teacher's concerns.

Earlier, Education Minister Zach Churchill said his cross-province meetings with unionized teachers and principals on Glaze's report had given him "really helpful" feedback.

"We've had meaningful conversations with teachers and principals and their feedback has influenced our thinking, that's all I can tell you at this point. We will continue to pursue the spirit and intent of those (Glaze) recommendations."

Churchill said talks with the union would continue, but no new meeting had been scheduled.

In a vote last week, more than 80 per cent of teachers endorsed strike action to protest the province's decision to largely endorse reforms contained in the Glaze report.

Any strike would be illegal — and teachers could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Still, Churchill signalled the government is willing to be flexible in its approach to implementing 11 of Glaze's 22 recommendations immediately.

"We've said there would be a level of flexibility ... and that fact still remains today. I think at the end of the day we are going to have a piece of legislation that people understand and can be happy with."

Meanwhile, laws governing the rules around recreational marijuana use will also be needed before July 1, and work is also expected on redefining the province's electoral boundaries during the session.

A minor bill with amendments to the Psychologists Act was introduced by Health Minister Randy Delorey on Tuesday.

All of the major items are expected to be contentious and could draw out house proceedings if the Opposition Progressive Conservatives and NDP put up significant objections.

Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Karla MacFarlane said she saw it as a positive sign the government appears to be slowing down on the legislation around education.

"We certainly have been calling for better dialogue and more communication . . . this is our opportunity to collectively come together and make this work for the betterment of the students and the teachers."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he hoped the fact no legislation is imminent is a sign the government will give the "deepest possible thought" to its position on education reform.

"They should take the Glaze report and set it to one side and give it thorough top-to-bottom reconsideration and reappraisal before they rush down the path they are on now," said Burrill.

The issues, especially around education reform, are also expected to draw protesters to Province House throughout the session.

A protest rally Tuesday called Nova Scotians Rise Up saw a small group of placard-waving people show up at the legislature.

They voiced their concerns about a range of issues from clearcuttting in the province's forests to a plan to pump treated waste effluent from the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, N.S., into the nearby Northumberland Strait.

Organizers said the protest was an opportunity for people to speak out against a government that is ignoring them on issues affecting "their families, their livelihoods, their communities and the environment."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story, a previous version erroneously said that no bills were introduced.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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