KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This spring the provincial NDP will introduce legislation to tackle poverty, strengthen the public’s ability to shape environmental policy, and protect public healthcare, said its recently elected leader Gary Burrill at a press conference at Province House this morning.
Of course it’s not up to Nova Scotia’s third party to set the political agenda. Most, if not all bills will die on the order paper.
But today’s announcement clarifies to what extent Burrill’s arrival on the scene represents a change, or even break with prior NDP policies.
You be the judge.
Three bills deal with various aspects of poverty.
The first one requires the government to develop a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Having a job should be something to lift people up from poverty, not cement them in it,” said Burrill.
Burrill suggested that the minimum wage should be increased substantially in year one, and reach the $15 an hour target some years later. He also allowed for exceptions in those cases where “profit margins cannot sustain the improvements.”
But by far most of the 130,000 Nova Scotians struggling to make ends meet on less than $15 an hour should soon see some relief if the NDP had its way, Burrill suggested.
Burrill also talked about a Grocery Security Act.
“This bill will allow everyone in the province to buy their food at a grocery store or farmers’ market, rather than rely on a food bank,” said Burrill.
Substantially raising welfare rates would be fundamental to accomplishing this, Burrill suggested.
Burrill also talked about legislation requiring the government to do a study on how a Basic Income Guarantee could be moved forward in Nova Scotia.
MLA David Wilson said the NDP intends to re-introduce Bill 43, the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, to ban pay-for-plasma clinics in Nova Scotia.
Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), a Saskatchewan company that pays plasma donors, has announced that it hopes to set up shop in Nova Scotia.
Wilson also came out strongly against the idea of leveraging public-private partnerships to deal with crumbling hospital infrastructure.
“P3s have been disastrous for our province, they are not successful, they always cost more in the end,” he said.
Environmental Bill of Rights
“The Doelle and Lahey report on aquaculture and the Wheeler report on fracking both talk about the need for citizens’ consultation and access to information, but the government has yet to move forward on this,” said Burrill.
The Environmental Bill of Rights that Burrell envisions will address this, as well as establish that a healthy environment is a right.
An online Registry will enhance access to information about proposed projects or changes in law, and whistleblowers will receive protection.
An independent Environmental Commissioner, reporting to the Legislature, will act as a watchdog on environmental issues.