2017-09-20

Gary Burrill calls out McNeil government during recent South Shore visit

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>NDP leader Gary Burrill made a South Shore stop before the upcoming fall sitting of the legislature.</p>

During recent a visit to the South Shore, the leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party says the Liberal government is following in the footsteps of the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

"They remind me of when the federal Harper Conservatives got their majority in 2011 and it seemed to unleash a sort of streak of authoritarianism in them and a self righteousness in them. I feel that way about the current McNeil Liberals," said Gary Burrill.

Burrill referred to Bill 148 as an example of this attitude during a mid-September stop in Bridgewater.

The bill was proclaimed in the legislature on August 22 and imposes wage caps on public sector workers who were without contracts at the time. Seven unions representing some of the 75,000 public sector workers in the province are looking to fight the legislation.

"When they have a moment where they've had a setback, as the McNeil Liberals did during this election, and lost some members and barely hung on to their majority, ... successful governments take those moments to reflect to see if the path they followed could be improved, reformed or adjusted," said Burrill, adding that he doesn't believe the party has changed course.

South Shore issues

Burrill says he often travels to the South Shore and this time met with NDP associations and stopped by the local farmers market to talk to constituents.

Despite the NDP having lost their two South Shore seats in the 2017 election, Burrill says the region is still on his party's mind, particularly when it comes to rural schools.

"We ought not to be in the business of closing vibrant schools," said Burrill, calling the school closures an important issue province wide.

He also commented on the upcoming forestry review being headed up by law professor Bill Lahey.

"I think the government has made a good decision in the appointment of Mr. Lahey to oversee the forestry review, his credentials are tremendous," said Burrill citing Lahey's previous work in conducting a review of aquaculture with law professor Meinhard Doelle.

Burrill hopes that the natural resources strategy, titled The Path We Share, is considered in the proceedings, particularly the recommended move away from clearcutting and whole tree harvesting.

"I think last year the Liberal party made an egregious mistake in stepping away from the five-year, clearcut reduction limit," said Burrill.

"We welcome the forestry review and hope it will reaffirm some of the paths set out in the natural resources strategy."

The results of the current review will be presented in February 2018.

Burrill says his caucus is excited to get started, noting that five out of seven of the party's MLAs are women.

"When we go into the house we will be the political caucus with the single greatest concentration of women of any political party caucus with official party status in any province," said Burrill, adding that four are new MLAs as well.

Looking to the next sitting of the legislature, Burrill said there are some changes he'd like to see made to the budget the Liberals tabled, but didn't pass, before the last election. He maintained a promised $3 million toward long-term care won't make up for a previous $8 million cut. Burrill noted that the effects of those cuts hit things like quality of food and care.

Burrill would also like some issues recently touched on in the media to be addressed, such at the unemployment rate, child poverty, and rising tuition fees, and urged the Liberal party not to focus on creating a surplus.

"This isn't a time to be worrying about a surplus, this is a time to be worrying about investment."

The legislature begins its fall sitting on September 21 with the throne speech. The budget will be presented on September 26.

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