Politics

Throne speech promises affordable housing, healthcare and education reform

'Progressive legislative agenda' touted as legislature opens fall session

Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant delivers the Speech from the Throne to the General Assembly.
Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant delivers the Speech from the Throne to the General Assembly on Thursday.   Lexi Harrington

The Liberal government promised to put forward a “progressive legislative agenda” for the upcoming session of the legislature in Thursday’s speech from the throne.

Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant’s speech touched on topics such as support for small business, access to affordable housing and a payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers.

It also focused on the Culture Action Plan, which will be released early next year and seeks to identify and strengthen Nova Scotia’s cultural heritage through input from members of the Acadian, Gaelic and Mi’kmaq communities.

“We are a diverse and proud people in a province where politicians before us never shied away from making bold decisions,” Grant said in the speech.

The speech also addressed “the first comprehensive reform of the education system in 25 years,” which aims to improve student success and increase funds to public education.

The speech pointed out that more than 500 teachers had been hired in the last three years. This comes at a time when teachers have rejected a proposed contract and will be holding a strike vote in the coming weeks.

Healthcare was also highlighted. According to the speech, Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government will be working to repair the province’s “fractured” healthcare system.

“This government continues on the path to meet its goal of a doctor for every Nova Scotian,” Grant said.

Statistics compiled by the Canadian Medical Association show the number of doctors in the province has remained stable since 2013, when there were 2,487. There are now 2,495 doctors.

Premier Stephen McNeil says he is optimistic about the province's future.
Premier Stephen McNeil says he is optimistic about the province’s future.   Lexi Harrington

McNeil called Thursday a positive day for Nova Scotians.

“Talking about understanding, retaining more young people we grew our population for the first time in decades,” McNeil said. “We’re looking towards the future, (and) very optimistic … we’re looking forward to continuing to build this province.”

According to Statistics Canada, the population of Nova Scotia is 949,500, a slight increase from 944,900 in 2012.

The leader of opposition questioned the government’s progress and plans.

“We have never seen such thin soup here at the legislature and I’m getting tired of it,” said Jamie Baillie, leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

PC leader Jamie Baillie says the Liberal government has "no vision".
PC Leader Jamie Baillie says the Liberal government has “no vision.”   Lexi Harrington

Baillie says the government’s vision is limited and that issues he was hoping to see were not addressed.

“This is the third year of this government; there’s still nothing to create jobs (or) to get the cost of living down,” he says,

“They have no vision, not even a plan for the urgent issues that Nova Scotians are facing.”