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Few surprises on Liberal’s to-do list 

Ministerial mandate letters outline what to expect from McNeil government.

click to enlarge The first day of class during NS legislative frosh week. - VIA TWITTER
  • The first day of class during NS legislative frosh week.
  • VIA TWITTER

Now that the fall sitting is officially underway, the McNeil Liberals can start crossing off some items on their legislative to-do list.

The government's top priorities were released Friday as part of its ministerial mandate letters, outlining the duties and responsibilities the premier expects from his cabinet.

Most of the tasks are copy-and-pasted straight from last spring’s Liberal campaign platform. Though a couple of specific deadlines seem to have been omitted this time around.

The projected 2019 end-date to remove tolls from the Cobequid Pass is no longer mentioned for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Likewise, there’s no budget or timeline earmarked for the “Blueprint to Reduce Poverty in Nova Scotia.” Campaign materials touted the Community Services project at $20 million over four years.

The rest of the cabinet correspondence is filled with boilerplate political hype about building stronger futures, remaining focused on innovating and working together on continuing choices.

Should you wish to read them, here are the specific platform commitments singled out for Nova Scotia’s cabinet ministers to accomplish.

———

Municipal Affairs (Derek Mombourquette)
–Create a $500,000 beautification and streetscaping program.
–Create a $500,000 community works fund.

Environment (Iain Rankin)
–Pass legislation providing legal protection for Nova Scotia’s coasts.
–Pass legislation to implement a carbon cap-and-trade system.
–Continue to enforce the moratorium on fracking for onshore natural gas.

Communications Nova Scotia (Patricia Arab)
–No specific platform commitments.

Internal Services (Patricia Arab)
–No specific platform commitments, but the letter asks Arab to implement a digital government strategy and continue to enhance cybersecurity programs and the province’s Open Data portal.

Natural Resources (Margaret Miller)
–Create a new Mineral Resources Development Bank with an annual $1.5-million investment.
–Pass Nova Scotia’s Biodiversity Act.
–Establish a new Biodiversity Council.
–Expand trail access.
–Appoint an independent expert to review forestry practices.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (Lloyd Hines)
–Make sure $50 million is allocated each year for community infrastructure.
–Implement a gravel road plan.
–Invest an additional $390 million on twinning the 100-series highways.
–Put $30 million towards safety measures on non-twinned 100-series highways.
–Remove tolls on the Cobequid Pass after bond obligations are met.

Justice; Labour Relations (Mark Furey)
–Improve maintenance enforcement services.
–Create programs to address domestic violence.
–Expand the Domestic Violence Court to Halifax and make its Sydney location permanent.

Labour and Advanced Education (Labi Kousoulis)
–Maintain the province’s seven business innovation “sandbox” events and add a new ocean-themed “sandbox.”
–Create Research Nova Scotia to coordinate research efforts and unlock more federal and commercial funds.
–A new Innovate to Opportunity program.
–Strengthen our partnership with non-profit, national research organization Mitacs.
–Double the graduate to opportunity program.
–Create a Nova Scotia Youth Job Connector program.
–Eliminate tuition for apprentices when leaving work to complete technical training.
–Expand the START apprenticeship program.
–Work with community organizations so at-risk youth have quick access to employment services.
–Expand loan forgiveness for graduates to five years.
–Increase the weekly student assistance amount.
–Create the Premier’s Youth Advisory Council.
–Amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to make it easier for emergency response workers with PTSD to access benefits.
–Implement legislation to give victims of domestic violence the right to take time off work.

Acadian Affairs and Francophonie (Lena Diab)
–No specific platform commitments, but the letter asks Diab to ensure the Electoral Boundaries Commission fulfils its responsibility to the Acadian and Francophone populations.

Immigration (Lena Diab)
–Working with the federal government, increase provincial immigration programs.
–Implement the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

African Nova Scotia Affairs (Tony Ince)
–No specific platform commitments, but the letter asks Ince to ensure the Electoral Boundaries Commission fulfils its responsibilities to the African Nova Scotian population.

Public Service Commission (Tony Ince)
–No specific platform commitments.

Gaelic Affairs (Randy Delorey)
–No specific platform commitments.

Health and Wellness (Randy Delorey)
–Create or expand more than 70 collaborative care teams.
–Ensure family doctors have the flexibility to choose where and how they practice.
–Transform the Iocum program to avoid unenecessary community emergency room closures.
–Invest $5 million for new Collaborative Care Centre construction or building renovations.
–Focus on the implementation of the myHealthNS personal health record.
–Create a new $750,000 fund for helping doctors interested in patient video consults.
–Enhance the existing family residency program.
–Create a new practice ready assessment program.
–Adjust tuition relief to recruit more physicians.
–Work with Nova Scotia Health Authority to reduce wait times for hip and knee surgeries.
–Add 15 new specialist residency positions.
–Continue the QEII redevelopment.
–Develop a new continuing care strategy.
–Expand home supports.
–Help spouses stay together when in long-term care.
–Expand the caregiver benefit program.
–Streamline long-term care placements.
–Target funding for food budgets and increased recreation opportunities in long-term care.
–Create a provincial mental health services plan.
–Create a new central intake system.
–Increase access to community-based supports.
–Expand crisis services.
–Place mental health support workers in collaborative care clinics.
–Develop new Youth Health Centres in schools.
–Develop an action plan to address opioid addiction.
–Expand the school breakfast program to provide a healthy meal to every single student in the province, five days a week.
–Implement the Social ABCs program with Autism NS.
–Partner with Autism NS to create 10 regional autism resource centres.
–Expand the IWK’s emergency department.
–Continue to implement the provincial dialysis plan.
–Develop a provincial hospice program.
–Continue to improve the Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program.
–Fully implement the One Person One Record project.
–Ensure the Nova Scotia Health Authority board meets at least once a year in each of the four management zones.
–Work to explore an Atlantic Pharmacare model, beginning with work on oral cancer drugs.

Education and Early Childhood Development (Zach Churchill)
–Continue working with Council to Improve Classroom Conditions and the Commission on Inclusive Education.
–Implement universal full-day pre-primary for four-year-olds.
–Reinstate Reading Recovery for Nova Scotia over the next two years.
–Reduce the waitlist for speech and language help and psychological services.
–Complete a full review of the administrative structure of school boards.
–Help implement the Social ABCs program with Autism NS.
–Expand SchoolsPlus to all schools by 2019.
–Create seven new skilled trade centres in high schools and enhance vocational options.

Trade (Geoff MacLellan)
–No specific platform commitments.

Service Nova Scotia (Geoff MacLellan)
–Increase the Heating Assistance Rebate program’s income threshold.

Energy (Geoff MacLellan)
–Continue enhancements to the non-electric home energy efficiency program.

Business (Geoff MacLellan)
–Establish an Export Accelerator program.
–Double the Export Growth program.
–Work with the Halifax International Airport Authority to create more direct flight routes.
–Create an Innovation Rebate program.
–Increase the income threshold for the three percent small business tax rate.
–Expand key tourism sites.
–Continue investing in rural broadband.
–Remain committed to partnering with creative industries.

Community Services (Kelly Regan)
–Introduce a standard household rate for Income Assistance recipients.
–Create a work incentive for Income Assistance clients.
–Lead the creation of a cross-government Blueprint to Reduce Poverty in Nova Scotia.
–Develop a temporary placement option with extended family or guardian.
–Work to attract new foster families.
–Expand access to early intervention and intensive parenting programs.
–Build eight new small options homes.
–Fund one-to-one job coaching for Nova Scotians with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities.
–Create a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers.
–Expand day programming options.
–Implement a respite coordination program.
–Expand the Flex Independent program.
–Enhance the Independent Living Support program.
–Dedicate annual funding to address sexual violence.
–Develop “Standing Together: A Provincial Action plan to prevent domestic violence.”
–Partner with Bryony House, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, Chrysalis House and Autumn House on new facilities.
–Create a “continuum of programs to address domestic violence.”
–Reduce the waitlist for affordable housing by 30 percent by 2021.

Seniors (Leo Glavine)
–Implement the SHIFT Action Plan for an Aging Population.

Community Culture and Heritage; Voluntary Sector (Leo Glavine)
–Create a $1-million Small Business ACCESS-Ability program
–Increase the Community ACCESS-Ability program to $1 million.
–Remain committed to partnering with creative industries.

Agriculture; Fisheries and Aquaculture (Keith Colwell)
–Develop and launch the Building Tomorrow Fund for farmers and fishers.
–Continue the Aquaculture Development program.
–Expand the seafood export marketing program.
–Continue the Wine Development program.
–Develop policies to encourage further growth in our local wine, distilling and craft beer industries.

Finance and Treasury Board; Deputy premier (Karen Casey)
–Increase the Basic Personal Exemption on Nova Scotian taxes
–Develop policies to encourage further growth in our local wine, distilling and craft beer industries.
–Increase the income threshold for the three percent small business tax rate.

Youth; Military Relations; Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness; Aboriginal Affairs; Intergovernmental Affairs; Premier (Stephen McNeil)
–A $25-million reduction in regulatory red tape.
–Advance the Atlantic Growth Strategy
–Promote Nova Scotia trade while NAFTA is renegotiated.
–Develop a new Veterans Advocate Office.
–Advance rights-based negotiations and consultation with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.

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