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House rules 

Editorial by Kyle Shaw

I'm happy to give up my cell phone while behind the wheel, as long as everyone else has to. Not that the simple act of placing a call interferes with my wonderful driving abilities—which are only seriously pushed by the demands of texting and playing DJ with a 3,245-song iPod—but it sure makes other drivers worse. In most cases of everyday bad road behaviour—the idiot cruising along straddling two lanes or still stopped after the light has turned green—there's the perpetrator with phone pressed to cheek, too busy talking to notice me giving the finger as I pass. So I applaud premier Rodney MacDonald's government for proposing a law against dialing and driving.

That preceding bit of positivity is dedicated to Rene Angelil. Carrying on, in a vein just as upbeat as the facts allow, the cell phone ban is a signal that Canada's Laziest Legislature is at last back in session. The politicians returned to Province House last Thursday, and quickly gave voice to their car fixation.

Opposition leader Darrell Dexter proposed changes to the motor vehicle act that would get tough on street racing—on top of, you know, the apparently ineffective regulations already on the books to combat speeding and reckless driving. Other MLAs suggested laws to stop children from breathing second-hand smoke in cars, to end the incineration of tires, and to limit when trucks can use diesel-powered brakes. Well-meaning, if inconsequential, stuff.

The main car proposal from RodMac's government, on the other hand, would make a batch of major changes including the mobile phone prohibition. One of these—making it illegal to be a squeegee kid—is offensive social planning. (Called a measure to make intersections safer, the rule's main effect will be to further distance drivers from realities on the other side of the windshield.) And the scheme to use photo radar to combat speeding is a way to let the wealthy hit the gas as they please, because tickets from the camera result in only a fine, without risk of license suspension.

The ordinary citizen is no longer the model voter for city and provincial politicians. Now public policy is directed at the driver, that privileged person enclosed in a private greenhouse gas machine. And RodMac is commuter in chief. Last year, he brought in useless gas-price regulation. On Thursday, his government's speech from the throne promised new roads from one end of the province to the other.

To be fair, other issues came up in the throne speech. "There is no concern with such far-reaching consequences for our planet than climate change," read Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis. "The world is slowly waking up to this threat." So serious is RodMac that next fiscal year he's going to create a whole government ministry devoted to the environment. Yet he hasn't woken up to the fact that making life easier for cars is completely at odds with green goals. First job for the new environment minister? Undo the promised Yarmouth-to-Sydney highway twinning.

If RodMac has his way, a second new ministry—devoted to labour and workforce development—will also be started in the next budget year. Like the environment minister, the workforce minister's facing a big challenge: Stopping Nova Scotian workers from taking better offers elsewhere. Between years of brain drain and the rising Canadian tide floating our boat, the labour crunch is upon us. "Help wanted signs are everywhere," notes the speech from the throne.

While low unemployment is a healthy indicator, Nova Scotia is hardly a beacon of cash and opportunity. Over the last two years, according to StatsCan, Nova Scotia's economy grew by 5,100 jobs; Alberta's grew by 182,200 jobs. By comparison Nova Scotia is struggling, and will keep losing its ambitious people.

But on the bright side, the continuing exodus is sure to mean fewer busy young drivers, and thus less congestion, street racing and cell phoning. Maybe things are looking up already.

Text me while going 20 in an 80 zone. I dare you. Email

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