I hate to “pile on” the NS Liberals.
But I heard about a recent poll that said the Liberals have plummeted from an approval rating of 75% in May to 61% days before the election.
I can also tell you they’ve been pummeled at at least one whistle stop. Last Sunday’s Liberal rally was supposed to garner applause for an announcement of $4 billion investment for the construction of a new VG hospital in south-end Halifax (as well as some other facilities). Rankin, in a sport jacket and casual pants,stood behind a lectern – a lectern like an old-school professor in a faded movie. He droned on about his promise for a new hospital. The fact that this hospital had been touted by his predecessor former Premier Stephen McNeil in 2018 is well-known. Rankin didn’t admit openly that it’s going to be built on a P3 model, but his predecessor did . That means the province will end up paying more money for its construction so a healthy sum can go to the private sector partners, or friends of the government. In fact, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s (CCPA-NS) 2019 report, Shrouded in Secrecy, the QEII Hospital Redevelopment and the Privatization of Nova Scotia’s Health Care Infrastructure says that private financing is 125% more expensive than comparable public borrowing.
But I digress. Instead of a cheering crowd to greet him, a gaggle of disability rights activists gathered to all but frustrate Rankin’s speech. Vicky Levack in her wheelchair sat inches from Rankin’s left arm. Her hot pink sign read: Roadmap 2023: Keep Your Promise. A couple of her supporters crowded near the Premier. I stood beside him with two placards which read “No More Warehousing” which blocked his big map of Nova Scotia. Many others stood in a circle around him with their anti-Liberal signs. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photos in The Globe and Mail, on CBC.ca and the coverage on Global-TV are worth even more to those who are now saying “Anyone but the Liberals.”
The Liberals want “no questions”
After his speech – which Rankin conveniently speeded up near the end, and the two speeches from members of his “team”—a campaign worker announced there would be no questions.
Rankin and his co-speakers turned tail and fled, into the waiting bus. They spoke to no one. The media flocked to the disabled activists and their supporters to get the real story about a central and ignored issue in the campaign – how do we treat and how do we house the severely disabled in Nova Scotia. The answer is not pretty – it’s mostly in nursing homes, with mushy food, little privacy, subject to physical abuse by fellow residents and locked away during Covid. Surely the complainants of the 2019 Emerald Hall case made this clear. As many of you will recall, three people (one of whom had since died) with some physical and intellectual disabilities were locked away in the Emerald Hall unit of Nova Scotia Hospital. One, Beth MacLean who was there for 15 years was “occasionally using a ‘therapeutic quiet’ room, a padded cell.” The powers that be made no effort to place them in community housing or small options homes outside the institution.
In 2014, the three residents filed a human rights complaint that the province had discriminated against them due to their mental and physical disabilities. In 2019, the Emerald Hall complainants won their case.
None of this was acknowledged in Rankin’s stump speech; he did not bother to include increased funding for small options homes, a goal set more than eight years ago in the Roadmap for Transforming the NS Services to Persons with Disabilities Program. Years after the Roadmap was adopted, the 10 year plan for completion is still only in its first stages.
“That’s not good enough,” according to Jen Powley, disabled rights activist and co-chair of No More Warehousing, “Discrimination you say? You better believe it! This is a gross violation of human rights in our province.”
The Liberals seem tired. One of the more tired or tiresome candidates is Labi Kousoulis who is running for a third term as MLA (and cabinet minister which pays 55% more than a regular MLA) in Halifax-Citadel-Sable Island. Aside from the Island’s 500 horses which have no polling station, one can only hope that Kousoulis’ supporters also stay away.
Kousoulis’ feather-weight record…
His record of introducing new legislation is not particularly progressive. Worse than that, it is paltry and makes virtually no serious changes to the life of Nova Scotians. Bill 105, The Financial Measures Act (2021), increased provincial government benefits by $100 per month for each adult in a low income household. However, the government made no change to the measly amount given in the Affordable Living Tax Credit for low income families ($21.25 per parent or couple in a poor household each month), nor was there any change in NS Child Benefit which is $5 per child per month). As we all know, NS has the highest rate of child poverty at 14.8%.
Kousoulis also introduced Bill 136, the Appropriation NS Act. Basically, it was an act to defray certain charges and expenses in the public services, basically a housekeeping bill.
In Bill 87, he introduced amendments to the Pension Benefits Act, better processing of provincial pension claims.
His amendments to the NS Labour Standards Code Bill 221, includes some minor language changes, and a rule that employers must keep employees’ employment records for 36 months, rather than three years!! Also the Code now forbids employers from banning discussion or disclosure about wages of employees – which employers routinely banned before.
According to Kousoulis’ Facebook page, prior to the election call he posted almost entirely about Covid-19. After the call, he posted bits and pieces straight from the party playbook.
Nothing to see, let’s move on.
Featured Image: New Housing Project, by Molly Lamb Bobak (1956), National Gallery of Canada. Bobak, who died at age 94 in 2014, was the oldest living member of the 32 Canadian WWII war artists.