Prime Minister calls opposition delaying tactics at Province House ‘ridiculous’
The wheels fell off the Nova Scotia Legislative Bus just before 3:00 p.m. last Tuesday.
It was then that Government House Leader Kim Masland informed the 55 MPs at Province House that they would sit until midnight, commencing the following day, for seven consecutive sitting days, including Monday, when the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly is not normally sitting.
But so far, those 11 and 12 o’clock days have not moved many bills through the legislative process because opposition politicians, particularly members of the Liberal caucus, have used tactics of well-known legislative delays to block work.
Liberal House Leader Derek Mombourquette blamed the ruling Conservatives for trying to speed up the process and wear down the opposition.
« They called all those hours at midnight so for us we’re going to use the hours, » said Mombourquette, MP for Sydney-Membertou.
Premier Tim Houston has called the hour-long speeches and constant calls for recorded votes — even for laws the Liberals support — tactics that go beyond the norm.
« It went well into the realm of the ridiculous, » Houston told CBC News. « There are bills here now at the committee [stage] that they voted in favor, at second reading, that the people at the amendments to the law came in favor [of]and all of a sudden they’re filibustering.
« It’s ridiculous, but we’re not discouraged. We have work to do on behalf of Nova Scotians and we’ll do the serious work and they can do what they do. »
Mombourquette was quick to reject the prime minister’s view, reminding the PC leader that the fall session is only in its seventh day.
« We haven’t been here in weeks or months, so to say it’s ridiculous is ridiculous, » Mombourquette said.
Spit on the vice presidents, carbon tax plan
The protest goes beyond being forced to spend long hours on the floor of the legislative chamber. The ruling party wants to install three backbenchers from the PC caucus as vice-chairs. They would join two opposition members who are currently deputies – the first black woman and the first gay person appointed to the post.
If the motion passes, Nova Scotia will have five vice-presidents, the most of any legislature or parliament in Canada.
The move follows a messy public spat with Speaker Keith Bain, PC MP for Victoria – the Lakes, who reluctantly agreed to step down next April. The Liberals want the province’s conflict of interest commissioner to investigate the circumstances of the premier’s decision to oust the president.
The Liberal caucus is also against the government’s plan to scrap the cap and trade system it put in place while in office. The Conservatives plan to replace it with a carbon tax on the province’s two biggest polluters: Nova Scotia Power and the Lafarge cement plant. Changes to the Environment Act leave the door wide open for the federal government to impose a similar carbon price on gasoline, diesel and heating oil.
Nova Scotia Liberals say the government in Houston should have worked harder to reach a deal with Ottawa and that the bill only does half the job of meeting Ottawa’s emissions reduction targets.
Opposition parties are also concerned about changes to 11 state corporations and authorities that currently operate at arm’s length.
On Friday, NDP Leader Claudia Chender called it an unprecedented move to put bodies under direct control or accountable to ministers rather than boards.
« Never has anyone I’ve spoken to who’s been in this position known of a program like the one this government has put forward, » said Chender, who also sent a direct message to members on the government side of the Room about the Extended Hours.
« This is not normal, » said the MPP for Dartmouth South. « That’s not how we do government business. You can see that as a downside [but] this is our only opportunity to make the voice of our constituents heard on this floor. »
The History of Stall Tactics in Houston
Although Houston is critical of delaying tactics, he participated in at least four attempts as he opposed delaying the passage of Liberal bills through the Legislative Assembly.
During a debate on a « lifting motion » to slow passage of an education bill in February 2017, Houston implored the Liberal government benches to support the motion to temporarily suspend the project. of law.
« I hope they will vote [with] their conscience and let’s just say let’s take a six month break, » he said. “It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s certainly in the public interest.
In the fall of 2019, debating a hoist motion on an environmental bill, Houston recommended the government « do its homework » and then return to the House with a revamped bill in six months. .
« Come back with something when they’re ready to have a real discussion with Nova Scotians about aggressive targets, when they’re ready to have a real discussion with Nova Scotians about what’s possible, » Houston said. « They’re not ready to have this discussion today because they haven’t done their homework. »
Provincial representatives are scheduled to resume their seats on Monday for a session that is scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to midnight.