NDP float new ideas, Tories tread old territory as house resumes

Stephen McNeil speaks during Question Period on December 9, 2015. .
Stephen McNeil speaks during Question Period on December 9, 2015. . Marieke Walsh / Global News

The opposition parties’ fight for relevance has the two parties testing out very different tacks as they return to Province House Thursday afternoon.

A March Corporate Research Associates poll pegged Premier Stephen McNeil’s Liberals well ahead of the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP. The poll put support among decided voters at 56 per cent for the Liberals, 23 per cent for the Tories, and 17 per cent for the NDP. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.

The Liberals are still well ahead but slipped by 8 points from the previous poll in November. Another indicator of potential room for the opposition parties to capitalize on is an Angus Reid Institute survey which placed McNeil’s support at an all time low of 36 per cent. The institute tracks premiers’ approval ratings quarterly and will be releasing another survey in about three weeks.

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The NDP’s top five

  1. Study a guaranteed basic income: Rookie NDP leader Gary Burrill says he wants McNeil to commit to studying a guaranteed basic income for all Nova Scotians. Other Liberal governments in Ontario, Quebec and federally are already moving ahead on this.
  2. Hike minimum wage: Nova Scotia’s minimum wage sits $10.70, Burrill wants McNeil to hike it to $15.00 within three years which would put it among the highest in Canada.
  3. Grocery Security Act: Burrill wants the Liberals to ensure all Nova Scotians have enough money to buy groceries at a store rather than being forced to use food banks.
  4. Environmental Bill of Rights: the NDP say this bill would supplement the current Environment Act and be based on Ontario’s 1993 Environmental Bill of Rights.
  5. Public funding for health care infrastructure: the NDP say they are against the prospect of using a public private partnership model to replace the ailing Victoria General Hospital. The Liberals say they’re considering it as one of the options for replacing the hospital site.

The Tories’ top five

  1. Yarmouth ferry: Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie says he would scrap the current Yarmouth ferry deal and renegotiate it. The current contract with Bay Ferries has no cap for the ferry subsidy and Baillie says it could end up costing Nova Scotia more than $100 million over the ten year contract.
  2. Film industry: The 2015-16 budget scrapped the film industry tax credit and replaced it with an incentive fund. The opposition and the industry say the cut has had a devastating affect on the industry with earnings and hours worked in Nova Scotia down by half.
  3. Mental Health: Baillie started the fall sitting calling on the government to improve the mental health system, he says not enough investments are being made in mental health.
  4. Economic growth: Baillie says more needs to be done to remove red tape for businesses and the government needs to implement the recommendations from the Ivany Report.
  5. Creating jobs: The Tories say removing the moratorium on fracking is one of the ways the government could boost job growth.
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