Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil ‘not embarrassed’ by 2016 reversals

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In his year-end interview with Global News, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's "not embarrassed" that his government backed away from controversial policies in 2016. Global's Marieke Walsh reports. – Dec 21, 2016

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he is “not embarrassed” by his government’s policy reversals in 2016.

The Liberal government sparked controversy when it tried to overhaul the seniors’ pharmacare program. Within one month, it halted its plan to triple premiums for some seniors. It also pressed pause on its marquis accessibility legislation after a blistering critique from the people it was supposed to help.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s top 5 political influences of 2016

“I’m not embarrassed by the fact that I am one of the few governments in the history of this province that actually has listened to public — that’s what happened,” McNeil told Global News in a year-end interview.

“It’s only those that get caught up in the process of the legislature that see that as a failure… when in actual fact it’s the process working.”

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The government still went ahead with lowering pharmacare premiums for low- income seniors and McNeil says that despite the speed bumps, “there will be some news” on plans to make further changes to the seniors’ pharmacare program “early in the new year.”

WATCH: 2016 year-end interview with Premier Stephen McNeil

The government also withdrew offensive legal arguments made during the Alton Natural Gas Storage project court challenge, and McNeil apologized to Mi’kmaq chiefs for the briefing.

“Part of the brief did not reflect who I am as human being, did not reflect the values of our government,” he said.

His government also shelved a plan to legislate a contract on teachers.

The government hasn’t removed the possibility of legislating a teachers’ contract in the future but McNeil says the December announcement to introduce legislation “was never about legislating a teachers contract.” Instead he says it was the only way to ensure a proposed work-to-rule campaign wouldn’t jeopardize students safety.

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McNeil noncommittal on next election

More than three years into his mandate, McNeil wouldn’t give any hints on when he plans to go to the polls or what he wants to accomplish before he drops the writ.

Nova Scotia is the only Canadian province without a fixed election date. It’s also the only province that allows a government’s mandate to go as long as five years, meaning an election could be held as late as 2018. But he also won’t say whether a five year term is what he’s looking at.

“At some point Nova Scotians will get an opportunity to pass judgement on our government,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that campaign when it comes.”

The Liberals have nominated more than two thirds of their candidates in preparation for the next election.

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