Nova Scotia begins spring sitting of the legislature with long to-do list

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Spring session of Nova Scotia legislature begins
WATCH: The Nova Scotia legislature reconvened today for its earliest spring session in decades. Jennifer Grudic has more – Feb 27, 2018

The Nova Scotia legislature reconvened Tuesday for its earliest spring session in decades.

The Liberal government called the early session to deal with a heavy legislative agenda including the provincial budget and major education reforms – including the dissolution of seven of eight elected school boards.

WATCH: Preview of spring sitting at Province House

Click to play video: 'Marieke Walsh previews spring sitting at Province House'
Marieke Walsh previews spring sitting at Province House

However, Premier Stephen McNeil has said an education bill that was expected immediately wouldn’t be tabled, although the government intends to pass legislation this spring.

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Education Minister Zach Churchill said Tuesday his cross-province meetings with unionized teachers and principals on consultant Avis Glaze’s report has given him “really helpful” feedback.

“We’ve had meaningful conversations with teachers and principals and their feedback has influenced our thinking, that’s all I can tell you at this point. We will continue to pursue the spirit and intent of those (Glaze) recommendations.”

Churchill said talks with the union would continue, but no new meeting had been scheduled. McNeil met with Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet on Monday.

READ: ‘We need to be prepared to fight for what is right and just’: N.S. teachers to hold strike vote

In a vote last week, more than 80 per cent of teachers endorsed strike action to protest the province’s decision to largely endorse reforms contained in the Glaze report, including the removal of 1,000 principals, vice-principals and supervisors from the union.

The report also recommends eliminating the province’s seven English-language school boards and creating a provincial college of educators to license and regulate the teaching profession.

Any strike would be illegal – and teachers could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Still, Churchill signalled the government is willing to be flexible in its approach to implementing 11 of Glaze’s 22 recommendations immediately.

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“We’ve said there would be a level of flexibility … and that fact still remains today. I think at the end of the day we are going to have a piece of legislation that people understand and can be happy with.”

Meanwhile, laws governing the rules around recreational marijuana use will also be needed before July 1, and work is also expected on redefining the province’s electoral boundaries during the session.

All of the major items are expected to be contentious and could draw out house proceedings if the Opposition Progressive Conservatives and NDP put up significant objections.

The issues, especially around education reform, are also expected to draw protesters to Province House.

A protest rally Tuesday called Nova Scotians Rise Up saw a small group of placard waving people show up at the legislature.

They voiced their concerns about a range of issues from clearcuttting in the province’s forests to a plan to pump treated waste effluent from the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, N.S., into the nearby Northumberland Strait.

Organizers said the protest was an opportunity for people to speak out against a government that is ignoring them on issues affecting “their families, their livelihoods, their communities and the environment.”

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