Year-end interview with N.S Premier Stephen McNeil
In a wide-ranging interview with anchor Sarah Ritchie, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil addresses the ongoing doctor shortage, upcoming contract negotiations with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and the deadline for closing the Boat Harbour.
Here are some highlights.
On the short-term plan to fix reduce healthcare concerns in Cape Breton
Q: “You made that major announcement in the spring of what you plan to do for healthcare, particularly in Cape Breton … you’ve seen those rallies and the protests that have happened in Cape Breton. What do you think needs to be done in the immediate term to fix the issue there?
A: “Well we’re now in the planning phase with members of the community. All of our planning teams have physician leads on them to ensure that when we do the functional plan that it responds to the needs of those working in the system, that it responds to the uniqueness of the communities that we’re building this infrastructure, and we have seen with their participation a lot of growing support.”
“When change comes forward when it comes to public policy or public infrastructure, people always view that as being bad. The fact of the matter is two of these facilities in Cape Breton were aging, they need major repairs. I don’t think anybody thinks we should build the healthcare structure the way we delivered healthcare in 1960 in 2018/2019. They think we should modernize, make sure we use technology that’s there to provide those services and give our healthcare providers the appropriate infrastructure, where they want to come to work in.”
WATCH: Interview with former New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant
On provincial education reforms
Q: “You’ve made some pretty major changes in education, particularly accepting that Glaze report dissolving the school boards. The backlash that we’ve heard in the ensuing months, particularly from teachers, who are saying your government isn’t listening to them. I wonder how you think will go forward into negotiations with the teachers on their new contract next year.”
A: “I think the union may have said that, (but) what I’ve heard from teachers has been support … any time you make a system change, you always have to adapt to things. The fact of the matter is under the old structure there was no way for educational leads, principals, vice-principals to go directly to the Department of Education with an issue they may have. They would be blocked by a school board and vice-versa.”
Q: “As a government heading into those negotiations with the teachers union knowing what happened in the last round of negotiations, do you feel there is a path to a different outcome? Are you planning to take a more soft approach with the teachers in terms of negotiating rather than taking the hard-line stance at the outset?”
A: “I think if you go back to that negotiation, our position changed throughout the process. We had three contracts that were agreed to by the union, so we negotiated in an open, fair collective bargaining process. The only one of the two sides that adjusted their position each time was us.”
“We’re going to continue to negotiate. We’re going to live within the fiscal realities of the province. We have to look at, when we go into these negotiations, the unfunded liability and the pension plan, we’re looking for the union and teachers to bring forward solutions in how we can ensure we stabilize that pension plan because it’s critical that we do so … I think reasonable people can find a reasonable solution.”
On the pending legislated closure of Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility
Q: “Northern Pulp is saying that they don’t believe they can meet that January 2020 deadline, but you seem to be saying that you expect them to. Where’s the disconnect?
A: “There’s no disconnect. For five years we’ve laid out very clearly that the end of January 2020 we will stop allowing effluent to go into Boat Harbour. That deadline has been there for over five years.”
“If they miss the deadline, I think the question would be for the community is when will that mill be up and going again if it can meet all the environmental standards that are required.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.