For the Nova Scotia Liberal government, 2016 was a year of many ups and downs — from backing down on pharmacare for seniors to teachers ending the year working-to-rule.
Here are the political events that shaped Nova Scotia through the past year.
1. Nova Scotia government closes all public schools as of Monday
Nova Scotians saw tensions surrounding the months-long labour dispute with teachers reach new heights near the end of the year, after teachers voted down a second tentative agreement.
Things quickly spiraled downward after contract talks broke off, and teachers announced plans to work-to-rule after voting 96 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.
Their plans were put on a brief hold, however, after the government closed all provincial schools for a day, saying the directives toward teachers under work-to-rule threatened student safety.
Premier Stephen McNeil’s approval ratings took a hard hit after the brief school closure.
2. Nova Scotia reviewing controversial changes to seniors’ pharmacare
The government backed down on proposed changes to seniors’ pharmacare in February, after advocacy groups highlighted issues they had with major changes announced in January.
The change would mean 12,000 seniors who previously paid a premium would no longer have to. However, it didn’t mention the 14,000 seniors on Guaranteed Income Support who would have had to start paying a premium, ranging from $1 to $482.
The government said in February they would review the changes, but gave no commitment to change.
3. Nova Scotia to introduce cap-and-trade in 2018
Along with an exemption from the federal government’s plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, the Nova Scotia government announced in November it would be adopting a cap-and-trade system for the province.
McNeil announced the change, which would come to all sectors of the Nova Scotia economy, would come sometime in 2018.
Environment department staff said at the time the cap that Nova Scotia Power is already operating under will stay in place, and other caps will be rolled out across the transportation, infrastructure, and home heating sectors.
4. The CAT leaves Yarmouth port for inaugural sail of 2016 season
The Yarmouth ferry, under new operator Bay Ferries and with new boat the CAT, left Yarmouth for its inaugural sail of the 2016 season on June 15.
The provincial government shelled out $23.3 million for the passenger ferry’s first year of service. It’s expected the ferry will cost the government $9.4 million in the 2017 season, and there’s no estimate on cost for the subsequent eight years of the contract.
By end of season, the ferry had carried more than 35,000 passengers — a figure well short of the government’s target of 60,000.
5. Nova Scotia pulls ‘racist’ legal argument against Sipekne’katik First Nation
Protests over the Alton Gas Natural Gas site have been front and centre throughout 2016, however the dispute was at its most heated after a legal brief from the government suggested the Sipekne’katik First Nation are a conquered people.
In November, government lawyer Alex Cameron argued the province didn’t have a duty to consult with the Sipekne’katik First Nation because the duty to consult extended only to “unconquered people,” and the band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated the government’s constitutional duty to consult.
The government announced on Dec. 21 it had removed several paragraphs from that legal document. Cameron was also removed from the case.
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