The Nova Scotia provincial government begins its fall sitting today, and it is bound to be a tumultuous beginning. Premier Rodney has a slimmer minority than last spring, the MLA’s all have fatter salaries and there is a health-care strike in the offing. Just how these three forces play out against each other is going to be interesting.
First, the minority. Unless MacDonald does something really stupid, his government should be able to ride for at least a short time. The Liberal party is leaderless (I know, why should it be any different than during the last election campaign) and won’t select a new leader until sometime next year. The analogy with the federal situation is direct – the Conservatives can soil themselves publicly and the Liberals will just pretend nothing happened. Probably. The only real difference is that unlike his federal counterpart, the interim leader of the NS Liberals, Michel Samson, is by all accounts capable. That fact alone might embolden the party to hold the Conservatives to task, so it might well get interesting. With important issues presenting themselves immediately, it will be easy to Samson’s temperature quickly. As for Darryl Dexter, he will be anxious to demonstrate that the NDP are in fact a government-in-waiting and will try to show some space between NDP and Conservative policies. While the government might receive some support issue-to-issue from the NDP, they will not be able to rely on rope thrown from that direction indefinitely, and bowlines and nooses look similar when your thrashing around in panic.
An “independent” commission over the summer suggested that Nova Scotia MLA’s should receive a 21% raise to bring them in line with other provinces. Which naturally, rejecting any accusation that the provincial government is in fact a financial basket case, they have accepted, and now they receive a base salary of ~ 80K.
It will be interesting to see how the current members of the assembly defend a 21% raise when they face a union of 6,600 healthcare workers demanding something on the order of one-tenth of that. Combine this with the fact that the real issue in the strike might not be salaries, but that the government has been skimming pension contributions for ten years (to the tune of $90 million now), this strike has the possibility of being ugly and long.
Readers will remember that Danny Millions in Newfoundland and Labrador faced a similar strike early in his tenure as premier. However Danny had the benefit of a majority government and balls. If Rodney had demonstrated the existence of the latter, he might well have one the former last spring.