GUYSBOROUGH – A few short hours after the provincial election was called Monday, Premier Stephen McNeil’s campaign bus pulled up in Guysborough. He joined MLA Lloyd Hines at the opening of the Liberal incumbent’s campaign headquarters at Chedabucto Shopping Centre. The Journal spoke with McNeil about the current campaign, the government’s record to date and the path ahead.
Two of the biggest issues confronting the Liberal government since they took office are public sector wages and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union strike. The Journal asked if balancing the budget was worth the pain of legislation that sent teachers back to work and forced a wage package on public servants.
“If you look across the country what we asked Nova Scotians to do is have increases that were less than what they had the time before,” McNeil said. “In other parts of the country they are laying people off and rolling back wages. That never happened here. What we are asking of people is so that we have the capacity to invest in classrooms, healthcare, and community infrastructure.
“One of the challenges of being in government is that there isn’t one singular issue to deal with, there is a multitude of them and you have to be able to have the fiscal capacity to do so. Without getting yourself back to some level of fiscal health; we could never be able to capture those federal dollars that are on the table for roads, water and sewer and other pieces of community infrastructure.”
Asked why now, with over a year left in the government’s mandate, the Premier decided to call an election he said, “We balanced our budget...we’re also at a point where there are two other parties that don’t agree with the vision we have. We’re going to let Nova Scotians decide who is going to lead them into the next four years.”
The Liberal platform includes investments in infrastructure and pre-primary education. Of particular interest for those in the Guysborough – Eastern Shore – Tracadie riding said McNeil, is a focus on growth; export opportunities, resource development, and programs that allow small businesses to hire university graduates. “We’re seeing the positive signs of that in communities.”