Month: January 2010

Yarmouth Ferry Part 2

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This has been a busy two days in regards to further failure by the NDP government to understand the full picture in regards to the contract with Bay Ferries to run the Yarmouth to New England service. At issue is comments from the Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Tourism Culture and Heritage Percy Paris yesterday in the Cabinet scrum.

Economic Development Minister Percy Paris said Thursday that Bay Ferries Ltd.’s agreement with the previous Tory government included $3 million in transition payments if the service shut down.


Six monthly payouts of $500,000 start April 1 unless the ferry is sold, one of Mr. Paris’s staffers said.

The payments are part of the deal the previous government announced last January to provide Bay Ferries with up to $12 million to keep the Cat running between Yarmouth and Maine in 2009. The $3 million in transition payments is part of the $12 million.

Mr. Paris said his government has no choice but to honour the deal. “There is a legal obligation to live up to the agreement that was signed by the previous government, and we will honour that,” he said after a cabinet meeting.

The minister said he couldn’t understand why the province would agree to give a company money for not providing a service. “It puzzled me,” he said.

There are few points of contention that I have with these statements, firstly is that, why is this only coming out now? My colleague, Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt, has said from the start of this fiasco that Percy’s numbers didn’t add up when he was talking about the 12 million that went to Bay Ferries. Richard has said that there was a transition of 3 million there that could be used to “buy” another year until the transportation study is complete. 
It seems that Percy might have though he might be able to get out of that part of the contract and therefore save money. What is now apparent is that he finally woke up and has put in motion the payment to Bay Ferries. Had he done his due diligence, he would have realized that cancelling the service would not save the province a cent, and in fact cost it some revenue.
If we add the now 3 million dollars of pay-out to the lost provincial HST revenue, are we not coming in well beyond the total ask of 6 million dollars to keep the ferry operational for another year? Plus this week, Conservative MP Greg Kerr speaking to Radio CJLS has said he is frustrated with the provincial government not talking to the federal government to see if there is some kind of partnership that can be developed. Darrell has closed the door on the issue. He had a great opportunity the other day when he shared the stage with Prime Minister Harper at an announcement in Truro. (Where Darrell announced a contribution of 10 million dollars, boo! hoo! we have no money!) I bet he didn’t say a word about it!
With 3 million dollars available, you’d think that Percy or Darrell (oh yeah! he’s on vacation) that they’d call the feds and use it as leverage to get the feds to help out for this year.
The other issue is the constant blaming of others for the NDP screw ups. You know I have big shoulders and really don’t care what the NDP says, but in this case enough is enough. Percy continues to scramble around on this one trying to find an out, he’s the guy that’s suppose to promote and support our economy and tourism industry. I know he knows in his heart that that he has royally messed up his first test of competency. It’s time he steps aside and let’s someone else pick up the pieces!

Yarmouth Ferry to New England

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Last week in my update, I didn’t mention the ferry because I knew that the action committee, made up of the local Municipalities had a meeting with Shelburne MLA and Minister of Fisheries and Environment Sterling Belliveau on Friday.  Plus, I gotta tell you,  it’s really hard to figure out where to start on this issue.
Firstly, let’s talk about the decision itself.  Bay Ferries, owners of the CAT, had been negotiating with folks at rural and economic development for some time.  The issue, we figure, was brought to Cabinet by Minister Percy Paris for discussion early in December.  We also figure that there was no recommendation from either department involved, just impact information, as Richard Hurlburt and I questioned the Deputy Minister at Economic Development about the issue.  So what this really boils down to is that the Premier and his weak cabinet made a bad decision without all the information to discontinue the service.  But it looks like Darrell doesn’t want to change anything to fix this mistake.  Regardless of all the wonderful videos on YouTube, the impact information, and the businesses that are crying for help, there doesn’t seem to be much movement.  The challenge we have now it that we are getting close to the end of the road to get Darrell to reverse the decision, the Doers and Dreamers Guide needs to go to print in February, just to name one.
Secondly, is that the main decision maker is out of town on vacation. Premier Dexter is out until the 7th of February and then heads to Vancouver for the Olympics as soon as he gets back.  I don’t diminish the fact that people need vacation, it’s bad timing for a newby Premier.  What really gets my goat on this one is that at the meeting with Minister Belliveau, according to a few friends that were there, Sterling seemed to be unaware of any of the facts surrounding the ferry issue that that he couldn’t understand why people were so worked up.  He committed to speaking with the Premier about the issue, hopefully understanding the urgency of this situation.  My question is simple, did Sterling call Darrell before he headed on vacation?
Finally, why nobody has organized a protest at One Government Place is beyond me.  If this was anywhere else in the province, they would be camped out that the Premier’s doorstep.  All I can do is say this – there were times when decisions in our government that were swayed due to the out pouring of emotion on Granville Street, and this government is still new and their skin is still thin. The protest needs to come from the Industry and the men, women and children that are being negatively affected by Darrell’s bad decision.
More updates to come.

Friday’s entry

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I know that writing a blog everyday would be tiresome (mostly for you), so really I should do a recap of the week. As far as this week went, it was a great one, I spent my whole week in the constituency! I’m also sure Thérèse liked it as I was there to help work through her computer issues. (I’m this close to swapping that computer to an Apple!)

STRIKE!

The snow storm on Monday kept the kids home, thankfully not the possible strike by the CUPE workers at Tri-County and CSAP . Their strike was averted by a settlement on Saturday. The health workers on the other hand were a different story. If we try to piece together the events of Monday morning, it seems that Frank Corbett was told that the Union walked away from the table and he had the Public Service Commission send out a pretty blunt press release, condemning CUPE. What apparently was going on is that they were thinking about it and within 2 hours the strike was over.


This is an excerpt from the Halifax Metro paper;


  • If ratified, union members will receive a 2.9 per cent raise retroactive to April 1, 2009, along with one per cent raises this year and next year. The contract expires Oct. 31, 2011.
  • Licensed practical nurses get a further six per cent raise backdated to Sept. 1, 2009. Classifications paid equal to and above lab and radiology techs also jump 2.1 per cent.
  • These hikes pull CUPE in line with its Capital Health counterparts in Halifax. The union even won a clause guaranteeing wage parity if Capital Health gets new raises.

It’s funny that 10 years ago it was the John Hamm Tory government that gave this union wage parity with their Halifax counterparts and it was Darrell Dexter’s NDP government was trying to take it away. And I thought the NDP and the Unions were brothers and sisters? We had always felt that it would be easier to recruit and keep health professionals in the rural areas if you made sure they we paid the same, as it is with many profession, folks follow the money.


I don’t on the other hand disagree with the new pattern that this negotiation sets for other unions that are ready to sit down at the table. The 1% increase in the following years make sense due to the fact that other indicators like CPI and inflation are relatively flat and that government’s own revenues will be down.


WE DID NOT “COOK THE BOOKS”!

The other interesting thing that happened this week, that was barely reported, came from the Public Accounts Committee when the Deloitte folks were in to speak and take questions about the Financial Review undertaken by the NDP.


CB North MLA Cecil Clarke asked a pretty straight question, “Did the former Progressive Conservative government cook the books of the province?” Witnesses from accounting firm Deloitte & Touche promptly answered “no.”


“Many Nova Scotians have been waiting to hear the truth on the state of the province’s finances and the role the former government may have had in the deficit situation we see ourselves in today,” said Clarke. “What we heard today is that the $500 million deficit facing our province is a complete concoction of NDP spending commitments – not a result of the former government mismanaging the books.”

During the hearing, Clarke also questioned the NDP government’s handling of the advice provided by Deloitte. “What we have is a government that campaigned against a pre-payment to universities and then made a $353 million commitment to pay them, which contributed significantly to the deficit. So did the NDP government go against the advice of the Deloitte Report?” asked Clarke.

Deloitte Atlantic Practice Managing Partner, Shannon MacDonald, agreed that the advice given to the NDP government had been ignored.

What this does, is validate that the information that was presented to the new government in the first place was correct, the work was a $100,000 waste of money! It also underlines that the NDP knew of the revenue decline back in June, we told them! They still went out and promised the moon and the sky and brought in a budget with a 525 million dollars deficit. So in simple terms they own the deficit because they created it against all the information that they already had!

LIFEFLIGHT HELICOPTER


I was a little startled this morning to read in the Chronicle Herald that the LifeFlight helicopter is out of commission on a safety recall. Now, I can’t discourage work that must be done on the machine, but a fixed wing aircraft as a backup just doesn’t cut it! The last time I checked, airplanes can’t land on the tops of Hospitals and many communities do not have airstrips, for example, Shelburne would have use Yarmouth or Liverpool.

Where is the communication from the Department who, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, depends regularly on the program to transport very ill patients to and from the provincial hospitals in HRM. What is the real backup plan? How long is the maintenance going to last? Has the company tried to source another helicopter?

There are times when seconds and minutes count when it comes to transporting seriously ill patients and the only way to ensure safe transport is with a helicopter. Lives are truly on the line in Nova Scotia and PEI (they use our service quite regularly).


High Speed Internet

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Last week’s letter from Courtney Wyman printed in the Yarmouth Vanguard in regards to the availability of Broadband Internet in all communities in South West Nova Scotia is the reason for this post.

I was happy to be part of the Rural Broadband project when it was conceived by our government over two years ago. It was a very large commitment, many of the traditional Internet Service Providers (ISP) were not interested in covering our commitment of 100% of our population. Our government devised a program that with an injection of about 75 million dollars and through RFP that we would find companies willing to build out a system to ensure this 100% coverage. Three ISPs were awarded the contracts, Seaside Communications for the North, Eastlink in the South West and OmniGlobe Networks in the rural parts of Halifax County. The most important part was that the build out needed to be complete by the end of 2009.

We were all very upset on December 9th, to find out that things would not be complete until the May 2010, this was the first that we had heard about the delay since the NDP government came to power. Worst of all, is that, even though Broadband is available to about 94% of our population , the remaining 6% seems to here in South West (by the calls I get, mostly the constituents of Argyle).

Eastlink seems very cavalier and vague in it’s discussions with possible clients, I know that through my intervention that Eastlink contacted the Wymans and basically were unwilling to help. Many businesses and students like Courtney are being left behind by this mess up and my plea to Eastlink is, hurry up we’ve waited too long now!