Storm delays legislature sitting
Liberal government prepares to impose contract on teachers
The weather has postponed the premier’s plan to resume the sitting of the legislature to deal with the ongoing teachers’ contract dispute.
On Saturday evening, Premier Stephen McNeil announced he was recalling the legislature Monday to table legislation and “bring an end to the dispute as soon as possible.”
The legislature will now resume sitting this evening.
Aside from criticism from teachers for the premier’s decision to table legislation, there was criticism on social media throughout the day Monday from teachers and the public on the plan to recall the legislature on a day the province is coping with a blizzard.
Businesses, schools and government offices are closed throughout the province. The transit system in Halifax was shut down and people were cautioned by police to stay off the roads due to whiteout conditions.
A lot of people were questioning the logic of recalling the legislature during the storm.
On Monday afternoon, the Speaker’s Office announced the resumption of the third session of the 62nd general assembly has been delayed until 8 p.m. today.
“This delay is in the interest of safety due to weather conditions that are more severe than expected,” read a notification from the Speaker’s Office.
Since Sunday evening Environment Canada has had a blizzard warning in place. The forecast called for 40 to 50 centimetres of snow in the Halifax region throughout the day with heavy snow continuing into the evening. Strong winds greatly reduced visibility.
The premier himself released a statement Monday afternoon.
“We have closely monitored the storm and it is clear now that conditions will not improve before this evening’s sitting of the legislature,” McNeil said.
“It is clear the Speaker cannot ask staff to report to the legislature this evening. I fully support this decision, made in consultation with senior government officials and emergency management staff.
“(Today) we will proceed with our plans so the lives of students and their parents can return to normal as soon as possible,” the premier said.
Opposition House Leader Chris d’Entremont, the MLA for Argyle-Barrington, couldn’t believe it took until Monday afternoon to cancel the resumption of the legislature, given the weather conditions throughout the day.
“It shows the blind determination the premier has on this issue, that he’s not willing to pay attention to what is going on around him,” said d’Entremont. “He can’t even get the weather right.”
D’Entremont said the public has a right to participate in the process by being in the gallery, or even outside protesting. Obviously, he said, the public wouldn’t have been able to do this Monday evening given the blizzard.
As for the process that lies ahead in the legislature, it will unfold over several days.
On Monday, the province’s NDP said it has launched a website to allow people to show appreciation for teachers by sharing stories about the impact teachers have in classrooms and communities.
NDP MLAs will share the stories in the legislature this week.
“My mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother were all teachers. I have seen first-hand in my family and in my community the hard work and dedication of teachers to our children and their future,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
“While Stephen McNeil keeps telling us we can’t make the needed investments in our classrooms, we are listening to teachers, parents and students who are clear that we can and must invest in our children and their education.”
Meanwhile on Monday, NSTU president Liette Doucet said in a media release that comments made by the premier earlier that day on CBC’s Information Morning demonstrated how little he understands about the current stand of teachers, namely, she said, when McNeil said the legislation to be introduced will give teachers the ability to teach.
“Over the past two months teachers have only been focused on teaching in their classrooms and the premier’s comments show a complete lack of respect for their professional abilities and judgment,” Doucet said.
“If the premier really wants to help teachers teach, he’ll put in place hard caps from Grades P-12, he’ll provide the necessary funding to support students with special needs, he’ll bring in positive reforms such as implementing an attendance and discipline policy,” Doucet said. “But the premier isn’t interested in doing any of those things, all he’s interested in doing is picking needless fights with unions.”
The premier said on Saturday, however, that after the rejection of three tentative agreements by teachers “it is clear there is an impasse.”
All three deals had been recommended to teachers by the NSTU executive. The latest deal was rejected last week by 78.5 per cent of the teachers who voted.
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