NDP leader takes pre-election tour of Cape Breton

PORT HASTINGS: Nova Scotia’s NDP are claiming the governing Liberals are only pretending to care about important issues as the provincial election gets underway.

The day before Premier Iain Rankin called a provincial election for Aug. 17, NDP leader Gary Burrill was in Cape Breton announcing policy planks in his party’s platform and campaigning with candidates, including a stop in Port Hastings with Inverness NDP candidate Joanna Clark.

Pointing to the recent universal child care announcement by the federal and provincial governments, Burrill said he has been hearing these promises for decades.

“They’re deathbed converts. They’re the childcare party now. We’ve seen this movie before,” Burrill said of the governing Liberals. “The fact that Liberals say wonderful things in the two weeks before an election doesn’t make me think that the puck is altogether in the net.”

It has been an important issue for many years, but Burrill said the pandemic underscored the value of child care.

“You can’t have a coherent society work the way it needs to in 2021 without an actual system of child care,” the NDP leader said. “It’s welcome that they’ve become persuaded of this but it’s very late in the day.”

Burrill said the case is the same with the Liberal’s recent announcement on long-term care, recalling how after assuming power eight years ago, they cut funding from the operating expenses of that sector.

“They have argued with us that this was not necessary, that it was very expensive, that there was no need of it,” he said. “I’m very glad that they have seen that their argument was incorrect.”

The same thing took place over the housing issue, where NDP calls for rent control went ignored by the provincial government, according to Burrill.

“Iain Rankin and the Liberal cabinet have consistently held the position that rent control doesn’t work, that’s it’s not a good thing, and they put forward this whole serious of entirely bogus arguments which are discredited within the world of housing experts, about how it hinders development,” he stated. “Under pressure, in the pre-election situation, they brought it a temporary form of rent control. I don’t think that would have happened without the pressure because they never did believe in it and they don’t believe in it now.”

Another issue that the NDP has long championed includes changes to the Labour Standards Code to allow for universal paid sick days, Burrill said, noting that the current government has rejected their calls.

“Some people work in jobs where they’re paid even if they have to say at home, and other people are paid in an hourly way, that if they had to stay at home, they miss their shift, they don’t get anything for that shift,” he explained. “We know now, particularly through the pandemic, that this two-tiered system about pay sick leave actually is very bad, from the point-of-view of the spread of infection, because we know it’s in the work place where infections are spread more than anywhere else, actually more than homes.”

Paid sick days are so necessary that in the office of Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and several other sectors, have been using a temporary form since the start of the pandemic.

While they appear enthusiastic supporters during the campaign, Burrill is confident they will abandon promises like rent control, paid sick days and new long-term care beds, if the Liberals do form the next government.

As a result of the tumult generated by COVID-19, Burrill said previously forgotten or ignored ideas are now in the political mainstream, one example is the need for comprehensive support for mental health supports.

“The pandemic has shown where we need to go next in Nova Scotia, in terms of the next improvements we need to make for the province. We can see quite clearly what we have to do,” Burrill noted.

Not just political parties and governments, Burrill added that the world, and Nova Scotia, have greatly changed since the global pandemic, and now issues like a $15 minimum wage are widely accepted.

“We’re looking at our lives and our situations in a clearer, sharper way – and I think this is true for politics, and this is also true for Nova Scotia – I think that people are looking at our overall situation and the basic things that people need,” he added. “These are real practical, concrete things in real people’s real lives that we actually need to have. If we have a government that is committed to getting them, we’ll be in a better position going forward.”