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Storm delays resumption of Legislature to Tuesday as government looks to legislate teachers' contract

Opposition House Leader Chris d'Entremont shot this scene outside the Nova Scotia Legislature during the morning on Monday,  Feb. 13.
Opposition House Leader Chris d'Entremont shot this scene outside the Nova Scotia Legislature during the morning on Monday, Feb. 13.

HALIFAX, N.S. – The weather has postponed the premier’s plan to resume the sitting of the Legislature to deal with the ongoing teacher contract dispute.

On Saturday evening Premier Stephen McNeil announced he had asked that the Legislature be recalled Monday evening so the government can table legislation to, he said, “bring an end to the dispute as soon as possible.”

The Legislature will now resume Tuesday evening instead.

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 is shut down and people are being cautioned by the police to stay off the roads due to white-out conditions.

A lot of people were questioning the logic of recalling the legislature during this storm.

On Monday afternoon the Speaker’s Office announced the resumption of the third session of the 62nd general assembly has been delayed to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

“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 last evening Environment Canada has had a blizzard warning in place. The forecast on Environment Canada has called for 40 to 50 centimetres of snow in the Halifax region throughout the day with heavy snow continuing in the evening as well. Strong winds have also been blowing throughout the day, greatly reducing visibility.

On Saturday evening Premier Stephen McNeil announced he had asked that the Legislature be recalled Monday evening so the government can table legislation to, he said, “bring an end to the dispute as soon as possible.”

The Legislature will now resume Tuesday evening instead.

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 is shut down and people are being cautioned by the police to stay off the roads due to white-out conditions.

A lot of people were questioning the logic of recalling the legislature during this storm.

On Monday afternoon the Speaker’s Office announced the resumption of the third session of the 62nd general assembly has been delayed to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

“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 last evening Environment Canada has had a blizzard warning in place. The forecast on Environment Canada has called for 40 to 50 centimetres of snow in the Halifax region throughout the day with heavy snow continuing in the evening as well. Strong winds have also been blowing throughout the day, greatly reducing visibility.

NSTU teachers held a rally on Starrs Road in Yarmouth on Dec. 6, one day after the province had kept students out of school saying student safety was at risk due to work-to-rule job action. The union said student safety was not at risk. Students were back in class on Dec. 6.

PREMIER'S MONDAY STATEMENT

The premier himself released a statement Monday afternoon around 2:30 p.m.

"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.

“After updates from the Emergency Management Office and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, 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.

“Tomorrow 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 that 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. Tuesday evening the government will introduce the bill, which is first reading. There will be a question period in the House. At one minute after midnight second reading of the bill can take place and then members of the Legislature can all have an opportunity to speak on it. Each member can speak for up to an hour, d’Entremont says.

Once that process ends, the bill then has to go to Law Amendments Committee for the public to have its say. Once that process is done, the bill goes back to the House.

APPRECIATION STORIES

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."

Nova Scotians can visit https://nsndp.ca/teachers to share their stories.

Liette Doucet, NSTU president

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 the premier 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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