Bill 148 needs to be stopped

photo from CTV Atlantic
photo from CTV Atlantic

By Robert Devet

The Liberals just couldn’t help themselves. They did it again.

Earlier they trampled over home care workers’ and healthcare workers’ rights. Now it is teachers’ and civil servants’ turn. An entire session at Province House without labour strife just wouldn’t be the same.

Trampling over workers’ rights. It’s such a cliché. Yet it is entirely appropriate.

Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, ensures that a wage framework of 0, 0, 1.0, 1.5, and .5 percent will be imposed on 75,000 teachers and provincial civil servants. Their salaries as a result will not even keep up with inflation.

The bill “ensures taxpayers are protected from arbitration decisions that could be higher than what is affordable as set out in the fiscal plan,” a government news release announces.

Collective bargaining can still proceed, the government says, apparently without being embarrassed, as long as you land on the predetermined and legislated conclusion.

So much for the right to free collective bargaining. So much for the right to strike, earlier this year confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as being a fundamental right that is protected by the constitution.

Timing-wise, and not coincidentally, the new legislation coincides with today’s budget update.

N.S Projected deficit almost doubles in three months,” says the Chronicle Herald headline. It goes on to call the update “dismal”. The CBC talks about the cash-strapped government.

The fact is, when a relatively small deficit doubles, small it remains.

Arguing that what really matters is not a dollar figure in isolation, but the debt to GDP ratio economist James Sawler concludes that Nova Scotia is doing quite well.

Even Justin Trudeau thinks there is more to managing an economy than eliminating deficits as quickly as possible.

But the Nova Scotia government is still firmly wedded to a language of austerity and balanced budgets come hell or high water.

Teachers and civil servants should tell Stephen McNeil that Bill 148 is a really bad bill. It needs to be stopped.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

This piece was originally published on the Halifax Media Co-op.

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