At first, the Liberal health care bill was only aiming to blow-up and rebuild the system’s administration over the next six months in order to maybe, someday, save five million dollars.
Suddenly, though, it was about picking a massive fight with 24,000 health care workers by ignoring their rights. Twenty-four thousand fellow Nova Scotians who, lest we forget, are the backbone of our health care system. Everyone needs to understand, this is bad for all of us.
I should know. I had a front-row seat to this movie the first time it ran, sitting in opposition to the Nova Scotia Liberals the last time they swept into power, back in the ‘90s.
I remember it so clearly. Even when they had good intentions, the Liberals acted on big ideas with no consultation. They were hard-headed, yet soft on details, and always caused more problems than they were trying to solve.
All the while we had to fight at every turn for the rights of workers. The disruptions were constant, and they didn’t accomplish anything. The Liberals used their overwhelming majority in the legislature to create chaos in the health care sector.
Today, Stephen McNeil is pushing through the worst elements of rehashed Liberal policy garbage from the ‘90s, spiked with a sneering disregard for people’s rights he has clearly borrowed from Stephen Harper.
Just like Harper, McNeil has decided to dictate when he has an obligation to negotiate.
The results are predictable. First, everyone loses because the important business of the day is put aside while the government goes to battle. Second, everyone but some lawyers lose as we pay millions to defend the government’s blatant disregard for rights in court. And finally, after lives and careers are permanently damaged, the courts will rule against the government, people will be more bitter than ever, and the hole we were in will be even deeper.
It’s painful. It’s incredibly wasteful. And it should make every Nova Scotian angry. When our government strips away the rights of just one Nova Scotian, we should all be angry. When it tramples on the rights of 24,000 Nova Scotians at once, we need to take a stand.
If we don’t stand up for each other and defend our rights against this government, the only question will be who’s next?
Robert Chisholm is currently the NDP MP for Dartmouth–Cole Harbour and official opposition critic for fisheries and deputy critic for employment insurance. He was a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature from 1991-2003.