Have Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats finally, belatedly discovered their governing groove?
When Nova Scotia’s first democratic socialist government arrived at the governing starting gate in June 2009, they were already saddled with an embarrassment of their own making—how to renege, almost yesterday, on virtually every promise they’d made to get elected: a balanced budget, no new taxes, no program cuts, 24-hour ER services, a chicken in every pot…
Without passing Go, they stumbled into the grubby MLA expenses scandal. While that mess was not solely of their own making, they bumbled its handling, miscalculating the seismic depths of public outrage and squandering what remained of public goodwill.
For much of the rest of its first year-and-a-half in office, Dexter’s NDP has seemed unable to gain control of its own agenda.
Take last week, for example. Dexter began by piggybacking on a federal commitment of $20 million for tidal power projects to tout what he calls the province’s coming role as “a world leader” in clean energy. By the end of the week, he’d inked a tentative $6.2-billion deal with Newfoundland to bring hydro power from the Lower Churchill River to the Maritimes and the U.S.
Meanwhile, his ministers were introducing far less flashy but crowd-pleasing measures to protect used car buyers from lemons and cyclists from drivers, and to belatedly hand the auditor general the power he needs to muck about in government-business dealings.
Dexter’s government even appears to have grabbed the “big decision” ball. This fall, it said yes to a controversial new convention centre, no to oil and gas exploration on George’s Bank, no to online gambling, and yes to funding Lucentis to treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.
Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, who also recently struck a deal to cut costs for generic versions of the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, framed her own announcement as “an important first step” in getting fairer drug prices for Nova Scotians.
As if there might actually be a plan.
Darrell Dexter’s NDP is still a long way from proving it deserves a second mandate, but it has finally begun the climb back to where it began.
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