TRURO - Lenore Zann, the NDP incumbent candidate for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River connected with www.trurodaily.com readers Wednesday morning to answer their questions.
Zann, who has held office in the riding since 2009, shared her views on NDP accomplishments, pensions, flooding assitance, the relocation of Access Nova Scotia services and several other topics.
Q. What is the accomplishment you are most proud of since becoming an MLA?
A. Thanks for the question. I've worked very hard for our community since becoming MLA but I guess I would have to say I'm particularly proud of my work on the flooding. I took action quickly and made sure I got the premier to come to Truro the morning after and took him straight to the people. Those who had been affected. And because of this he made the decision to help people and businesses financially - those who needed it most. I also helped save The Eddy Group from having to move out of our area (saving 30 jobs) by taking correct action quickly.
Reader comment: Eddy group staff don't agree with you. Any MLA would have done the same thing.
A. That's interesting - since Ms. Robyn Eddy the president of The Eddy Group has publicly stated that without my quick intervention her family business would have been forced to move out of our region entirely. In fact, Ms. Eddy has written an endorsement of me in my latest literature, which you should be receiving at your doorstep any day now.
Q. What’s your reaction to criticism you and your party have received for the pending move of Access Nova Scotia and other government offices from downtown Truro (your riding) to Truro Heights?
A. As I've said in the past, the Access Nova Scotia move was a result of the 10-year rental agreement ending and a tendering process took place which had one businessperson making a better offer that would include all three government offices and combine them under one roof - plus saving the taxpayers a lot of money monthly.
Q. I am concerned about the Liberal plan to break up Emera. I am assuming if this is a threat to Emera's shareholders they would be publicly protesting this proposal. Is this simply a politically expedient way for Emera to get something it has been wanting or will it be yet another very expensive buyout for the taxpayer?
A. Well, what the Liberal plan suggests actually amounts to deregulating the industry, which has led to horrifically high jumps in the cost of energy for citizens everywhere it has been tried. The Liberals like to say N.S. has the highest power rates in the country but that's not true. Alberta has the highest power rates. Why? Because their Conservative government deregulated the industry.
Q. Downtown Truro is a ghost town. What are you going to do about that? No money in dancing and acting.
A. Sorry, but that attitude is not in keeping with the times as it has been proven that the creative economy (as it is now called) is vibrant and a huge part of the provincial economy and is growing. It also keeps our young people in the province as many of them want jobs these days that are more interesting, creative and pay much more than minimum wage. The Trailer Park Boys, for instance, has decided to make Bible Hill their new home for their TV series which brings a lot of money into our community. However, for downtown Truro, for every business that has closed over the past few years brand new ones are springing up. It's called the changing times.
Q. I've heard a lot of talk about the health board changes. I got a Liberal leaflet in the mail that says it will save money. What is the NDP’s position?
A. The NDP's position is that creating one big superboard (health board) in Halifax is not the answer to our health challenges in N.S. We don’t want people dictating from Halifax to our regional communities about what is best for them.
Q. What can your party do to help men who have to travel back and forth to the West to support their families?
A. Thank God for the $25 billion shipbuilding contract! This is a huge win for our province and will result in thousands of jobs staying here in N.S. for the next 30 years. We are bringing back vocational schools, trades programs and industrial arts to our high schools (taken away by the last Liberal government, you may remember, along with our teachers college) in an effort to train workers for these high paying jobs. Also adding apprenticeship programs as well. About time I’d say.
Q. What’s your reaction to criticism of the government’s financial support of pulp and paper industries in Queens County and Port Hawkesbury?
A. I believe that the premier was in a very tough position - as there were not only 1,400 jobs at stake - both directly and indirectly through the supply chain right around the province - but if allowed to go under, the demise of just one of these companies would have taken our GDP down by 10 per cent. Premier Dexter believed this would hurt our entire province - especially during the worst global recession since the Great Depression.
Q. Do you support the lucrative MLA pension?
A. Personally, I believe everyone should have a good pension and I wish they did. I do not have a pension myself - after working for 35 years in the Creative Industries I do not have a pension and yet I do not resent those who do. It’s not a race to the bottom. When people say they covet union people who have pensions, I say they have worked hard for them and paid into them - and I do believe that retired government employees should also have their pensions indexed to the cost of living.
Q. Should retired teachers be allowed to return to the classroom as substitutes while unemployed younger teachers remain on the sidelines?
A. This is a question that comes up very often in discussions. It is a little more complicated than it appears on the surface. Firstly, I do believe younger, new teachers should be given the opportunity to substitute first. After all they need the experience and the money. Sometimes you even see retired principals who have very good pensions returning to substitute and I think this is a shame. But it is up to the NSTU to do something about this as they have rules in this regard. Also some retired teachers for some reason or other (often due to illness or disability) do not receive a full pension and therefore tell me they need to top it up with extra hours substituting. So as you can see there is more to this than first meets the eye.
Q. What’s the most common concern you’ve heard from voters during your canvassing?
A. Actually most people I've met at the doors have been extremely positive and supportive. There seems to be an overall feeling of optimism and hope that our province is turning a corner and that the next years will be good.
Our NDP government has not only been able to balance the budget in just four years (one of only three provinces to do so) but we have managed to get a Triple-A Credit rating for the first time in the province's history. This is something we should all be proud of and put party allegiances aside to support.
With the shipbuilding contract, allowing for 11,500 new jobs, as well as the province's newly announced status as "the No.1 province or state in North America to draw the biggest increase on foreign and out-of-province companies" to our shores - new growth is, in fact, happening.
I believe it is very important that voters realize these facts as we can thank our NDP government lead by Premier Dexter for this change in Nova Scotia's direction from the bottom to the top.