VOICE OF THE PEOPLE — Aug. 15, 2020

No sound judgment

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston was dead on with his point that Justice Minister Mark Furey, a former RCMP officer, has a conflict of interest regarding the mass-shooting inquiry (Aug. 13 story). Perceived or real, there is a definite conflict. 

After Prime Minister and federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau failed to recuse themselves in the WE charity fuss, it is becoming clear politicians get out of touch with the public’s reality. People often pick on the university crowd for being out of touch in their ivory towers, but politicians could give them a real horse race. You have to wonder who is advising them. Many, many times they could get sounder political advice from Joe Blow fishing mackerel down at the wharf — and for free, too!

Ron MacCarthy, Caribou Island 

 Harshness personified

 Our provincial government has successfully argued that Northern Pulp cannot apply funds from its proposed $50-million loan from its parent company, Paper Excellence, to pay severance owed to non-unionized employees, or to top their pension (Aug. 12 story). 

This argument was based on the following: that “there is no principled basis in law to treat the employee claims differently than those of other unsecured creditors or, more importantly, secured creditors.”

This argument was presented despite the fact that the monitor of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the company (Northern Pulp), nor other creditors like Terrapure Environmental Company or former owner Blue Wolf Capital, had not objected to this employee disbursement. 

The government is standing there by its lonely self, like a stiff, cold statue, on its “principled law” platform. It may be legally right, but it is morally wrong. 

Let us be clear: our government gave notice to hard-working Nova Scotian women and men, two weeks before Christmas, of a decision that meant Northern Pulp would be shut down and they’d lose their jobs. Basically, they were thrown under the bus. This Christmas present was wrapped up in the time-worn politically hollow phrase of “we feel your pain,” thereby adding salt to an open raw wound. 

Now this same government is fighting to ensure that their severance package will remain at half of payout status and that their pension may remain at risk.  

I agree with Pictou MLA and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston that our government must not abuse these families by employing them as pawns in their negotiations with Northern Pulp in order to solve serious problems of their own making. 

Perhaps these hard-working families have a strong case to sue their government under the principles of natural justice and cruel and unusual punishment.  

Clarence H. Felderhof, Fox Harbour

 McNeil gets B minus

 In the wake of his resignation announcement, I reflect on the fact that Premier Stephen McNeil was the right person at the right time to come on board in 2013. 

His leadership and style of government pulled Nova Scotia back from the brink of political peril and mismanagement by the previous crew. He then set us on a more stable course for the past half-dozen years. Nova Scotians needed to be challenged more and coddled less. 

McNeil is leaving at the right time. All political leaders have a relatively short shelf life, and I think he recognized that his best-before date was in the not-too-distant future. 

For his leadership effort, I would assign an overall grade of B minus. It was evident that he was faltering and tiring over the past nine months. With a couple of notable exceptions, his government did a reasonable job of striking the elusive balance among social, economic and environmental competing needs. 

McNeil badly mismanaged both the Northern Pulp and Yarmouth ferry files. His leadership and government took a hit in both cases for not bargaining in good faith and not achieving better outcomes. Another significant detraction from his legacy is his government’s lack of progress in attracting sufficient numbers of rural/small community doctors. 

It will take a new visionary leader with the proper balance of fortitude and compassion to once again steady the good ship Nova Scotia and correct our course. 

Gary Westoll, Brule Point 

Need more of the same

Hear, hear. Doug Appt’s Aug. 12 letter, “Keeping unions in line,” hit the mark. If the public fully understood the cost to the average taxpayer of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union pension unfunded liability (more than $1.6 billion), which I understand must be backstopped by law by all Nova Scotians, they, too, might be shocked at the demands of those who are generally well-treated government employees. 

Try living on a teacher’s salary in the U.S., which is about 60 per cent of our Canadian teachers’ compensation. The pension rewards are also among the best in the country.

Our premier recognized these imbalances and tackled the issues head on. I hope our next premier is as tough-minded.

Denis Connor, Halifax

Driving callers away

I called 811 recently to inquire about a COVID-19 test and I was on hold for over 30 minutes. There is a recurring recording stating “Your call is important to us.” There is no callback function or other options. 

I understand folks are busy at the Nova Scotia Health Department, but if one is required to endlessly listen to a recording, it’s human nature to give up and hang up. 

Wait times are dissuading individuals from even bothering to call, let alone get tested. The administrators need to spend the money for more operators or to install a callback function if they sincerely believe “your call is important to us.”

J.D. Wagstaff, Kentville

Picking on Trump

Your editorial cartoonists and the media in general need to leave alone. He’s the greatest president ever! 

Michael Linehan, Dartmouth

Read original article here.