They're off! 3 Nova Scotia political parties hit the campaign trail
After Sunday's announcement of a May 30 provincial election, Nova Scotia's three major political parties didn't waste any time getting their messages across to voters.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill criticized Stephen McNeil's Liberals for not opening any new nursing home beds, collaborative emergency centres and hub schools while in office for almost four years.
"I think it is a government of zeros, quite literally," said Burrill.
The NDP is campaigning on increasing the minimum wage and providing better health care. Another priority is providing free tuition for Nova Scotia Community College students.
Burrill said not enough was being done to address hunger and poverty in the province. He said 20 per cent more people were going to food banks in Nova Scotia than on the day McNeil's Liberals took power in 2013.
Since taking power, the Liberals have been focused on balancing the province's budget. On Thursday, the Liberals introduced a budget with an expected surplus of almost $26 million, which it said it will introduce if the party's re-elected.
Burrill said this fixation has come at a heavy cost to the majority of Nova Scotians.
"The people of our province are entitled to say, 'Balanced for whom?' We don't think that it's balanced for the 130,000 people working for less than $15 an hour who are living on maxing out their plastic, that's not balance," Burrill told supporters at a campaign rally at a coffee shop in west-end Halifax.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie also zeroed in McNeil's so-called balanced budget fixation.
"Nova Scotians are far worse off than they were four years ago," he said. "Our rural communities have suffered, doctors and other medical professionals have moved ... 100,000 Nova Scotians don't have a family doctor at all and our wait times are among the worst in the country."
Baillie said his party is "pro-growth" and will take action to modernize infrastructure in the province.
On Saturday, Baillie said the party would make several platform announcements this week.
McNeil told his supporters in Halifax he is proud the Liberals have delivered "back-to-back balanced budgets."
'We're not done yet'
He said the province has fiscal stability for the first time in many years and said the party has delivered on its promise of "social compassion and economic prosperity."
"We got power rates under control. We restored funding to our schools, we made new investments in health care, we provided supports to those who need it the most ... we're not done yet," said McNeil.
He accused Baillie of wanting throw out all classroom improvement recommendations made by a special council of the province's teachers.
"We will accept everyone of them," said McNeil.
The council was one of the elements included in the contract the Liberal government voted to impose on teachers in February.
McNeil also took aim at Burrill and cautioned the NDP would throw the province's finances into disarray.
"Gary Burrill is ready to write a blank cheque to everyone," he said.