New environmental legislation, the end of tolls on the Cobequid Pass, a reset on the relationship with teachers, and ambitious plans for health care are among the items members of Nova Scotia's new cabinet are tasked with through the course of their mandate.
Ministerial mandate letters from Premier Tim Houston to his colleagues were released on Thursday. Ministers now have 90 days to formulate plans showing how they'll achieve their targets.
While some of these plans, such as the overhaul of health-care delivery in the province, were thoroughly discussed during the election campaign, other items in the letters are new.
Education Minister Becky Druhan, for example, will regularly visit classrooms and participate in staff meetings as she seeks a more collaborative approach to working with teachers and their union.
Environment Minister Tim Halman will bring in legislation this fall called the Enviro-Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, intended to reduce Nova Scotia's carbon footprint in the next decade while encouraging sustainable and green growth in the economy.
Halman said it will build on legislation the Liberals passed in 2019 but never proclaimed because the regulations weren't completed.
"We're going forwards, we're not going backwards," Halman said in an interview.
The Tory bill is intended to be a continuation of the now-expired Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, said Halman. That bill included enshrined climate targets, something the Liberal bill did not.
The minister said he's still discussing with staff how they will proceed.
"If it is going to be bold and decisive, I believe that we need to be clear with Nova Scotians what the expected timeline is," said Halman.
Concerns about housing approach
The mandate letter for Housing Minister John Lohr calls on him to implement the recommendations of the affordable housing commission, as well as inventory government-owned land that could be used for new housing stock.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the letter doesn't give him confidence in the government's plans to address the affordable housing crisis in the province.
"For eight years, the previous government really took a modest, small role, opening less than 200 units in that whole period and there's no indication in this mandate letter that there's any picture with the new government that they're going to do it any different," said Burrill.
Elsewhere, Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane will establish a five-year timeline for the reduction of childhood poverty in the province, something that's proved to be a stubborn problem for previous governments to address.
Goodbye, Cobequid Pass tolls
Public Works Minister Kim Masland is poised to remove the tolls from the Cobequid Pass on Highway 104.
Masland's mandate letter calls for that work to begin immediately. A spokesperson for the department said the anticipated timeline is late fall, but the date will be finalized when the decommissioning plan is complete.
The Tories will remove the tolls for all vehicles, including personal, commercial and tourist traffic.
Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton has been asked to implement the parks and protected areas plan through an order-in-council. A spokesperson for Rushton's department said some parts of the work are closer to completion than others, but the government is committed to getting it done.
Justice Minister Brad Johns will do the necessary work to establish fixed election dates and give order-making power to the province's information and privacy commissioner.
Johns is also being charged with ending street checks in the province, creating a human trafficking prosecution team, and amending the Victims' Rights and Services Act to, among other things, enshrine the right of a survivor of sexual violence to legal representation.
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