April 18, 2021: Our deepest condolences on these dark days

To the families, friends and neighbours who loved, and were loved by those taken from us...

Tom Bagley
Kristen Beaton
Baby Beaton
Greg Blair
Jamie Blair
Joy Bond
Peter Bond
Corrie Ellison
Gina Goulet
Frank Gulenchyn
Dawn Gulenchyn
Lillian Hyslop
Alanna Jenkins
Sean McLeod
Lisa McCully
Heather O'Brien
Const. Heidi Stevenson
Elizabeth Joanne Thomas
Aaron Tuck
Emily Tuck
Jolene Oliver
Joey Webber
John Zahl

Please accept our deepest condolences on this one-year anniversary of such dark days.

It’s been a difficult year for the families, the communities and all Nova Scotians. We’re thinking of you, we’re there for you and we will continue to be #NovaScotiaStrong for you.

What else happened this week:

  • With so many health facilities in Pictou County shut down under this Liberal government, the Minister of Health has a hard time keeping track of them all. When the Minister answered my question last week about Mental Health services in Pictou County, I had a feeling he was mistaken. The Minister said that the short-term unit at Aberdeen Regional Hospital in 2015 was going to reopen soon. It came as a surprise to my colleagues, Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane and Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn, and me because they closed that mental health unit six years ago. It was supposed to be only for three months. But those services were never returned and people still have to be transferred to Antigonish, Truro or elsewhere in the province if they require hospitalization for mental health. Bottom line, we need more mental health services, and as the representative for one of the Pictou areas, I will draw attention to the big gap that exists in our county.
  • On Monday, the MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, Brian Comer, tabled the Child Poverty Reduction Act. This Act would require the government to set five-year targets for lowering child poverty rates and to report annually on its progress. With one in four children in our province living below the poverty line, Brian stresses the importance of putting a strategy in place immediately. Tragically, this statistic rises to one in three children on Cape Breton Island. It’s overdue—we can’t continue to fail our children. Nova Scotia hasn’t seen much success in helping vulnerable children and it’s time we make a change. Let’s work together and lift children and adults out of poverty.
  • April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The PC Caucus has introduced legislation aimed at educating and protecting Nova Scotians, while sending a message that elected officials have a duty to survivors to keep the issue front and center. PC MLAs Karla MacFarlane and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin say that it will take prolonged discussion and awareness to make sure everyone understands how often these assaults occur. This is a serious crime, and as elected officials we have a role to help combat sexual assault so we may all live in healthier and safer communities.

Tip of the hat

The government introduced legislation that will officially designate August 1 as Emancipation Day in recognition of the history and impacts of slavery in the province. MLA Brad Johns introduced this legislation earlier in the session.

We’re pleased to see that the government is acting on this issue, and has received unanimous support from all elected officials.

Emancipation Day recognizes not only when slavery was abolished in Canada and other British colonies (Aug. 1, 1834), but also acknowledges African Nova Scotian peoples’ continued struggles against racial discrimination and injustices. Those injustices continue today, and are all too often not recognized, acknowledged or discussed in our everyday lives.

Failing grade

On Thursday, we woke up to a devastating exposé in the publication The Coast, titled "What happened at Northwood?" written by Stephanie Nolen.

The exposé was difficult to read, but very necessary. It included detailed accounts of events that unfolded behind Northwood’s closed doors, which resulted in the deaths of 53 Nova Scotians over those fateful six weeks last year. The detailed documentation and interviews with family members noted the province’s failure to take early action, a lack of consistency in decision-making, staffing shortages, and the impact of pairing infected and uninfected residents.

The article makes it crystal clear that the Liberal government’s “review” of Northwood did not adequately depict what happened in the facility.

Some historical context is necessary. In 2016, Northwood commissioned engineering studies that showed the building could be expanded upwards, allowing for new rooms that would permit single occupancy. The double and triple bunking was not working back then.

In 2017, 2018, and again in 2019, Northwood asked the provincial government for a one-time $12.5 million to do the build. Each year—2017, 2018, 2019—that request was rejected time after time. The risks of an outbreak were known, and overcrowding was one of the key culprits.

Yet the Liberals never acted.

Given everything we read in the article, I called on Premier Rankin to announce a fully transparent, detailed inquiry immediately. This government must learn from the tragedy at Northwood if they’re ever going to make better decisions.

He said no. He thinks the report is sufficient.

Premier Rankin’s recent re-announcement to create 236 long-term care beds over five years will yield little improvement for the aging population in this province—1,500 of whom are waiting for a bed.

So much has been lost in this last year. The Liberals, even with a new premier at the helm, continue to be satisfied to stand by the cuts to long-term care.

They should be pounding the table for more beds, more staff and more options for our seniors. Dignity for our Seniors is what we’re proposing. Take a look here.


There are no committees scheduled for next week.

Until next week,