It’s a new year! 2017 ended in a flurry of activity and it would be impossible to summarize it all here, but I’ll offer a few highlights.
First, our office added a great Community Outreach Officer, Grace Szucs. Grace has made it her business (and mine) to connect with every organization in Dartmouth South. We spent much of November and December meeting folks from the community like the crew from DASC Industries, who create opportunities for adults with challenges to thrive while supporting local businesses. We met with the staff at HomeBridge who take care of some of the most vulnerable people in Dartmouth South: youth in care who have nowhere else to turn.
Susan Leblanc, MLA for Dartmouth North and I had a very productive conversation with Dartmouth Non-Profit Housing Society around the incredible, below market housing they provide, and about the need for more affordable housing across Dartmouth. With the recent major Federal funding announcement for affordable housing, and the efforts in this area at the municipal level, we now have to hold the McNeil government’s feet to the fire. Susan has introduced legislation to this effect and continues to be a fierce advocate. My office also met with Alice Housing and learned more about the amazing ways in which they support women and families fleeing intimate partner violence, and how we can help people navigate supports.
Moving into the holiday season, our focus shifted back to the challenges around healthcare here in Dartmouth. As you’ve likely heard, if not experienced, by now, Dartmouth (Dartmouth, in this case, being everything we think of as Dartmouth -- including Cole Harbour, Dartmouth East, the Prestons; all of the communities served by the Dartmouth General Hospital) is facing some significant healthcare challenges, mainly in the area of primary care.
We learned last fall that 40% of doctors in the Dartmouth area are set to retire inside of the next five years. In our office we are doing all that we can to bring attention to this situation by being in regular contact with doctors, speaking with constituents and helping them navigate existing services, and regularly speaking with the media.
I’ve been vocal and clear about the need for immediate attention to this issue in Question Period at the Public Accounts Committee and in the media. There seems to have been some progress; we know of at least one doctor who has moved into the area. But judging from the constant media and other attention to this issue, including the Doctors NS lawsuit against the Province of NS, the government can no longer deny that in Dartmouth and beyond, this is a crisis situation. I look forward to action in 2018.
At the constituency level, we’re doing everything we can for people who approach us with challenges around primary care. If you are in need of a doctor please call 811 and add your name to the list. If you are in crisis or have complex needs we are happy to add you to our lists as well, though it’s not likely to be faster. If you have a doctor, stay with them even if they are not local.
Speaking of the Hospital, the good news is that the wonderful renovations are proceeding quickly and successfully, and we can’t wait to see the completed building. We look forward to hosting an information session in March with Adrienne Malloy, President and CEO of the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation. Stay tuned to claudiachender.ca and our social media channels for more information.
In less positive news, the Pain Clinic at the Dartmouth General Hospital has now closed, leaving its hundreds of patients to get a new referral to the QEII clinic. Our understanding is that one doctor has set up a private practice and will take some patients with her, but overall it’s another healthcare deficit for our community.
We hit the ground running in the new year. I was thrilled to join the Provincial Curling Championship opening ceremonies and reception at the Dartmouth Curling Club last week. It was a pleasure to be on the ice with these fantastic athletes, and participate in a legendary Dartmouth institution--did you know that the club was started in 1936?
We also met with Bea McGregor, Director of Alderney Landing who filled us in on all of the amazing goings-on in and around that building. The Saturday market has grown into what I think is the best farmers market in the HRM, and was named a favourite in the 2017 Halifax Metro Community Choice Awards.
From a successful Christmas Tree lighting this year, to the Christkindle Market, to summer events like the Mother Goose Festival, theatre events, movie screenings, and art opening at the Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing is truly a community gem.
In the fall I was able to tour COVE, the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship that is taking shape at the old Coast Guard base at the end of Parker Street. It’s an ambitious project. I was happy to attend their presentation at Public Accounts and discover that the recent call for expressions of interest garnered more proposals than can be accommodated. It certainly seems like it will be an exciting project, one that is good for the province, and that will support the surrounding residential areas with an estimated 200+ people working on the site and many more visiting. We will also be organizing a tour of COVE for local residents in the spring, so watch for that announcement. Note that COVE offers general tours on Friday afternoons.
As the NDP Spokesperson for Education, Justice and Human Rights, and Business, my desk is also full! On the Education front, we continue to monitor the implementation of Pre-Primary as it rolls out across the province and are waiting to see how the recently-announced federal funding for early childhood education will be allocated.
I’m anxiously awaiting the report of the Administrative System Review undertaken by Dr. Avis Glaze at the behest of the Department of Education and Early Childhood which we should be seeing any day. And of course the fall was full of consultations and conversations prompted by the Commission on Inclusive Education, the findings of which are due to be released on March 31.
On the Justice and Business file, it’s likely that cannabis will take centre stage in the spring sitting. In the meantime, we are waiting to hear more details of the plans for supply and retail decisions. We know that cannabis will be co-located with alcohol at the NSLC but we have no further information than that.
On a more serious note, I’m continuing to monitor the situation in the province’s correctional facilities, particularly solitary confinement or administrative segregation practices--about which we have very little information despite repeated assurances. With support from steadfast partners like the Elizabeth Fry Society, Women’s Wellness Within, and advocates like El Jones, I’m working with my caucus colleagues to make sure we don’t doubly victimize our most vulnerable. I’ll be visiting the Waterville Youth Facility in the next few weeks and will report on that in my next post.
Last, on the Justice file, the NDP Caucus has recently called for an immediate end to the practice of Street checks by the RCMP and HRP. While the Minister has committed to waiting for the results of the review being done into the practice by Dr. Scot Wortley on behalf of the NS Human Rights Commission, it is our position that immediately stopping the practice of street checks -- recording people’s information and identification when stopped without cause -- is more than called for given the ample evidence of the harms of this practice, and the lack of any concrete information that it is a valuable tool. This does NOT mean that peace officers would be prohibited from interacting with individuals and communities, it would simply place parameters around the recording of information from those interactions.
There is so much more going on every day, but I’ll leave it there for now. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, (902) 406-2301, or come by our office at 33 Ochterloney St.