HALIFAX (CP) — The Tory Opposition in Nova Scotia has called on Liberal members of the legislature “to stand up'' to Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil and vote against a contract the province intends to impose on its 9,300 public school teachers.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie called for a free vote Tuesday on the coming legislation and said Liberal members of the legislature should reject a “reckless'' bill by voting their conscience.
“Liberal MLAs have a choice to make,'' he said. “They can bend to Stephen McNeil's latest plan to impose a contract or they can stand up for the people they represent.''
The Nova Scotia government is expected to begin the process of imposing a contract on the teachers who have been locked in a bitter dispute with the government for months. It wants to introduce a bill that will bring an end to a dispute that has seen teachers reject three contract offers and launch a work-to-rule campaign. Pushing the legislation through the legislature is expected to take a week or more to complete.
Baillie said the bill could be unconstitutional and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees. He said the Conservatives will call for a series of recorded votes on the bill.
The province had hoped to convene an emergency session of the legislature Monday evening, but a massive storm forced Premier Stephen McNeil to delay the proceedings by a day. In a statement, McNeil said conditions would not improve prior to the sitting at about 8 p.m., and they would proceed at the same time Tuesday.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union and both opposition parties have condemned the use of legislation, saying it takes away teachers' rights.
The union is demanding its members be allowed to speak when the opportunity comes to propose amendments to whatever bill the government brings forward.
Elsewhere, the union asked teachers to register their displeasure on Twitter using the #underappreciated hashtag. It said the move was in recognition of Teacher Staff Appreciation Week, which runs from Feb. 12 to 18.
McNeil has said that the latest deal contained fair wage increases and made investments in classrooms, while demonstrating that the government wanted to work with teachers to make classrooms stronger.
He said with negotiations at a clear impasse, it was time for the government to act.
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