The spring session of the provincial legislature wrapped up on Friday.
HALIFAX – The province stood up for Nova Scotians, took action to protect them, and brought the province back to balance during the spring session of the House of Assembly.
The fifth session of the 61st General Assembly wrapped up today, May 10. The government introduced 21 bills and members sat for 32 days.
Cyber-Safety was the last government bill to be approved by the House, with third reading vote this morning, scheduled to emphasize its importance to Nova Scotia families. The province passed legislation to better protect victims of cyberbullies and hold people accountable for their actions through legislative changes and the introduction of Canada's first Cyber-Safety Act.
"Out of terrible tragedy, we had the opportunity to make changes to our laws to better protect Nova Scotians and help keep pace with technological changes that have shaped our daily lives," said Premier Darrell Dexter. "We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement and the federal government to keep improving and updating our laws to better protect young people online."
The Action Team on Sexual Violence and Bullying is leading this response.
Earlier in the session, Nova Scotia tabled a balanced budget, one of only four provinces to do so this year.
"Four years ago, we put in place a plan to make life better for Nova Scotians," said Premier Dexter. "There have been unexpected twists and turns, but we have seen that plan through, the culmination of which is a balanced budget. We are back on solid financial footing -- Nova Scotia is starting to turn the corner, and we must not turn back."
The legislature also voted to restore cuts made by previous governments to the children's dental program, and ensure even more of the poorest seniors will no longer have to pay income tax.
The budget included new funding for insulin pumps and supplies, expanded newborn screening and provided funding to establish early years centres. The province lowered the small business tax rate and introduced single-window, streamlined access to current small-business programs.
The House of Assembly unanimously supported the call from all Atlantic premiers, led by Premier Dexter, for the federal government to suspend changes to the Employment Insurance program pending evidence-based research is completed.
The province also unveiled Nova Scotia's first long-term affordable housing strategy. This plan will help make sure more Nova Scotians find affordable housing to meet their needs.
"Too many Nova Scotians struggle find good housing options they can afford. This strategy will build vibrant communities, revitalize existing neighbourhoods, and offer affordable new housing choices to Nova Scotia families," said Premier Dexter.
Current and future residents of Halifax Regional Municipality will benefit from increased affordable housing and community improvements as amendments to the HRM Charter give the municipality more planning flexibility.
Government took several other key steps to protect Nova Scotians:
-- Changes to the Adult Protection Act will better protect vulnerable seniors and their families from financial abuse.
-- Parents of children who are seriously ill, or the victim of a major crime, will benefit as updates to the Labour Standards Code that better protect their jobs during crisis situations.
-- Changes to the Workers' Compensation Act reimbursed benefits to 100 Nova Scotian women whose husbands died on the job that they were denied because they remarried before April 17, 1985.
-- The province put measures in place to protect cuts to the HST on home energy and other essential items through changes to the Financial Measures (2013) Act.
-- Through amendments to the Animal Protection Act, the province proposed increased penalties for animal abusers and paved the way for improved regulations to better protect animals.
-- Cellphone users will now have more information and better protections when signing contracts as amendments to the Consumer Protections Act came into effect May 1.
While the legislature was in session, the House stood together to support Boston in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, with the province pledging a $50,000 donation to the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.
This 61st General Assembly has averaged 33 days per session, a marked increase. For example, the 60th General Assembly sat an average of 18 days.
For a complete list of bills passed this session, visit http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/status-of-bills/ .