© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
Premier Darrell Dexter (centre) speaks to Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar (right) and Amherst Rotary Club president Paul Calder after both he and Skabar spoke to the club on Monday.
AMHERST – The past four years have been full of challenges, but Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar says the government of which he’s a part of has met those challenges without hesitation.
“A lot has happened over the last four years with many new initiatives to make life better for Nova Scotian families, all while balancing the budget,” Skabar told members of the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday. “There are some who suggest it was all done by smoke and mirrors, but the auditor general is in concurrence that our budget is balanced and for the first time in 30 years the bond-rating agencies have increased our credit rating.”
Skabar told Rotarians getting elected in 2009 was one of the biggest honours he’s ever received. He said he still loves the job of serving his constituents and plans to reoffer when Nova Scotians go back to the polls either later this year or early in 2014.
The former federal civil servant said he’s been crisscrossing the riding listening to constituents and gathering information on what they’d like to see in the coming years.
Skabar, who attended the sod-turning for the new West Highlands Elementary earlier Monday, said the school project is an example of three levels of government working together to make sure the school is built in the right place.
He also pointed out that the Cumberland campus of the Nova Scotia Community Collge is also continuing to grow. Five years ago, he said, there were 207 students attending classes. Today, there is just over 500.
“There’s a concept that Amherst is suffering and not growing because there are no opportunities,” he told Rotarians. “The community college has grown by more than two-and-a-half times and these are job ready students when they graduate. There are plenty of opportunities out there and the success we’ve seen at the college shows that.”
The MLA said a Made In Cumberland solution has helped the province “move the yardsticks” in the provision of health care. Skabar said the collaborative emergency centres have helped take the pressure off rural ERs by guaranteeing them same day or next day access to a doctor.
Other initiatives include funding insulin pumps for children, providing dental care for children up to age 14, capping the price of generic drugs and waiving ambulance fees for low-income Nova Scotians.
Skabar said he’s in favour of maintaining the present system of district health authorities. He said constituents often bring health-care issues to him and he’s able to call the Cumberland Health Authority for answers.
He said he’s opposed to reducing the number of health authorities that’s being proposed by both the Conservatives and Liberals.
Skabar pointed out the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador will bring about lower energy costs for Nova Scotians and benefit the local economy. The MLA said the price of power is continuing to increase because of its reliance on coal. He believes switching to hydroelectricity will bring stability to power costs and ease some of the burden on those who can least afford higher power bills.
Premier Darrell Dexter said there are many positive things happening in Amherst. He said he was in Cape Breton last week meeting with business leaders about some of the challenges they’re facing. He said Amherst’s success was something that was raised.
“As they were going around the table, one of them said they need to re-invent themselves and be like Amherst, which has re-invented itself as a centre for small manufacturers. It’s vibrant and it’s growing,” the premier said. “It’s a story about self-confidence and fulfillment. When you have leadership that believes their community can be economically and socially prosperous that image not only translates into good things for the community, but it’s not very long before people on the outside see that as well.”
The premier said economic and social prosperity are linked with economic development required to support the social programs people need.