Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant resumed the session with the Speech from the Throne.
In it, Premier Stephen McNeil outlined how the province will place the needs and aspirations of Nova Scotians at the foundation of its decision-making.
"Putting Nova Scotians first begins with an open and accountable government, respecting taxpayers' dollars, and creating a province where education and health care are recognized as requirements for societal well-being," said Premier McNeil.
The throne speech outlined the key priorities that will guide the government's work, including:
-- within government's statutory authority over providing electricity, specific steps will be taken to ensure true consumer choice and fairness
-- the needs of Nova Scotia's entrepreneurs will be met through appropriate assistance, and there will be enhanced support for employee training and skills development
-- a reinvestment in the school system will ensure that every student and educator has access to the classroom supports and modern curriculum needed to excel in a rapidly changing world
-- health care will be realigned to place the needs of patients, families, and people first
-- investments will be made in communities so seniors, people with disabilities, and those in need get the services and care they require
"The first piece of legislation will be the Electricity Reform Act," said the premier. "This bill will permit consumer choice and competition, while laying the groundwork for consultation with Nova Scotians on our energy future."
Premier McNeil said the province must navigate a shift in direction to respond to the recent economic recession and other economic realities, including a decline in full-time jobs, static federal transfer levels and population decline.
Government will direct more of its attention toward small and medium-sized Nova Scotia businesses, encourage greater entrepreneurship and focus on innovative and sustainable economic development.
Government has also set a target of reducing expenditures by one per cent and will identify appropriate areas for increased efficiency. Health care and education have been exempted.
Government will also work to attract more talent to the province to strengthen the economy and improve the province's finances. This will include establishing a new immigration advisory council.
The government recognizes a need for greater transparency and accountability, particularly with taxpayers' dollars. Several steps are underway to ensure this, including an independent review of MLA salaries, benefits, and expenses, legislation to increase transparency for economic development assistance, and legislation to ensure taxpayers' dollars are protected from partisan advertising and signs.
The government has a vision for education, starting with the first comprehensive curriculum review in 25 years. The province will restore funding and invest it in areas that will benefit the greatest number of children.
The government will also ensure the health-care system puts patients first so all Nova Scotians get the care they need, when they need it. It will improve community-based decision-making by streamlining administration and investing in front-line health care.
It will appoint a physician recruitment and retention action team to competitively recruit new doctors and keep the ones that are here.
The government will review the Continuing Care Strategy to ensure it meets the long-term needs of seniors, at home and in facilities.
It will also develop a multi-year strategy focusing on prevention and services to sexual assault victims.
"Building strong, local communities is key to a strong, viable province," said Premier McNeil.
The government will partner with municipalities to support sustainable municipal government, and will seek opportunities to work collaboratively on important municipal initiatives. Recognizing the importance of diverse, vibrant communities, government will work with Nova Scotians to develop the province's first culture strategy.
Government will also introduce a new statutory holiday in February to honour cultural identity and quality of life.
For more information or to read the full throne speech, visit http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/throne-speech/ .