Who Represents You?

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  • Recently, your column concerning teachers and our legislature garnered some debate. I believe that both participants missed the point.

    In my opinion, and that of many others, the people with the required skill sets to run a province (indeed a country and a municipality, reference the current King’s Council shenanigans and the Harper government) do not offer for office. The pay is too little (compared to what they currently earn for the most part) and the “crap” that politicians take from opposition parties and the media is not worth stepping up, apparently. A prominent local business leader stated this quite clearly a number of years ago when he was asked to serve.

    Gordon Boyce | August 2, 2015 | Reply

  • Dear Bill, I contend that it is policy that matters, not politicians. MLA’s would be more representative of society if they were selected by lottery. Any policy that MLA’s may produce should be subject to a vote by all people being governed. I’d suggest that if policy does not have the support of at least 70% of the electorate then it should be ditched.
    The present system results in too much government and government sticking its nose where it does not belong.

    Brian Sanderson | September 2, 2012 | Reply

  • We need transparency and a good public accounting that shows where our taxes are going . We really have no idea what we are getting for our taxes . Take the tourism business owner in rural Nova Scotia, he pays Municipal property taxes, he maybe has a 2% room tax that goes to some unelected government group, he collects 15% on every room he sells and that goes to government , and now he is told that we’ll create another crown corporation with another unelected board to “govern” tourism . Why bother stay in the business when you are only collecting money for an unelected organization to play around with as they see fit and with no real accountability. The government net gets over $ 225 million in taxes alone from tourism and spends maybe $ 20 million itself and gives several millions to third parties .

    Caper | November 30, 2011 | Reply

  • “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

    In my opinion, many Nova Scotians are aware of the problems with our government, economy, and overall attitude to immigrants – to touch on a few of the issues you have raised in this website.

    With the government being the major employer – robbing Peter to pay Paul – those who benefit indirectly or directly do not want things to change.

    Until the pain is so great or there is an outside element that can bring change, things will continue.

    Change does not come from the majority. It takes time, effort, will and organization.

    I applaud and support your efforts.

    Anne Stephaniuk | January 28, 2011 | Reply

  • Brilliant..but the trick is how the lonely and tiny agents for change in this province can actually make this happen against the wishes of the powerful institutions of government and their bogus commissions and “not for profit” authorities who want simply to maintain the status quo..also the argument has always been put forward that elected reps need to be fairly compensated to offset their public service as they take time away from their occupations to “serve”..a cursory look at the backgrounds of our current MLA’s and MP’s would indicate that nearly all make much more as an elected rep than they did before politics? …and what is “public service” these days anyway?..Is it the elected rep or civil servant with great salaries,benefits and perks..or is it the volunteer kids basketball coach..or the parents who take kids to activities..or simply the ordinary Nova Scotia citizen who pays all his taxes and knows he will never have any of those great political appts that his taxes make possible..I believe the revolution must be imminent

    Allan Rodger | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  • Again you raise some very interesting points, real issues that require real attention. The question is how does one get some traction on these ideas? Our politicians today appear to over-whelmed with the day to day issues and virtually frozen from any strategic decision making, let alone Vision building.

    I wonder if the Chamber in conjunction with FUSION (let’s face it, young people, and the attraction and retention thereof, is also a critical issue), could or would host a “world café” type event with the 3 party leaders to discuss these ideas? THAT would attract attention and interest.

    The other elephant in the room of significance is the dysfunctional political system within HRM. Without a vibrant, energetic, young capital city, one with a direction and sense of purpose, our province will never achieve anything close to its potential. There is no status quo, cities either move forward, or they decline. Treating water is not a strategy.

    Jim Mills | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  • Very interesting perspectives you have laid out here and we thank you for your continued commitment to trying to bring some truths AND sanity to all this which frankly, given the system AND the players, is rather tough to do. I also find it a real shame Bill, that other so-called business people and upstanding community members are not joining forces with you to try and end some of the ROT that is consuming all of us and attempt to bring some sort of sanity, civility, honesty & integrity to a system badly in need of it. Frankly, I think it’s very scary from your table below that close to FIFTY percent of our politicians come from the teaching profession(?) AND career politicians!!! To me, this speaks volumes to the root cause of a lot of our problems!

    Unfortunately, people just tend to go their merry ways in their daily lives, complain like Hell about all that is dished to them, but will NEVER get involved to the point of writing a Letter to the Editor, much contacting their representatives to “keel haul” them on the lousy jobs they are doing.

    Our debt is strangling us and has gotten much worse under the present administration. Yesterday, my wife talked to a good friend back home in Germany and she told her that right now, the VAT is at a whopping 19% and they also now have a 7% TAX on FOOD!!! Look at Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the list is virtually endless. ALL are drowning in DEBT wracked up by greedy, CORRUPT & irresponsible Gov’ts. And then we’re supposed to pony up AID to Pakistan when virtually NO ONE in that country pays ANY TAXES, esp. the elite who have been successful in designing it that way. The “average” politician there is worth close to a $$$MILLION which is HUGE for THAT country. Look at all the AID we have sent to Africa over the years and are they any better off? A resounding NO should be the answer as the majority of the aid is stolen by some “tin-pot dictator” who now has $$$BILLIONS in western AID squirreled away in his private Swiss bank accounts.

    Our situation here is extremely troubling & disconcerting and will only get worse, I fear, UNLESS we get some accountability and some good people in there who know the meaning of helping humankind and the value of TRUE community service, and kick into oblivion, the teachers and career politicos that now dominate the scene!!!

    So Bill, keep up the good fight and I’ll continue to help any way I can by getting the word out and maybe we can get some quality people in the right positions!!!

    Wendell Wamboldt | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  • We of the Atlantica Party have said from day one that, despite what MLAs say, they do not ‘represent’ their constituents. Why? Because their votes, which is their power, is controlled by their party. I have spoken with hundreds of Nova Scotians and almost all agree that they are not represented under the current system. What we need is a level playing field where MLAs are free to oppose their party. The Atlantica Party has a package of reforms called our Democracy Manifesto to fix our democracy here in Nova Scotia.

    Jonathan Dean | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  • Bill: I feel that those nominated would practically be friends of the leader and therefore a roving band of unelected mla’s undermining those who were elected (there would be real conflict) and so does not change my view. Also, attempting to represent people or groups also has not worked as you have already said. Fiddling with the voter system will not make it better.

    Wayne Fiander | September 25, 2010 | Reply

  • Some good thoughts.
    I find in Nova Scotia there are many people who have no one they can see as a leader, nor are there many issues of substance.
    In the US we are seeing Tea Party activity as an almost natural response to parties who have platforms people can’t relate to.
    A “Nanny State” like Nova Scotia is not sustainable. Time we grew up and faced reality.
    Why not a Tea Party or Kaylee Party that could get some press coverage?
    These ideas could be advanced and we could see what happens.

    Peter McCurdy | September 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Peter,thanks for your comments. I agree that we have to be more thoughtful about how we spend our money but do not share your enthusiasm for the tea party crowd in the USA. Anger is not a strategy for doing things better.


      Bill | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  • We are not being well served by the current system and, quite frankly, Nova Scotia needs to attract higher quality candidates for public office. Far too many of our politicians are products of the system that needs to be reformed.

    The partial PR model you propose is one option for changing the rules of the game. It’s worth exploring. You would be countering the ingrained “tall poppy syndrome” afflicting the province.

    There may be a simpler, less institutional approach. Elect NS party leaders who will commit to recruiting true community leaders as cabinet timber. Back in 1896, Wilfrid Laurier assembled a “cabinet of all talents” and circumvented the mediocrity within caucus ranks.

    Does it come down to finding political leaders with the courage to be bold?
    Since John Savage’s demise, no one in NS wants to take any risks. When I ask people which of Savage’s initiatives have been undone, I hear silence.
    Watching the NDP drifting into the future, I’m coming around to the point of view that what we need is someone who isn’t afraid to go down fighting on matters of principle.

    Paul W. Bennett | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  • Bill: The proportional representation hybrid you propose only means we have 10 MLA’s who are not accountable to anyone. Given we already have a Senate, this is a non-starter. As for the MLA pensions, this whipping post is nothing compared to civil service pension costs and bail outs. The typical Nova Scotian worker, outside the government sector has felt the reality of the markets in their RRSP’s and savings while the public sector simply has to sit and yelp for a taxpayer funded bailout. Better to spend time on this billion dollar issue than pounding on a few million to the people we elect.

    Wayne Fiander | September 22, 2010 | Reply

    • Wayne the question of accountability is important and interesting. To whom is a MP or MLA accountable when they vote with the party, as they do more than 90% of the time regardless of their own views? Not every Liberal MP who voted for the gun registry actually supports it personnally nor does that vote neccessarily represent the views of his or her constituents. Ditto for Conservatives who voted against.

      But is that not part of the party system?


      Bill | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  • Very interesting, I new we need to have some changes and these look as good as any.

    We also need a constant dialogue on our democratic system and how it should or can be changed to better serve the greater group and just not the party in power. That is so much like a dictatorship with a fancy flower, all votes should be free, if you can’t shouw your members that this is the best way to do it maybe it should wait.

    Brian Knight | September 22, 2010 | Reply

  • We need far more transparency to show us where our tax dollars are being spent. We need to see every cheque they write and what it is for. We need to see a financial statement that shows what each department is taking in as revenue and spending as expenses. There’s a computer in the government some where that can easily pump out this kind of data. The Bureaucrats are just not accountable with so much secrecy. The MLA’s are really a Board of Directors, certainly the Cabinet, yet we see no hard facts on what they do with the money. What is there to hide if you are doing a good job? Just thought I heard we have hit a new high with a $13 billion debt; are we living off of credit cards? Where is the work being done to make sure the size of government is what we need? How many senior managers do we have for every front line employee? Governments tend to be top heavy, so where do we stand in relation to other provinces? Government is to a degree a business, but the shareholders get no information. We need people with a vision and who can take the bull by the horns and show us financial results, even at the Municipal level .We talk about subsidizing universities, isn’t our first concern our Nova Scotian students?

    PS | September 22, 2010 | Reply

  • Thank you, Bill, for another fine post and for your valiant efforts to raise the deplorable level of public dialogue.

    Here’s my Facebook post on your most recent commentary:

    Who Represents Us? In Nova Scotia, Bill Black continues to generate “fresh ideas.” His latest revelation: The NS government spends $9 billion/yr ($1 million/hr), and 60% of the elected MLAs are from the public sector, while 14% are career politicians. Whatever your politics, Bill leads by example. Is anyone listening?

    If and when you decide to hold public forums on these critical issues, count me in!

    Paul W. Bennett
    Director, Schoolhouse Consulting
    Halifax, NS

    Paul W. Bennett | September 22, 2010 | Reply

  • Seniors are also under represented (data) ? We have a great number of highly trained & experienced retirees in NS. They don’t require pensions!

    Gerald Klassen | September 22, 2010 | Reply

  • In earlier days there was the perception that politicians were people who had made their mark in the “real” world and who could afford to live on the meager salaries offered to politicians of the day. They were giving back to society in this manner. Now salaries and benefits are such that some are attracted to politics as a way to earn more than they would be able to in the “real” world. The method you propose to attract talent that would not normally want to go through the rigors of an election campaign sounds like something worth a try. It just might lead to better government.

    Ron Gilkie | September 21, 2010 | Reply

  • THe pensions a way too high. Between John Hamm, Donald Cameron, John Buchanan and Rodney MacDonald we are going to the poorhouse.

    John Guthro | September 21, 2010 | Reply

  • I feel we are at a crossroads of financial reality. With a population of less than a million how can we support a full provincial government with all that implies? Surely large scale cooperation with other Provinces in areas we are clearly duplicating services must be attractive. I became aware recently of a family law incident involving separated parents and cross border (NB) events involving children. The individual I know had to start from complete scratch in NB as if nothing that had been previously been settled in NS existed. It was as if an international border had been crossed. A small example maybe, but where do we start to realistically cut cost and rationalise services?


    Nick Jupp | September 21, 2010 | Reply