Maureen MacDonald put an end to any talk yesterday about allowing corner stores to sell beer and wine. It's something the Convenience Stores Association has been pushing for years. The debate was rekindled with Conservative leader Jamie Baillie's recent suggestion it was time to review liquor sales. But the finance minister says it's not going to happen, says she's quite happy with the way things are now. "I'm not aware that access to alcohol is a problem in Nova Scotia," she said. Little wonder MacDonald's holding the line on the status quo. The province's liquor stores, there are over 100 of them, are a real cash cow for the government's treasury with annual sales of over half a billion dollars. But she's also right that there's no problem with access to those liquor outlets. And it's not like we don't have enough alcohol-related issues to deal with without making access to booze even easier. So put me on the government's side on this one.
It sure sounds like Maureen MacDonald is setting us up for another broken government promise. The finance minister says people she's talking to in her pre-budget consultations are suggesting it might not be wise right now to balance the books by next spring at the risk cutting more public services. The NDP's back to balance promise by 2014 has been a key government goal. It now seems very likely that's not going to happen. More ammunition for the opposition as a date for a provincial election draws nearer.
And what's with the government's reluctance to privatize food services at Capital Health? It's been a money-losing effort for years, $1.5 million in the hole last year, yet Health Minister Dave Wilson says there are no plans to contract out Capital Health's Tim Horton's outlets and cafeterias. How does a Tim Horton's franchise lose money? Put it in the hands of the public service. Capital Health says its asked the government to contract out food serives for a couple of years now. Wilson yesterday said it's not going to happen and called it a Conservative approach. "We're not taking that approach," he said. Wisdom like that is part of the reason perhaps why the government won't be able to balance the budget as promised next year.
Commuter rail lives on, at least in the minds of those proponents like city councillor Tim Outhit. Don't get me wrong, I support a commuter rail service, but we've been talking about this for over a decade and we're no closer today to seeing it happen than we were when then Mayor Peter Kelly first raised the issue. The big problem is CN. It's involved in a legal fight with the city over responsibility for upgrading HRM's rail bridges and the company's refusing to meet with the city to talk about commuter rail. Council's transportation committee was told yesterday they can legally force CN to talk so that's where things stand now---another legal battle. Short of building our own rail line, and that's not going to happen, it doesn't look like a commuter rail service will be any part of HRM's distant future. Too bad.
Have a great weekend. Get involved. And if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.