Historic investment to improve healthcare and new legislation to get more Nova Scotians faster access to care were highlights of the spring legislative session that closed today, April 12.
The Patient Access to Care Act reduces administrative burdens on healthcare providers so they will have more time to see patients. The act ensures they can work to their full scope of practice and eliminates requests for sick notes, except in specific circumstances.
The legislation also makes it easier for doctors to come to Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada, eliminating their application fees and ensuring their applications are processed within five days.
“Our top priority remains providing Nova Scotians with access to faster, better healthcare,” said Premier Tim Houston. “The legislation will improve access to care for Nova Scotians and supports our physicians and healthcare providers so they can see more patients. Our budget invests what is needed to support this and many other changes in our Action for Health plan to fix healthcare.”
Budget 2023-24 invests $6.5 billion to support healthcare workers, get Nova Scotians faster access to healthcare and build modern healthcare facilities.
It includes funding to train more nurses and physicians, add more physician assistants, provide high-dose flu shots for seniors and expand the More Opportunity for Skilled Trades program to include eligible nurses. Through that program, nurses under age 30 will receive a refund of the provincial income tax paid on the first $50,000 of income starting in the 2023 tax year.
Amendments to the Public Utilities Act will hold Nova Scotia Power more accountable for service delivery by increasing potential fines related to power outages and other performance standards.
Changes to the act will increase the total amount in administrative penalties that can be levied against Nova Scotia Power in a year to $25 million, up from $1 million. Nova Scotia Power will pay any fines from its profits – ratepayers will not pay for these penalties.
The government also passed legislation to extend the rent cap to December 31, 2025. Amendments to the Interim Residential Rental Increase Cap Act respond to concerns from tenants and landlords. The Province intends to set the cap at five per cent per year starting January 1, 2024, in regulations.
Other legislation passed this session includes:
- amendments to the Electricity Act that open the door for more storage solutions for renewable electricity
- amendments to the Construction Projects Labour Relations Act that broaden the legislation to include large-scale green hydrogen production facilities as Nova Scotia transitions to renewable energy
- the new Road Trails Act, which creates a permanent set of rules so off-highway vehicle (OHV) operators can safely enjoy their vehicles on roads at approved locations; the act gives riders improved trail connections and better access to services like gas stations and restaurants.