Capers get testy in the House

Tempers flared yesterday in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as Liberal MLA Geoff MacLellan questioned Public Service Commission Minister Frank Corbett about moving civil servants out of Halifax to rural communities.

MacLellan represents Glace Bay and is happy the Department of Justice is transferring 36 jobs to New Waterford, but the Liberal Rural and Economic Development critic wants details about the costs associated with the move.

The province says it will be “cost neutral” while MacLellan wondered if the price tag makes the moves worthwhile. It’s a fair question, but until the government knows how many people are going to move with their jobs, it’s difficult to determine what the cost will be and whether the move makes sense on a balance sheet.

Corbett, who is the MLA for Cape Breton Centre which includes New Waterford, got a little testy when MacLellan pressed him on claim there would be future savings to make up for the initial costs.

“This is a cost neutral move, Mr. Speaker,” Corbett said. “There will be costs in the front end when people are moving, but I’ll tell you what’s not cost neutral. When the Liberals closed the pits in Cape Breton and sent them out to Alberta and points west. That wasn’t cost neutral, that darn near killed our island.”

That, of course, was a reference to the Chretien Liberals selling of Devco — then Canada’s largest underground coal mine — which led to massive layoffs.

By the end of his comment, Corbett’s voice had reached a crescendo and sparked applause from the NDP caucus, yelling from the opposition benches, and drew MacLellan to his feet.

It was then that the Gentle Voice of Reason from Whitney Pier, a.k.a Speaker Gordie Gosse, stepped in to defuse the dispute between the MLA from New Waterford and his counterpart from Glace Bay.

“Order!” Gosse pleaded and then waited. “Let’s just take a short little deep breath. Relax, OK? It’s becoming a bit heated in here, so I’d ask the members to take a deep breath so we can continue a good debate in the chamber in a nice Parliamentary way, alright?”

The Speaker did the right thing to settle things down, but might have made history as the first Philadelphia Flyers fan to break up a fight.

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