The elimination of power walls to further discourage smoking, the introduction of midwives to the province’s team of health professionals, enhancements for the registered nurses profession and changes to the way pay day lenders can operate in Nova Scotia are just a few of the major amendments to legislation passed in the fall sitting of the legislature. “Significant changes to bills across the spectrum will bring about a heightened level of consumer protection, important changes for our health professionals and improvements to the election process,” Premier Rodney MacDonald said today, Nov. 23. Point-of-sale legislation, which will discourage Nova Scotians, particularly children and youth, from tobacco use, will prohibit cigarettes from being advertised and displayed prominently behind store counters. Exterior signage will also be eliminated. Only government authorized signage will be permitted at the point-of-sale. Effective March 2007, Nova Scotia will pull the plug on what are known as power walls. An act allowing midwives to become part of primary maternity care teams in Nova Scotia means Nova Scotia women and their families may get more access to maternity care. As well, a new Registered Nurses Act will better define the scope of practice and how nurses work with other health professionals. The act will eliminate the barriers facing nurse practitioners, while following national standards. This will enable them to work in collaboration with other health-care professionals, allowing them to make a diagnosis, order tests, and prescribe medications. Another bill passed will see a clarification of the definition of the scope of practice of licensed practical nurses, allowing them to work more independently with their patients. Changes to the Elections Act will improve election administration by expanding voting opportunities for Nova Scotians, enhancing the integrity of the electoral system, and correcting errors and ambiguities. Sweeping changes were also set in motion to change the way Nova Scotia political parties are financed. Changes to the Members and Public Employees Act await further hearings in Law Amendments, however, changes would mean that political donations will be subject to an annual ceiling of $5,000 per party. Political parties will get an annual grant tied to votes they receive in provincial elections. “These are vital changes to our electoral system and strike an important balance, strengthening the democratic process,” the premier said. “I look forward to seeing those changes move forward as soon as possible.” Fairness has also been introduced into the supplementary funding issue for Halifax Regional Municipality. Nova Scotia’s French-language school board, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, will be assisted through a bill that clarifies the municipality’s authority to provide either a share of existing funding to Conseil acadien, or to provide additional funding, as it sees fit. Another important change for Nova Scotians involves an amendment to the Assessment Act continuing a cap for rising property assessments. However, with the passage of this bill, as of 2008, the cap would be tied to the Consumer Price Index. A bill ensuring the Utility and Review Board can grant only one power rate increase per 12-month period, unless there are exceptional circumstances, will help protect consumers and help businesses budget knowing this will not come more than once in a year. Legislation passed enables the province to enforce stricter guidelines and penalties on payday lenders and help protect their customers. The act will help to ensure greater protection to those people who need to borrow from the companies that make small, short-term loans. Other changes to legislation are as follows: The Provincial Court Act allows an out of province judge to be appointed to hear a case in provincial court, a particularly important option in the case of a French-language trial. The Motor Vehicle Act will give officials the authority to use the Ignition Interlock Program in the fight against drunk driving and related injuries and deaths on Nova Scotia roads. The Wind Turbine Facilities Municipal Taxation Act will assist the province’s renewable energy industry. The Securities Act protects Nova Scotia investors and harmonizes Nova Scotia securities regulation with others across Canada. “Once again, co-operation from all parties ensured the passage of 28 government bills through the legislature,” the premier said. “By working together, all parties also saw passage of a number of opposition bills.” Consultation will take place in the coming months on another significant piece of legislation introduced — the Health Facilities Licensing Act. The premier also announced during this sitting of the legislature a new minister responsible for military relations, recognizing and supporting Nova Scotia’s long-standing relationship with Canada’s military. The premier and minister hosted a Military Appreciation Rally mid-way through the sitting to thank the province’s Canadian Forces personnel who are currently serving as well as their families.