Lib­er­als con­tinue crit­i­cism of Tory plat­form spend­ing

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton/Province -

For a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day, Nova Sco­tia’s Lib­er­als were only too happy Friday to take swipes at a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive plat­form they say is short on cost­ing and poses ques­tions around how the Tories will bal­ance the books.

An­swer­ing ques­tions fol­low­ing a labour an­nounce­ment in Hal­i­fax, Premier Stephen McNeil said Tory Leader Jamie Baillie has been crit­i­cal of his party’s bud­get, which was tabled last month with a $25-mil­lion op­er­at­ing sur­plus.

McNeil said that’s an is­sue be­cause the Tories are now bas­ing their spend­ing com­mit­ments off the fis­cal doc­u­ment, which was not passed into law be­fore the leg­is­la­ture was dis­solved when he called the May 30 elec­tion.

“He (Baillie) wouldn’t say what parts of that bud­get he wasn’t go­ing to do and was un­able to ac­tu­ally fully cost out his pro­gram,’’ he told re­porters.

McNeil ques­tioned Baillie’s as­ser­tion that sav­ings would be found “in the mil­lions’’ by trim­ming ad­min­is­tra­tive fat in health care. Baillie also said he would po­ten­tially save mil­lions in le­gal costs by re­peal­ing a Lib­eral bill im­pos­ing a wage set­tle­ment on teach­ers.

“We’ve made the tough de­ci­sions that had to be made ... what we are go­ing to con­tinue to do is lay out a thought­ful plan that’s mov­ing this prov­ince for­ward,’’ said McNeil.

Ear­lier, a Lib­eral news re­lease also high­lighted con­fu­sion over the Tories’ to­tal spend­ing over four years, which was ini­tially pegged at $648.9 mil­lion by of­fi­cials dur­ing a plat­form brief­ing. The fig­ure was later re­vised to $168.9 mil­lion.

When asked di­rectly about the to­tal cost of the plat­form prom­ises dur­ing an an­nounce­ment on Friday, Baillie said: “The new in­vest­ments we’re mak­ing are around $158 mil­lion over a four-year pe­riod.’’

A mem­ber of Baillie’s cam­paign staff later clar­i­fied the cost was ac­tu­ally $168.9 mil­lion over four years.

When asked about Lib­eral crit­i­cisms about the lack of de­tail, Baillie went on the of­fen­sive.

“The Lib­er­als haven’t said what’s go­ing to hap­pen to phar­ma­care af­ter the elec­tion this spring,’’ he said. “The Lib­er­als haven’t said what their car­bon tax plan is, they put that off un­til af­ter the elec­tion this spring.

“Stephen McNeil is the one with a whole bunch of unan­swered ques­tions about what he’s go­ing to do with our pock­et­books once the elec­tion’s over if he stays in of­fice.’’

Baillie de­fended his plat­form as “fully costed’’ and char­ac­ter­ized Lib­eral crit­i­cisms as “fee­ble at­tempts’’ that prove they haven’t ac­tu­ally read it.

Both the Lib­er­als and NDP are ex­pected to un­veil their plat­forms next week.

Mean­while, McNeil an­nounced Friday the Lib­er­als would spend $8 mil­lion to ex­pand his party’s ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram.

He said the fund would in­crease sup­port for women, abo­rig­i­nals, African Nova Sco­tians, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and im­mi­grants by in­creas­ing in­cen­tives from $10,000 to $30,000 for em­ploy­ers who make di­ver­sity hires.

In ad­di­tion, McNeil said a four-year, $5.2-mil­lion com­mit­ment would help elim­i­nate tuition for ap­pren­tices tak­ing tech­ni­cal train­ing, sav­ing in­di­vid­u­als up to $900 a year.

Also Friday, the New Democrats high­lighted a pre­vi­ous pledge to elim­i­nate tuition fees at Nova Sco­tia Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

Leader Gary Bur­rill said the plan would elim­i­nate tuition for 11,000 full­time and more than 11,000 part-time stu­dents, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents and stu­dents from out of prov­ince.

He said the NDP would also work with uni­ver­si­ties and stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions to re­duce univer­sity tuition by 10 per cent over four years.

Party fig­ures show the NSCC pledge would cost about $136 mil­lion over the first four years, while the tuition prom­ise would be phased in at a cost of nearly $68 mil­lion over four years.

Bur­rill said the cost is jus­ti­fi­able in a prov­ince with some of the coun­try’s high­est tuitions.

“I think it’s prob­a­bly the sin­gle most im­por­tant in­vest­ment that the gov­ern­ment of Nova Sco­tia can make,’’ he said. “We can’t go on with young peo­ple start­ing out un­able to get their sea legs un­der them in their lives be­cause the first thing they’ve got is a $50,000 debt com­ing out of school.’’

Also Friday, Baillie promised to spend $1.75 mil­lion a year on a unique med­i­cal cen­tre for veter­ans that would be led by for­mer mil­i­tary mem­bers.

He said the clinic would be set up in the Camp Hill Veter­ans’ Me­mo­rial Build­ing in Hal­i­fax and pro­vide phys­i­cal and men­tal health care on a 24-hour ba­sis.

McNeil

Bur­rill

Baillie

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