NDP plan in­spired by PM

New Democrats say bal­anced bud­get has to be re­con­sid­ered

Cape Breton Post - - News Cape Breton/province -

Nova Sco­tia’s NDP an­nounced Mon­day it would add close to $1 bil­lion in red ink over four years, cit­ing Justin Trudeau’s deficit spend­ing as a model for the East Coast prov­ince.

The pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als claimed NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill is prone to “hard left’’ poli­cies, while a Tory spokesman called the deficits a “reck­less spend­ing orgy.’’

But Bur­rill said the fis­cal plan he un­veiled at the Dal­housie Univer­sity stu­dent union build­ing is merely tak­ing Ot­tawa’s lead.

With 45,000 Nova Sco­tians reg­u­larly at­tend­ing food banks, thou­sands of cit­i­zens lack­ing a fam­ily doc­tor and Halifax’s largest hospi­tal un­able to pro­vide potable wa­ter last year, the drive to­wards bal­anced bud­gets has to be re­con­sid­ered, he said.

“We think this is a turn we need to make,’’ he said af­ter re­leas­ing the 28-page party plat­form as the cam­paign reached its half­way point.

“The an­swer the fed­eral Lib­er­als gave in their last bud­get and in their last plat­form about this was the right one.’’

Trudeau’s govern­ment is fore­cast­ing a $28.5-bil­lion fed­eral deficit in 2017-18.

Bur­rill’s plat­form projects this year’s deficit in the prov­ince would be $256 mil­lion, and by 2021 would to­tal $966 mil­lion over their man­date.

The pro­jected deficit makes most of the same as­sump­tions as the re­cent Lib­eral pro­vin­cial bud­get.

How­ever, the NDP have added four-year com­mit­ments to spend $230 mil­lion to im­prove day­care, $120 mil­lion to in­crease the num­ber of doc­tors and $160 mil­lion to “en­sure that ev­ery­one on in­come as­sis­tance can af­ford to buy their food from a gro­cery store, in­stead of re­ly­ing on food banks.’’

The third-place party tum­bled from a ma­jor­ity govern­ment in 2013 to its cur­rent sta­tus of five seats — and po­lit­i­cal ob­servers have com­mented that it has moved left un­der Bur­rill’s lead­er­ship as part of its re­build­ing ef­fort aimed at restor­ing its base sup­port.

Un­der for­mer premier Dar­rell Dex­ter, the party also ran deficits, though the party pub­licly es­poused the goal of bal­anc­ing the bud­get.

Bur­rill said times have changed.

“What we’re say­ing is ... that we not fool our­selves that in one bud­get year we can ad­dress this,’’ he told reporters.

Stephen Mc­Neil’s Lib­er­als have pro­duced back-to-back bal­anced bud­gets and say they are now in a po­si­tion to be­gin in­vest­ing strate­gi­cally in the prov­ince’s in­fra­struc­ture and im­prov­ing the strug­gling health-care sys­tem.

The premier has re­peat­edly said this ap­proach dis­tin­guishes him from op­po­nents. He’s vowed to pro­duce a string of grow­ing sur­pluses — and to be­gin re­duc­ing the prov­ince’s $15-bil­lion debt, which is about $15,900 for ev­ery cit­i­zen.

Af­ter an­nounc­ing Mon­day he would in­vest $17.4 mil­lion in two pro­grams that sup­port the aqua­cul­ture and agri­cul­ture in­dus­tries, the premier crit­i­cized Bur­rill as pre­sent­ing an un­ten­able fis­cal plan.

He said the fed­eral sit­u­a­tion dif­fers from Nova Sco­tia’s be­cause Trudeau plans to spend heav­ily on in­fra­struc­ture and his govern­ment can hope for a West­ern oil re­bound that will bring in fed­eral taxes.

“The NDP would slide us back­wards. It’s re­ally un­be­liev­able to me,’’ said Mc­Neil in an in­ter­view.

Fur­ther, the Lib­er­als said in a news re­lease that Bur­rill is an “anti-cap­i­tal­ist’’ who sup­ported the Leap Man­i­festo, which they say would be dan­ger­ous and harm­ful to the econ­omy.

Bur­rill laughed off the Lib­eral re­lease, say­ing he comes from a back­ground of Chris­tian so­cial­ism in the tra­di­tion of Tommy Dou­glas and other founders of the New Demo­cratic Party.

He says he be­lieves in a so­ci­ety that is egal­i­tar­ian and helps the poor, but de­clined to re­fer to him­self as “anti-cap­i­tal­ist,’’ as the news re­lease claims he has in the past.

Tory Leader Jamie Bail­lie, who has de­nounced the NDP’s deficit plans as ir­re­spon­si­ble, re­leased a plat­form last week promis­ing mil­lions in spend­ing com­mit­ments along with bal­anced bud­gets. How­ever, Bail­lie’s fig­ures have been crit­i­cized as be­ing vague.

Mean­while, the NDP hasn’t closed the door on hav­ing to find fur­ther money for pub­lic sec­tor salaries — which opens the pos­si­bil­ity Bur­rill’s deficits could grow if his party re­gains power on May 30.

The plat­form con­firms the NDP would scrap a bill that im­posed a wage pat­tern on teach­ers — a tem­plate the Lib­er­als plan to ap­ply to all of the pub­lic sec­tor unions.

Asked where the money will come from to pay for higher wage set­tle­ments, Bur­rill ar­gued that he ex­pects there will be eco­nomic growth re­sult­ing from the deficit spend­ing.

The party is also pro­ject­ing in its plat­form that by 2021 it will be sav­ing $82 mil­lion a year by spend­ing less on tax cred­its, “cor­po­rate wel­fare,’’ con­sult­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing, though there are few de­tails on what this en­tails.

The NDP also says in the doc­u­ment that it would “in­tro­duce a sys­tem of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion,’’ but Bur­rill told reporters he wouldn’t firmly com­mit to that oc­cur­ring in one man­date.


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