Lib­er­als re­lease plat­form with $1.08 bil­lion in spend­ing, tax cuts

Cape Breton Post - - Province - BY KEITH DOUCETTE

Nova Sco­tia’s Lib­er­als re­leased an elec­tion plat­form Wed­nes­day that in­cluded a to­tal of $1.08 bil­lion in spend­ing com­mit­ments and tax cuts over four years, along with prom­ises to do more for those on in­come as­sis­tance.

The plat­form is based on last month’s bud­get that was tabled but not voted on in the leg­is­la­ture and con­tains a num­ber of prom­ises that were al­ready an­nounced on the cam­paign trail.

“Our plan is com­pre­hen­sive, it’s cred­i­ble and it’s costed,’’ Premier Stephen Mc­Neil told a gath­er­ing of party faith­ful at a Hal­i­fax ho­tel.

“It pro­motes in­no­va­tive new pro­grams that sup­port fam­i­lies, se­niors and com­mu­ni­ties.’’

The Lib­er­als had al­ready promised sev­eral ma­jor ini­tia­tives in the bud­get that are also part of their plat­form, in­clud­ing a pledge to re­duce taxes for 500,00 lowand mid­dle-in­come earn­ers and a prepri­mary ini­tia­tive for four-year-olds that would in­clude 9,000 chil­dren by 2020 at an an­nual cost of about $49 mil­lion.

There is also pre­vi­ously an­nounced money to twin 100-se­ries high­ways, up­grade gravel roads, and cre­ate col­lab­o­ra­tive care cen­tres.

Among the mil­lions in new spend­ing is funding for low-in­come rental sup­ple­ments and in­come as­sis­tance.

Party of­fi­cials said a promised rent sup­ple­ment ex­pan­sion be­gin­ning in 2018 is aimed at re­duc­ing the wait list for af­ford­able hous­ing by an ad­di­tional 30 per cent. It would top up the to­tal amount spent on the pro­gram to nearly $30 mil­lion a year by the fourth year of the Lib­eral plan.

The cur­rent rent sup­ple­ment is on av­er­age around $250, and of­fi­cials said the plan could see a boost for those on the low­est in­comes to the $300 to $400 range.

Un­der the plan, the stan­dard­ized house­hold in­come as­sis­tance rate would be in­creased by an over­all to­tal of $20 mil­lion a year by the fourth year, with in­di­vid­ual in­creases of two per cent on the rate for those who can work and five per cent for those who can’t work be­cause of a dis­abil­ity. That would al­low peo­ple to keep more of what they earn — as much as an ad­di­tional $300 a month.

“This is part of the evo­lu­tion that is tak­ing place ... to trans­form in­come as­sis­tance to make sure there is not a dis­in­cen­tive to join the work­force,’’ said Mc­Neil.

The plat­form also con­tains two sig­nif­i­cant shifts in health care that in­clude al­low­ing doc­tors to choose where and how they prac­tice and a sig­nalling that a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is open to cre­at­ing more long term care beds if needed, although no num­bers or costs were in­cluded.

Mc­Neil said the moves don’t mean the Lib­er­als are mov­ing away from ei­ther an em­pha­sis on col­lab­o­ra­tive care mod­els for ar­eas that lack doc­tor cov­er­age, or home care for se­niors in or­der to keep peo­ple home longer.

The Lib­er­als are also pledg­ing to cover the cost of oral cancer med­i­ca­tions for those not fully cov­ered by in­sur­ance un­til a pro­gram can be worked out with the other At­lantic prov­inces to do so.

NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill said the Lib­eral plan didn’t go far enough in ad­dress­ing the needs of those who need the most help.

“There is zero here on ad­dress­ing the cri­sis of hunger in Nova Sco­tia ... on ad­dress­ing the cri­sis of in­debt­ed­ness of stu­dents and tu­ition and a zero on the cri­sis that is un­der­min­ing so many of our hos­pi­tals ... the ab­sence of there be­ing any new long-term care beds,’’ said Bur­rill.

Speak­ing for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives, Hal­i­fax-Ci­tadel-Sable Is­land can­di­date Rob Bather­son said the Lib­eral plan lacked cred­i­bil­ity be­cause of Mc­Neil’s bro­ken 2013 cam­paign prom­ises. Among them: His in­fa­mous doc­tor for ev­ery Nova Sco­tian pledge, and a prom­ise to ex­tend the prov­ince’s film tax credit that was sub­se­quently axed.

“Why would any­body be­lieve what’s in his plat­form this time?’’ said Bather­son. “It’s as if af­ter three-and-a-half years of fail­ure and bro­ken prom­ises he wants a do-over.’’

The Lib­er­als were the last of the three main par­ties to of­fi­cially re­lease a plat­form for the May 30 vote.

CP PHOTO

Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen Mc­Neil makes a cam­paign stop at a farm­ers mar­ket in Bed­ford on Mon­day. Nova Sco­tia’s Lib­er­als re­leased an elec­tion plat­form Wed­nes­day that in­cluded a to­tal of $1.08 bil­lion in spend­ing com­mit­ments and tax cuts over four years, along with prom­ises to do more for those on in­come as­sis­tance. The pro­vin­cial elec­tion will be held Tues­day, May 30.

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