The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Liberal cuts threaten recovery: NDP

- JIM VIBERT SALTWIRE NETWORK @Jimvibert Journalist and writer Jim Vibert has worked as a communicat­ions adviser to five Nova Scotia government­s.

Tucked in among the predictabl­e plethora of promises — sorry, commitment­s — in the NDP platform, is the 209-million-dollar question that Gary Burrill's been asking for months.

It's a legitimate question and it deserves more than the offhand, vague response it's elicited from the governing Liberals.

This spring, along with the annual budget — the Liberals' first under Premier Iain Rankin — the government proffered the usual four-year fiscal plan.

Despite projecting a $585 million deficit this year, the Liberals plan to get back to a balanced budget within four years. That's the most aggressive post-pandemic fiscal plan in the nation.

And it all starts with a $209 million cut in program spending next year alone.

Nova Scotia's NDP leader asked the government on budget day — March 25 — and on a bunch of days since for details on where that $209 million cut will come. The government's only response has been that Covid-related expenses would decrease.

As noted in the New Democrats' platform — they prefer “vision document” — other provinces have acknowledg­ed that, while it's difficult to predict the ongoing impact of COVID, it will be years before the demands on government spending return to anything approachin­g normal.

Consequent­ly, most provinces expect it will take the rest of the decade to get back to balanced budgets.

This election isn't entirely about a post-pandemic recovery, but that's top of mind for many voters, especially those who've shouldered a disproport­ionate share of the economic burden from COVID lockdowns and restrictio­ns.

It's hard to figure how the government plans to help those — mostly businesses — who are still reeling from pandemic-related economic blows and, at the same time, cut program spending. It's hard to figure how they'll pay for their election promises, and cut $209 million too, but that's another story.

“The Liberal recovery plan is to cut $209 million from the services we all rely on. They won't say where or how they will make these cuts, which will threaten Nova Scotia's ability to truly recover from the pandemic,” the NDP asserts.

The Liberals could put the matter to rest by identifyin­g the $209-millionwor­th of Covid-related expenses that will evaporate, but they won't. It could be that they don't know, or that the cuts will gore somebody's ox and it's better — for the Liberals — to do that after the votes are counted.

The 62-page NDP platform — yes, that's a long one — prosecutes the case against the Liberal government almost as vigorously as it lays out the New Democrats' plans to fix much of what ails us as a province.

Not surprising­ly, the NDP platform is long on health care and rife with proposals to address many of the system's woes, from the doctor shortage and the crisis in emergency services, to crowded and under-staffed nursing homes and long waits for mental health services.

While the document abounds with examples of health system failures under the Liberal government, it was the Tories who took umbrage with the broad health care plank in the New Democrats' platform.

The PCS dismissed the NDP plan as irrelevant, claiming they — the Tories — are the only party “laser focused on

fixing health care,” and, more to their point, the only party that can replace Rankin's Liberals.

The Tories are certain that health care is the Liberal government's Achilles' heel, and they're determined to make it a central issue in the campaign, and one they own.

Naturally, the NDP is having none of that. Liberals and Tories are birds of a feather, and the NDP is the alternativ­e to their shopworn promises and failed policies. If that sounds familiar, it's only because that's how New Democrats have characteri­zed the older-line parties for more than half a century.

The platform addresses the gamut of Nova Scotia's current and chronic problems, and offers remedies for each, starting with an equitable COVID recovery and ending with the path the NDP would take to balance the budget. In between, they hit on the environmen­t and climate change, tackle Nova Scotia's increasing democratic deficit and promise to restore accountabi­lity to government.

But, at its core the NDP platform is about lifting people out of poverty and making life affordable for the massive middle of the population that's finding it harder to make ends meet.

“The NDP believes that people need to be able to afford to live.”

That single, simple line seems like the cornerston­e of the NDP platform.

They propose a $15 minimum wage, rent controls, increased income assistance and, among a long list of proposals to address homelessne­ss and the housing crisis, measures to make it easier — or at least possible — for people to save for a home of their own.

Outside of the true believers, few Nova Scotians think the NDP will win this election. But when all is said and done, theirs will be the one platform that meets most every issue the province faces head-on and proposes action on each.

 ?? ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD ?? NDP leader Gary Burrill bumps elbows with supporters following a campaign launch rally in Halifax on Saturday, July 17, 2021. The provincial election will be held on Aug. 17.
ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD NDP leader Gary Burrill bumps elbows with supporters following a campaign launch rally in Halifax on Saturday, July 17, 2021. The provincial election will be held on Aug. 17.
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