The NDP Platform
Posted May 19, 2017
The word “spend” is entirely absent from the vocabularies of politicians of all stripes, especially during an election campaign.
Rather, everything is supposed to be viewed as an “investment.” It is not just the money for roads, hospitals, and schools that have useful lives long after they are built.
It also includes salaries and benefits for public sector employees, money spent on travel and entertainment, the cost of heating and maintaining buildings, money spent on criminal justice, social housing, sterile gauzes and sutures, chalk and notebooks, road salt and gasoline.
These are things that the rest of us call expenses, on which we spend our hard-earned money. Hearing them called something else too many times makes us want to invest in a bottle of rum.
If there is a gold medal for wanting to “invest“ the most it goes to the NDP.
Over four years, they want to add over $300 million to the Liberal health care budget for more primary care, nursing home spaces, and mental health among others.
Under their plan, education spending grows by $70 million per year for early childhood education, $36 million per year to eliminate tuition at the Nova Scotia Community College, and a further $38 million per year, by the fourth year, to reduce university tuitions.
The NDP want to spend $123 million more than the Liberals subsidizing filmmakers, for a total of over $200 million. Social assistance is to be increased by $40 million per year.
In total, the plan is to run deficits of close to $1 billion over the four years.
But wait! There’s more! Unsurprisingly, the NDP promises to cancel the teachers’ back-to-work legislation and to reopen negotiations with them and all other public-sector workers. It is not a coincidence that the teachers announced a court challenge and the NSGEU filed for arbitration on Wednesday of this week.
The last time an NDP government negotiated a public sector contract, the wage increases averaged 2.5% per year. A Gary Burrill government can be expected to once again stock the premier’s office with seconded union executives. Replacing the Liberal pay increases with 2.5% per year (which would date back more than 2 years) would quickly add more than $300 million per year to the deficit, taking it to more than $2 billion over four years. This single item is bigger than all the other “investments.”
Yet, curiously, the NDP platform does not identify any cost at all. Perhaps it does not want to remind Nova Scotians of their recent history.
But wait!! There’s still more!! The platform describes two goals for a putative second mandate. They want to eventually eliminate all university tuitions at a total cost of $380 million per year. And they plan to develop the details of a guaranteed income program at an unknown but certainly substantial cost.
No worries. We are assured in the concluding text that “…our investments will stimulate the creation of jobs and boost consumer spending in Nova Scotia, driving GDP up even further (than projected in the Liberal budget) …our investments in health care and education will have a significant positive impact on economic activity. The NDP’s plan for Nova Scotia will see the budget balanced in 6-8 years.”
Readers looking in the platform document for the math supporting that conclusion will be disappointed. Perhaps party communications head Kyle Buott (“Capitalism isn’t working for workers!”) will offer up an explanation closer to voting day.
Nova Scotians want to have good schools and roads, excellent health care, support for disadvantaged members of our community, a vibrant arts community, and many other things that need government support. But they want them to be sustainable.
We still have an aging population, a declining workforce, high taxes, and a lot of debt.
Running big deficits will not create sustainable economic growth. It is more likely to drive away private enterprise. And the low interest rates we presently enjoy can run up quickly if investors lose confidence.
We need look no further than Newfoundland and Labrador to understand the risk we face. The previous government was over-optimistic about the revenues it would receive from offshore oil and gas. When oil prices fell, the deficit spiraled out of control.
This required immensely difficult but necessary steps in the 2016 budget, to avoid losing the ability to borrow. A province with 56% of Nova Scotia’s population had to cut spending by $250 million and raise taxes and fees by $883 million.
“Spending our way to prosperity” is just as dumb as it sounds. We don’t want to go there.
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