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A budget for the 99%, not for corporations and the wealthy

Nova Scotia CCPA launches 2014 alternative budget

by Robert Devet

Economist Michael Bradfield makes a point while Nova Scotia CCPA director Christine Saulnier looks on. The 2014 alternative budget is a comprehensive document that rejects austerity and calls for fundamental changes to the way budget priorities are set. Photo Robert Devet
Economist Michael Bradfield makes a point while Nova Scotia CCPA director Christine Saulnier looks on. The 2014 alternative budget is a comprehensive document that rejects austerity and calls for fundamental changes to the way budget priorities are set. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) -  Each year the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) releases a fully costed alternative budget for the province of Nova Scotia.

This year's alternative budget is number ten, and it was the largest effort yet.

It reflects the input of well over fifty activists and academics who provided their expertise in areas as diverse as health, housing, fiscal policies, education and the environment.

"The alternative budget is a document that shows what it means to take a lens of social justice and economic sustainability to a budget," said Christine Saulnier, Director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the CCPA.

Saulnier spoke at the launch of the alternative budget in the Halifax North End.

This year's theme, and title of the document, is A Budget for the 99%.

"It is absolutely necessary to build an economy for the people, not for corporations and the wealthy, said Saulnier. "Inequality is hindering the ability of many Nova Scotians to enjoy a decent standard of living."

Saulnier pointed to data that show that facing inequality is part and parcel of living in Nova Scotia. 

The average income of the one percenters in Nova Scotia is $259,300. In contrast, the bottom ninety per cent of Nova Scotians earn on average only $26,700.

Such inequality actually costs money, Saulnier said.

As an example, the alternative budget suggests spending an additional $42 million to create 7500 new childcare spaces and raise wages of childcare workers from a low $12.84 hourly to a livable $38,000 annually.

This is not reckless spending; it is actually a sound investment, Saulnier argued. For every dollar invested in Early Learning and Child Care, $2.23 comes back in economic activity.

Catherine Abreu, Energy Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre spoke briefly about the Universal Support Program, a mechanism to support electricity users who cannot pay their power bills.

Increased energy efficiency, and support for people who spend more than six per cent of their income on electricity are the two pilars of the program.

In progressive societies taxes are considered a tool to address inequality. But neither Nova Scotia nor the federal government are using taxation in such a way, said economist Mike Bradfield.

"The only progresssive tax we have is in fact the income tax," said Bradfield. "So much of government revenues are raised from regressive tax systems, like sales tax, like property tax, like user fees."

Bradfield argued that as a result taxation in Nova Scotia, and in Canada for that matter, is essentially a flat tax system.

"The poorest ten per cent of Canadians pay in taxes of all kinds 31 per cent of their income. The richest five per cent pay 30 percent," said Bradfield.

To address these inequalities the alternative budget calls for an increased progressivity, decreased user fees, and fully taxing Capital Gains, profits made on the sale of investments.

This year's alternative budget is a comprehensive and detailed document, both in terms of issues it addresses and in ways that it proposes to raise revenues.

It tackles topics as diverse as rent controls, waiting lists for people with disabilities, social assistance, education, women's equality, and homelessness.

Like last year, the Halifax Media Co-op will write about some of these alternative budget topics in greater detail in the coming months.

See also: Nova Scotia; we have everything we need to succeed.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert


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Topics: Governance
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