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Progressive Budget Real Alternative: CCPA

If you want to govern, not give up

by Jim Guild

Fed a steady diet of tax-cut fetishism and deficit hysteria, Nova Scotians could welcome the N.S. Alternative Budget (NSAB) released March 22 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-N.S (CCPA-NS). 

The 85-page, easy-to-read document says that plenty can be done to "help those in need right now" and still provide savings down the road.

“Our budget protects programs while increasing revenues, primarily through increased upper-end income taxes," said CCPA-NS executive director Christine Saulnier.

“This budget does not pose a risk to the province’s delicate recovery by imposing austerity measures that will result in job losses. Rather, it continues to build our social and physical infrastructure and invest in our communities and our people where it is most needed.”

Economics professor James Sawler said this can be done while maintaining current spending levels, reducing the deficit, and balancing the budget by 2015-16.

"The current NDP government's blind obsession with paying down the deficit through austerity measures is misplaced," he said.

The government’s 2011-12 projected deficit of $260 million sounds substantial, he said, but it represents less than three per cent of the budget and less than one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nova Scotia’s debt-to-GDP ratio has fallen from 48.7 per cent in 2000 to 36.6 per cent in 2011. Nova Scotia’s fiscal position has improved dramatically over this time, Sawler added.

“We have had years of under-spending and it shows.” Nova Scotia is third to last among provinces in government spending per capita.

Austerity has hurt more people than it's helped, particularly women and youth and rural citizens, the NSAB said.

It also kills jobs, Sawler said. As many as 10,000 jobs (mostly held by women) would be lost if the NDP realizes its four-year goal of $772 million in cuts to government spending.

By contrast, the NSAB proposes maintaining existing public sector spending levels (including health and education) and adding $492 million in new spending. This would be paid for with $328 million in increased tax measures targeting the rich, and by reallocating $142 million from ineffective programs. Cancelling the $89-million “Your Energy Rebate” program, for example, would free up money to better invest in poverty reduction and energy security.

Sawler pointed out a few major problems with the Energy Rebate:

  • It encourages greater energy usage, which is in contradiction with the government’s own environmental conservation agenda;
  • It does not address the root problems of high energy costs;
  • It is a regressive measure as it benefits the wealthy to a greater extent than the poor. Wealthier people generally have larger homes that use more energy. Therefore, they receive a greater rebate.

New spending proposals in the NSAB include:

  • Strengthening primary healthcare by investing in 10 community health centres, 10 new nurse practitioners, and 12 more midwives;
  • Investing $45 million to begin to phase-in an Early Learning and Child Care System that is affordable and accessible;
  • Investing $14.5 million in special needs education and $6 million for African Nova Scotian and Aboriginal students;  
  • Increasing the personal allowance for income assistance, creating new affordable housing stock, and supporting additional housing supports; 
  • Reducing tuition fees for the Nova Scotia Community College by 50 per cent;
  • Investing $30 million in water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure access to clean drinking water;
  • $20 million in start-up funds to create a provincial transit system for rural Nova Scotia.

The NSAB was prepared by a wide range of volunteer researchers, community activists and economists.


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Topics: Governance
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