N.S. NDP says plan for $1B deficit over four years inspired by Trudeau
Michael Tutton, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Monday, May 15, 2017 7:29AM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 16, 2017 7:52AM ADT
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's NDP announced Monday it would add close to $1 billion in red ink over four years, citing Justin Trudeau's deficit spending as a model for the East Coast province.
The provincial Liberals claimed NDP Leader Gary Burrill is prone to "hard left" policies, while a Tory spokesman called the deficits a "reckless spending orgy."
But Burrill said the fiscal plan he unveiled at the Dalhousie University student union building is merely taking Ottawa's lead.
With 45,000 Nova Scotians regularly attending food banks, thousands of citizens lacking a family doctor and Halifax's largest hospital unable to provide potable water last year, the drive towards balanced budgets has to be reconsidered, he said.
"We think this is a turn we need to make," he said after releasing the 28-page party platform as the campaign reached its halfway point.
"The answer the federal Liberals gave in their last budget and in their last platform about this was the right one."
Trudeau's government is forecasting a $28.5 billion federal deficit in 2017-18.
Burrill's platform projects this year's deficit in the province would be $256 million, and by 2021 would total $966 million over their mandate.
The projected deficit makes most of the same assumptions as the recent Liberal provincial budget.
However, the NDP have added four-year commitments to spend $230 million to improve daycare, $120 million to increase the number of doctors and $160 million to "ensure that everyone on income assistance can afford to buy their food from a grocery store, instead of relying on food banks."
The third-place party tumbled from a majority government in 2013 to its current status of five seats -- and political observers have commented that it has moved left under Burrill's leadership as part of its rebuilding effort aimed at restoring its base support.
Under former premier Darrell Dexter, the party also ran deficits, though the party publicly espoused the goal of balancing the budget.
Burrill said times have changed.
"What we're saying is ... that we not fool ourselves that in one budget year we can address this," he told reporters.
Stephen McNeil's Liberals have produced back-to-back balanced budgets and say they are now in a position to begin investing strategically in the province's infrastructure and improving the struggling health care system.
The premier has repeatedly said this approach distinguishes him from opponents. He's vowed to produce a string of growing surpluses -- and to begin reducing the province's $15 billion debt, which is about $15,900 for every citizen.
After announcing Monday he would invest $17.4 million in two programs that support the aquaculture and agriculture industries, the premier criticized Burrill as presenting an untenable fiscal plan.
He said the federal situation differs from Nova Scotia's because Trudeau plans to spend heavily on infrastructure and his government can hope for a Western oil rebound that will bring in federal taxes.
"The NDP would slide us backwards. It's really unbelievable to me," said McNeil in an interview.
Further, the Liberals said in a news release that Burrill is an "anti-capitalist" who supported the Leap Manifesto, which they say would be dangerous and harmful to the economy.
Burrill laughed off the Liberal release, saying he comes from a background of Christian socialism in the tradition of Tommy Douglas and other founders of the New Democratic Party.
He says he believes in a society that is egalitarian and helps the poor, but declined to refer to himself as "anti capitalist," as the news release claims he has in the past.
Tory leader Jamie Baillie, who has denounced the NDP's deficit plans as irresponsible, released a platform last week promising millions in spending commitments along with balanced budgets. However, Baillie's figures have been criticized as being vague.
Meanwhile, the NDP hasn't closed the door on having to find further money for public sector salaries -- which opens the possibility Burrill's deficits could grow if his party regains power on May 30.
The platform confirms the NDP would scrap a bill that imposed a wage pattern on teachers -- a template the Liberals plan to apply to all of the public sector unions.
Asked where the money will come from to pay for higher wage settlements, Burrill argued that he expects there will be economic growth resulting from the deficit spending.
The party is also projecting in its platform that by 2021 it will be saving $82 million a year by spending less on tax credits, "corporate welfare," consulting and advertising, though there are few details on what this entails.
The NDP also says in the document that it would "introduce a system of proportional representation," but Burrill told reporters he wouldn't firmly commit to that occurring in one mandate.