A Better Road Forward

May 16, 2016


After having been debated in the Legislature since its April 19 introduction, we expect the 2016/2017 Provincial Budget to be passed into law this week.

That evening, April 19, our caucus gathered with representatives of student, labour and social movement groups, to discuss our reactions to the Budget.  Nothing has changed the initial assessment that emerged out of that discussion.

Students spoke of their dismay that nothing in the Budget addressed the tuition increases taking place under the current government’s tuition deregulation.  (And the very evening of the Budget’s release, Dalhousie University voted to increase tuition 3% across the board, and 9% at the Truro Agriculture campus.)

Representatives from the labour movement spoke about how the Budget’s main working assumption is the two-year public-sector wage freeze, which has been neither negotiated nor voted upon by any major union in the province.

Anti-poverty activists remarked on the increase in social assistance payments–70 cents a day, following zero cents a day increases for the past two years–and the freezing of allowances for shelter.

Environmentalists raised the concern that the environment did ‎not merit a single word in the budget document.

From disability rights advocates to progressive policy analysts to our own caucus members, one unifying understanding emerged from the discussion: that the Budget is a mish-mash of missed opportunities.

In a time when people across the province are waiting longer and longer, for example, to access hip replacements, the investment made in the Budget in health care spending is a straight-out, flat-lined zero.  In a time when many families are waiting for a nursing home space to become available, the long-term care budget is cut, in fact, by $3.1 million. In a time when parents are waiting for quality and affordable childcare spaces, the Budget’s meagre offering will barely make a difference.

For small businesses? Nothing of substance. For our beleaguered film industry? Nothing at all.

Every bit as troubling is that the much-heralded Budget surplus is sustained in part by an anticipated increase in VLT revenues of $27.1 million, up 23%. Let’s just say this is a darn poor way to come up with a surplus.

Contrasting the austerity enterprise of the McNeil Liberals, the financial proposals introduced by our NDP MLAs in the current legislative session have emphasized the need for investment in people–their health, their opportunities, and their incomes.

It’s a different road forward. A better road forward. The road that our people much deserve.

In solidarity and hope,