Question Period Highlight – Tax Review and HST on essentials?

November 19, 2014

Your NDP MLAs are hard at work in the legislature this fall, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including job loses since Stephen McNeil became Premier, and how the Liberals’ health board amalgamation distraction is causing their government to take their eye off what really matters – front line care. Here is a question NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald asked Stephen McNeil about the Laurel Broten tax review.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Today, Nova Scotians got their first look at this Liberal Government’s much-anticipated tax review. During the release this morning, Laurel Broten, former Ontario Liberal Cabinet Minister, stressed that the recommendations in this report are for a government to broaden consumption taxes. In layman’s terms, that means putting the HST back on many essentials for which there are now exemptions, like home heat, children’s clothing, books, diapers.

My question to the Premier is, are there any of these essential items his government is not considering charging the HST on?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, we just received that report this morning. As a government we are going to be like all Nova Scotians who are interested; we are going to need an opportunity to read that and assess the entire report.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the Premier that on May 7, 2013, in this Chamber, the Premier read a resolution asking all members to support keeping the provincial portion of the HST off electricity bills in Nova Scotia and commit to not putting it back on in the future, which I will table. That resolution was passed unanimously in this House. My question for the Premier is, can he please explain why his Finance and Treasury Board Minister is now publicly contemplating breaking his promise to this House by adding the HST back on home electricity?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board just received this piece of information, received the report today. Like all members of this House, I would hope they would look at the report, they would analyze it. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has said no such thing that the Acting Leader of the NDP is just saying. It’s completely inaccurate and false.

MAUREEN. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when asked at the press conference, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board would not rule that out of order. The tax review also recommends reducing income taxes for the highest-earning Nova Scotians in this province; executives at Nova Scotia Power, the presidents of our universities, and in fact, the Premier himself will benefit from this tax cut if enacted. The report recommends Nova Scotia’s poorest seniors, who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the income tax refund, will be asked to pay more in taxes. I want to ask the Premier, can he please explain how tax fairness will apply in this equation?

 STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, we will take the report, we will review the report; it will become part of an analysis that we do as we move forward.