Question Period Highlight – Liberal Tax Review

October 23, 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 Liberal Finance Minister Diana Whalen about her tax break for big business.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Earlier this year, the minister ordered a tax review, but in the meantime, this government has continued to cut tax rebates or introduce new corporate tax breaks. For example, in April the minister announced the largest tax increase for young graduates in the history of our province when she eliminated the Graduate Retention Rebate.

Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the minister is, why did the minister spend $100,000 to hire someone to do a tax review if she wasn’t going to wait for the review to be complete before making changes to tax policy?

DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I’m pleased to answer the question about the tax review. The tax system that we have in place today is a complete mishmash or hodgepodge of tax policies over many, many years. It has never been reviewed. We’re having a look at all the tax credits and all of the tax rates to see how we can best stimulate the economy or help Nova Scotians, essentially help make Nova Scotia a better place. Mr. Speaker, that is why we’re doing a complete review of all the taxes.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her response. The Graduate Retention Rebate was worth $50 million this year, and yesterday the government announced $30 million in new corporate tax breaks for large corporations. Perhaps it was the minister’s plan all along to use the Graduate Retention Rebate funding to support the government’s new corporate tax giveaway.

My question for the minister is this, why does she think that big business deserves a tax break more than Nova Scotian graduates, who carry the highest student debt load in the country?

DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the member is mistaken in her linking of any of these taxes and credits. The credit that was announced yesterday for business is a credit after they make a large investment on productivity, on improvements. It will only be offered when there has been that investment in capital equipment and improvements. That’s very important.

Mr. Speaker, I know you’re not looking for long answers this afternoon, but I would like to mention that on the Graduate Retention Rebate, it was clear that that was a program that did not work to do what it was set out to do. For that reason, we cannot afford to have a continued support for things that don’t work. We’ve reinvested in other ways, which I know that you have heard about in the past. Thank you.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Graduate Retention Rebate resulted in 1,600 more students being in the province between 2009 and 2011. So the tax review (Interruptions)

THE SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Interim Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The tax review the minister ordered is due at the end of the month, and students and graduates I talked to remain hopeful that the $50 million dollars in funding that was so quickly snatched away from them will be reinvested in programs for young graduates and students.