Alternative Budget Provides path for Nova Scotia to Move Forward to Fairness

Last week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS) released its flagship annual publication, the Nova Scotia Alternative Budget (NSAB).

This report brings together a wide range of experts, including economists, social scientists, community representatives and social advocates who propose a more inclusive, long-term and forward-thinking approach to the province’s revenue and expenditures.

The Nova Scotia government’s ‘back-to-balance’ plan is to balance the budget via across-the-board cuts of more than $772 million by 2013-2014, and it is estimated that it could result in at least 10,000 job losses.  In contrast, the NSAB 2012: Forward to Fairness, makes strategic investments, which will create jobs and finds creative ways to save money and to increase revenue.

It accounts for the province’s real fiscal situation.  Rather than falling prey to the hysteria of immediate debt-reduction, the NSAB notes that, over the past 10 years, Nova Scotia’s debt-to-GDP ratio and debt charges as a percentage of total government expenditures have both decreased substantially.

The NSAB focuses on restoring fairness with a balanced approach to help those who are currently in need, and ensures that the province is on the road to becoming more socially and economically just, as well as environmentally sustainable.

The NSAB suggests the elimination of the annual deficit in 2015-2016, instead of 2013-14. It does not try to balance the budget to fit the timing of the electoral cycle. The electoral cycle should not determine economic policy.

Instead, the NSAB makes strategic investments—an approach suited for long-term forward progress.

These investments include items like an additional $40 million for primary, community-based healthcare that would help to fund 10 new community health centres, 10 new nurse practitioners, and 12 more midwives.

The NSAB proposes a $120 million investment in increasing the personal allowance for income assistance, $60 million for new affordable housing stock, and $13.1 million for additional housing supports.

Annually, the province spends more than $1 billion treating the symptoms of poverty.  Giving marginalized Nova Scotians a leg up through targeted poverty-reduction is forward-thinking, and will result in aggregate savings as well as higher quality of life for everyone living here.

The NSAB also prioritizes students, investing an extra $14.5 million in special needs education and $6 million for African Nova Scotian and Aboriginal students.

It includes a $45 million investment to begin phasing-in an Early Learning and Child Care System, based on the knowledge of how critical the early years are to breaking the cycle of poverty and how important child care is for women seeking employment.

The NSAB includes a $6 million investment in literacy programs across the province based on the knowledge that the strongest predictor of involvement in crime is illiteracy.

With an investment of $16 million, NSAB proposes a 50% decrease in tuition fees for the Nova Scotia Community College, which is the most accessible higher education program in the province, especially in rural areas.

Having access to energy, water, and public transportation are important to both economic development and quality of life in Nova Scotia. The NSAB invests $30 million in water and wastewater infrastructure, and $21 million in public transportation for rural Nova Scotia.

These few examples of how the NSAB prioritizes long-term investments in the citizens of this province will be paid for by a more responsible and equitable revenue model.

The NSAB advocates a shift in taxes from low and middle-income Nova Scotians to the upper 45% of income earners, especially to the top 10%. This reflects adherence to the principle of a progressive tax system and a recognition that in recent decades, growth accrued almost entirely to the top 10%. Indeed, most of the income gains have been to the top 1% while their taxes have been falling as a proportion of their incomes!

Those whose taxes increase under NSAB proposals also significantly benefit by our policies to improve and expand government services.

The NSAB continues to build our social and physical infrastructure and invest in our communities and our people where it is most needed. It avoids slashing government expenditures and services. It protects programs while increasing revenues, primarily through increased upper-end income taxes.

This budget does not pose a risk to the province’s delicate recovery by imposing austerity measures that will result in job losses. Rather, the investments it makes are fiscally prudent and will ensure that economic growth is shared more equitably, and that we lay a stronger foundation for our future.

The NSAB is modelled after the CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget, which has just released its 17th edition, entitled A Budget for the Rest of Us. This year’s AFB outlines “a blueprint to help Canada avoid a lost dec­ade of high unemployment, depressed incomes, chronic insecurity, and shattered dreams for a generation of youth.”  Go to www.policyalternatives.ca to access the full AFB 2012 and the NSAB 2012.

 

Jason Edwards
Research Officer, CCPA-NS
Editor and Contributor, www.maritimeperspective.ca

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