NDP Leader Gary Burrill enthusiastically and unapologetically embraced something Nova Scotia politicians have repeatedly promised to eliminate for decades — deficits.
If elected, his party is promising to run deficits through not only the first mandate, but possibly through two.
The NDP's platform includes almost $1 billion in spending over and above what the Liberals promised in the budget tabled last month, which never passed.
Burrill launched the platform Monday morning at Dalhousie University's Student Union Building and said Nova Scotia needs major spending.
'A major move'
"When you're in a situation where you have 45,000 people being fed from food banks and [we have] the very highest increase in tuition rates anywhere in the country and over 100,000 people that can't get a family doctor, it's a situation that calls for a major move," he said.
Burrill said, with today's low interest rate environment, now is a good time to undertake major spending initiatives.
"The very best available thinking in economics suggests it. And it is also true that the needs of our people and the needs and requirements of the situation recommend it," he said.
Burrill and his team have built their platform around a key campaign theme, that Nova Scotians have been hurt and the province has not been well served by successive attempts by all three main parties to limit spending and try to table balanced budgets.
The NDP is promising to spend over four years:
- $123.6 million to open seven new collaborative-care centres, and to hire more doctors and nurses.
- $229 million in yet-to-be announced early childhood investments.
- $138.5 million to eliminate tuition fees to attend the Nova Scotia Community College (Starting at $33 million in year one and increasing by about $1 million every year for three years).
- $76 million to cut university tuition by 10 per cent over four years.
- $123 million to reinstate the previous Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit program.
- $165 million to subsidize food costs for low-income families.
The party said the net effect of the NDP spending over four years would total $966 million in deficits, but it claimed the province's net-debt-to-GDP ratio would not grow over the four years because a growing economy would cushion part of the blow.
The four-year plan also includes:
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
- Ending so-called corporate welfare.
- Introducing fixed election date legislation.
- Instituting a system of proportional representation.
String of deficits "frightening"
The PC candidate for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island Rob Batherson called the possibility of running deficits until 2025, "frightening" and "cynical".
"It tells Nova Scotians that we can just spend our way out of our problems," Batherson told reporters at his campaign office in downtown Halifax.
"Which we have seen time and time again, I mean we've had deficits generally in the province 20 of the last 30 years. If chronic deficits could solve Nova Scotia's woes we'd be the most prosperous place in Canada."
Liberal leader Stephen McNeil also pounced on the plan to spend more money than the province generates in revenue.
"I'm probably the only Nova Scotian that knows what it's like to be premier to follow an NDP government with a $500 million deficit," he said during a campaign event in Eastern Passage.
"Imagine following one with a billion dollar added to the debt of this province? And if you look at it where's the infrastructure commitment? What would we be left with?"