Beyond the Headlines

A strange way to announce a tax cut

Posted: Apr 4, 2012 1:32 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 4, 2012 1:32 PM ET
It was a strange way for the Premier to make a major "good news" announcement.
I'm talking about Darrel Dexter's promise to reduce the HST to 14% in 2014, and then to 13% in 2015. Usually a tax cut like this would be unveiled at a carefully orchestrated photo-op, with every news outlet given plenty of notice to ensure all cameras are rolling.
But on Monday night there were no cameras. In fact, there were barely any reporters around to listen to the Premier.
Here's the picture: it's just after 9:40pm Monday. The legislature is about to adjourn for the evening. There are only two reporters left in the Press Gallery, the CBC's Jean Laroche and Brian Flynn from No cameras, nobody from the two daily newspapers, even the opposition leaders had gone home.
The two lonely reporters are told the Premier has something to say in the foyer. When they arrive Dexter appears surprised at the low turnout, in fact, he asks "is there anyone else?" When told that's all there is, Dexter finally announces a tax cut that will impact every single Nova Scotian.
This is certainly not the way the Premier's office wanted to get the news out.
Apparently the plan was for the Premier to announce the tax cut much earlier in the evening during his reply to the Speech from the Throne. But the opposition, no doubt sensing something was up, used every minute of their allotted time, leaving the Premier no time to speak. With the budget coming down Tuesday, the Premier had no choice but to drop the news to an almost empty press gallery, leaving his staff scrambling to get the word out (including calling some reporters at home).
Now, while the way the HST cut was unveiled was a bit odd, the timing of the announcement is not really surprising (even though the first tax cut won't take effect for another two years).
Raising the HST was seen by many as the Dexter government's Achilles heel. Everyone remembers the last election campaign and Darrell Dexter's promise not to raise taxes. He broke that promise by increasing the HST from 13% to 15%.
It's the issue that wouldn't go away.
Conservative leader Jamie Baillie raised it at every opportunity. The party repeatedly put out "broken promise" press releases. On Monday afternoon, just hours before the Premier's announcement, the Conservatives unveiled a website featuring a gas pump-like counter racking up the cost to Nova Scotians of the HST hike.
Dexter's promise to lower the tax should take some of the steam out of those attacks, but as the opposition will no doubt point out many times, at this point it's still just a promise.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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