It was a strange way for the Premier to make a major "good news"
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 allnovascotia.com. No
cameras, nobody from the two daily newspapers, even the opposition leaders had
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
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 www.NDPRipOff.ca
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.