Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Tories release full election platform, with big spending on health care

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston says his party has a plan to improve health care in the province, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

Plan would cost $553 million in first year, party says budget would be balanced in six years

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston detailed his party's election platform on Thursday in Halifax. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston says his party has a plan to improve health care in the province, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

Houston released his party's costed election platform on Thursday, a document focused primarily on health care, the economy, the environment and education.

While there is a plan to balance the books in six years, there is a lot of new spending before that happens. The Tories would spend $553 million in the first year to fulfil their commitments, a total that would push the provincial deficit over $1 billion if they were to form government on Aug. 17.

"After years of neglect, fixing health care will be expensive," Houston told reporters in Halifax.

Spending on health care accounts for the lion's share of that $553 million — about $430 million. It includes previously discussed plans to begin building 2,500 new single long-term care beds, offer improved access to universal mental health services and attract more doctors.

Part of that plan will include the creation of a pension plan for doctors. Contributions from the province would depend on the number of years a doctor has worked in Nova Scotia, but the Tories estimate the annual cost of the plan for the government to be about $6 million.

The party is also pledging a tax credit of up to $8,000 a year, capped at a total of $20,000, for people seeking fertility treatment. And for those on the waiting list to get a family doctor, Houston said a Tory government would cover the cost of getting them access to a doctor through telehealth.

Paying for these services will require new streams of revenue.

The Tories would bring in a new property tax levy for people who own property here but do not pay personal income taxes in Nova Scotia.

The levy would be $2 per $100 of assessment. There will also be a new deed transfer tax premium of an additional five per cent on any such property sales. The measures are expected to generate about $150 million a year.

Efforts aimed at the environment

In an effort to increase the supply of housing, Houston said his party would tender out available Nova Scotia Lands properties for the development of affordable housing and residential housing options. The provincial agency oversees the remediation and redevelopment of Crown-owned properties.

In a push to create more jobs and keep and attract workers, the Tories are promising no personal income tax for people younger than 30 working in the trades on their first $50,000 earned. The Tories would subsidize the installation of satellite internet service for people who don't have access to coverage in their area.

On the environment, the Tories are pledging to reach 80 per cent renewable energy use by 2030, increase land and water mass protection to 20 per cent by 2030, and introduce new legislation to enshrine environmental goals and climate change reduction targets.

There are also plans to have at least 30 per cent of cars sold by 2030 to be zero-emission and fund half the cost of installation for electric vehicle chargers. All new provincial buildings would be required to be net-zero.

The Tories are appealing to rural voters by promising to double the budget for rural road work and create a fund to make repairs to local rinks.

Federal child-care deal to be honoured

On education, the party would add curriculum focusing on civics, financial literacy and healthy living, as well as provide more diversity training for teachers and implement all outstanding recommendations from the 2018 report on inclusion. Further seats would also be created in high school-based trades programs.

While the party said it would modernize the school board model, officials stopped short of promising a return of elected board members.

Although the platform does not include any substantive measures targeted at child care, Houston said if he forms government he would build on the agreement recently signed between the federal and provincial governments aimed at reaching $10-per-day daycare.

"I'm not interested in moving this province backward in any way," he said. "We're not going to unwind anything. We're going to look to improve everything that's before us."

The Tory platform includes a plan to balance the province's budget in six years. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Houston is also promising fixed election dates and to grant order-making power for the province's privacy commissioner. The latter is a promise past political leaders, including former premier Stephen McNeil, have made but never followed through on.

The NDP has already released a 10-year outlook for its vision for the province, with plans to release a costed platform later in the campaign. The Liberals, meanwhile, are rolling out their platform throughout the campaign. Liberal Leader Iain Rankin has so far declined to detail the five key planks of that platform.