If Nova Scotia is so resource rich, why are we struggling?

October 10, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

Posted in: Leader's Blog

All of us would be correct in the assertion that we are a resource rich province. However many of those resources have been contracted out to multinational companies for their benefit, with little regard for the true owners of the resource, the people of Nova Scotia. We need to level the playing field when distributing rights to resource extraction and build in safeguards and tangible benefits for Nova Scotians.

There is a balance point between corporate profits and societal profit that has been tipped in favour of the corporate side for too many years. However, I should point out that we must continue to make certain that those markets remain profitable for companies to invest here, but business interests and Nova Scotia’s interests should be one and the same.

One major stumbling block to progress has to be our deficit. Currently we pay just under one billion dollars per year in interest on our debt, or 12% of our total revenues, which last year was 8.4 billion dollars. Our total debt is currently around 12 billion dollars. Running continuous deficits only exacerbates the problem. International lenders look askance at borrowing states that do not control their deficit spending. I’m certain that you would all agree that an extra billion dollars per year would go a long way to improving life here in Nova Scotia. Points must be awarded to the current government for their Back to Balance efforts.

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of solutions being bandied about, many of them quite well thought out, but it is important that we choose those solutions that are economically viable and of greatest benefit to Nova Scotia.

Successive governments of all stripes have wrestled with the conundrum of how to live within their means while providing all the services that are demanded of them. Citizens get angry when services are downgraded or removed, but get angrier when asked to pay more to support those services. Deciding what is essential and what is frivolous never achieves consensus. Ask 100,000 Nova Scotians and you will get 100,000 different answers.

This damned if you do and damned if you don’t policy has frozen governments into inaction, or worse, they end up giving everyone what they ask for without regard to the true long-term costs involved. Asking our children to subsidize our lifestyle  is not an option anymore, but asking citizens to pay more for services is still considered political suicide by most parties.

And yet those 58% of citizens that still bother to vote continue to vote for the dream, not the reality, and then are disappointed when the dream evaporates after election day. And we continue to fall for the dream they weave because it is easier and safer than real change. All politicians speak of change, but most are talking about changing which side of the Legislature on which they sit, and continue to maintain the status quo that has fed them so well over the course of their careers.

So how do we fix that? Well…

I am 63 years old and doubt very much that I will see this province and country achieve a workable balance between fiscal, social and environmental responsibility in my lifetime. There is just too much to do and many changes to put in place. But that is why we must start right now. I’m working for my kids and grandkids. The longer we wait the harder and more drastic the solution will be. Most politicians will not tell you this. They will claim that they can fix everything within their four year mandate and ask for your trust.

The biggest change that I see as necessary is beyond any government control. What is needed is a major shift in public attitudes towards government and what they can and should do. That being said, there should be a difference between government spending and government investment. Spending is money out the door. Investment implies a Return On Investment.

Here’s an example. The Yarmouth Ferry debacle. The NDP claimed that $6 million dollars spent on a subsidy for the Yarmouth ferry was a waste of taxpayer dollars. That ferry was the only direct gateway to Nova Scotia from the United States. The 2009 Tourism Ministry report stated that Yarmouth was responsible for 5% of the tourist dollars coming into this province. Total tourism figures for 2009 were $1.3 billion. This means the Yarmouth ferry created $65 million in economic activity. The provincial HST share on that is 10% or $6.5 million. The provincial income tax collected on the 340 jobs dependent on the ferry traffic was about $2.3 million. So in order to save $6 million the province lost $8.8 million.

But wait! The contract with the ferry service contained a cancellation penalty of $3 million which the province gladly paid out. So now we are out almost $12 million to save $6 million. Those lost jobs are now a drain on the economy and those people are now accessing the social services budget. I have no figures on that expenditure.

To make matters worse, in the same breath the government gave $3 million it “saved” to renovate a soccer facility in Halifax, and to add insult to injury, the New Brunswick tourism figures for this past summer 2010 showed a 25% increase in US traffic to their province. Hardly what I would call a sound investment for Nova Scotia.

The Green Party of Nova Scotia is dedicated to balancing the budget, but we also understand that the current economic situation requires investment.  We are committed, however, to refraining from participating in corporate bailouts and we are opposed to drastic measures that would involve swinging between heavy economic intervention and widespread deregulation.

The Green Party of Nova Scotia will reduce government waste, partially through attrition, increase efficiency, and provide tax relief through shifting. It will also ensure every dollar invested today provides jobs, helps diversify our economy, and protects our common wealth: the environment. Just as the Green Party believes in living within our ecological limits, we believe in a government that will operate within fiscal limits.

As fiscally conservative free marketers, we believe that every policy the Green Party of Nova Scotia adopts must meet all three of the following criteria : economically sustainable, socially responsible, and environmentally balanced.

The Green’s will:
1.    Create Jobs in a new sustainable economy, ensuring our economy thrives at the local and regional levels
2.    Build Sustainable Infrastructure geared to a low-carbon future
3.    Invest in renewable energy production
4.    Advance Education and Technology for a new economy
5.    Extend our social safety net to help those most in need
6.    Shift Taxes to redress inequities
7.    Bring about electoral reform to augment true and proportional representation for all citizens.
The Green’s will NOT:
1.    Bail out failed industries
2.    Depend mainly on depletion of our primary resources
3.    Build more roads
4.    Continue to hand out corporate subsidies
5.    Use deficit financing to entrench an old economy
This is just a taste of where we would like to take this province. Many citizens have given up and walked away and don’t even vote anymore. I believe a vote not cast is a vote for the status quo. Many others will oppose changes to the economy, and that is their right, but fearing and resisting change takes far more energy that facilitating and encouraging change.

And change will come. We don’t live in the 19th century anymore so why are we still governed as if we do?

I believe the best ideas come from personal experience. I don’t have all the answers but I’ve been told I’m a pretty smart guy. And the smartest thing I can do is listen to everyone who makes sense.

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