Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Bad Policy, Worse Politics

Bad Policy 1

The New Democratic Government of Saskatchewan decides to drop the provincial sales tax by 2 points - 7 percent down to 5 percent. I criticized the federal Conservatives for dropping the GST and will stay consistent with sales tax reduction criticism.

The government is lurching from poll to poll, crisis to crisis and priority to priority. No leader. No vision.

The $325 million could have gone to three high priority areas: reduction of the education / property tax, personal income tax reductions / research investments and debt reduction.

Bad Policy 2

The Nova Scotia Conservative government uses Ottawa money to reduce tuition fees for only Nova Scotia students. In January 2007, each full-time - more than 23,000 - Nova Scotia students will pay $440 less to their university.

Education Minister Karen Casey announced the changes last Friday:

"The government of Nova Scotia is investing $10.3 million (of Ottawa's money) to reduce university tuition for Nova Scotian students, effective January 2007."

Today's announcement follows closely on the transfer of $28.8 million to the province from the Infrastructure Trust Fund - the Nova Scotia Tories have a strange view of infrastructure, established in this year's federal budget. The money is to be used over two years. About $8.8 million of the second year's allocation will go to tuition reduction in September 2007.

This is bad policy for three reasons:

1. It is universal. Everyone gets the same amount regardless of their financial need. Cheap electoral politics and will not effect access - the stated goal of the announcement one bit. Nova Scotia just made university more affordable for those that could afford to go.

2. The province is using Ottawa's money to discriminate against Canadian students. The federal government should be paying closer attention. This sets a dangerous precedent. Nova Scotia has no leg to stand on when it whines about per student funding. The province does more than ok with the influx of non-resident students. The Halifax economy benefits greatly from both the direct and indirect benefits of sustaining (no thanks to the province) multiple universities and students work and consumer when they are there.

3. The money would have been better spent investing in aid for students who can't afford to attend. For every $440 going out the door, why not $3,080 for those in financial need. Send a real signal that you are serious about access and affordability.

Bad Politics

Nova Scotia Premier - even more clueless than Saskatchewan's Calvert - announced that Nova Scotia is the first province in Canada to appoint a Minister for Military Relations. Funny, I swore defense fell 100 percent under federal powers in the Canadian Constitution. The same Constitution that provincial parties and governments are quick to site when Ottawa hints or moves into provincial areas.

Murray Scott, current Justice Minister, now gets the post. It is truly a historic occasion. One so big and worth celebrating that if you check the Provincial Cabinet page, there is not a mention of title under Murray Scott.

Here is hoping some took pictures of nice veteran. If Canadian governments wanted to truly honour the military November 11th would be a national statutory holiday. It would go along way to educating ignorant people like me about the true sacrifices that brave men and women made on battlefields around the globe in yesteryear.

Instead new positions get created to - in the words of MacDonald "act as our direct link to both the Department of National Defence and military personnel in our province. The minister will oversee the province's Defence Forum, an interdepartmental committee of provincial staff who promote and support relationships with the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces."

The goals of the forum are: to build Nova Scotia's capacity to deal with military issues and opportunities, sustain a strong relationship with the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence, and help Nova Scotia work towards a stronger military presence in the province.

Surely Peter Mackay and some of the other federal Nova Scotia Conservatives are aware of the military importance in Nova Scotia.

The reason for reducing fees for all students in Nova Scotia is actually one that I agree with. We used to pay an average of more than $6000 a year for post secondary education which is the highest in the country. Even with this decrease we are topping the list. The goal was to lower the debt load on young people in the province and not to make education more accessible. As for the money only applying to Nova Scotian’s, you got us on that one.
Cutting the PST in Saskatchewan is good. Judging by the amount of Manitoba plates in Regina on the weekend buying big ticket items, this might not cost 325 million.

What the province should do is amalgamate school divisions, amalgamate rm's and go to the county system. Alberta does the county system. We have 800 rm's!! What a joke.
1) The NDP are obviously catering to the highly-contested Cypress Hills constituency, where residents from Leader to Eastend will no longer be encouraged to travel all the way to the Hat for their shopping needs. The Swift Current Saan store will finally be able to compete with the bigs.

2) I agree that tuition fees are way too high in Nova Scotia for everybody but I also believe that Nova Scotians should have a better hand in their tuition expenses than subsidizing students from Ontario and Quebec because those provinces don't have enough space for their own kids. If those provinces want their kids educated elsewhere, they should chip in to contribute to the outsourcing. As education is under the purview of the province, I have no problem with the government favouring the children of their own taxpayers over others, so long as others aren't doing the same for their own kids.

However, as for using $8.8 million of the $28.8 million of Ottawa infratructure money on tuition reduction, well, that's just plain wrong. It shouldn't be used for this purpose nor should it be used toward student aid. It should be used for infrastructure and infrastructure alone.

3) I never knew, until I finally went to Halifax for the first time five years ago, the close relationship between Nova Scotia and the military. While I can understand the need to have a close relationship with the Forces and the provincial government, having a cabinet-level position seems ridiculous, to say the least.

That move has me baffled.
No comment on the Income Trust dust up?
Great ideas from NS. Nova Scotia should NOT use it's transfer payments from Ottawa to subsidize foreign students, or those from other provinces. Let them pay their fair share.

The Military Affairs post is a symbolic thing, a good idea as more than 14,000 people in NS work for DND/CF. Scott is justice minister. I have met him, he's a former policeman (not a scum lawyer). An honorable man. If we had more Murray Scotts (and less crooks like Chretien) this country would be a hell of a lot better off!

As a veteran, I appreciate the gesture. This has nothing to do with federal responsilities. Your comments illustrate your lack of knowledge of military/civilian relations in Nova Scotia...something that reaches back 400 years.
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