The 2012/13 Budget will dominate the spring session.
Expect a very small tax cut, as the Finance Minister indicated last week. It will likely include another reduction of the small business tax, just as every NDP budget has to date. Also expect: agriculture news, action on poverty reduction and other modest but real efforts to make life a little easier for Nova Scotia families.
While Nova Scotia’s economic prospects are looking up, don’t expect to see massive reduction in economic stimulus. Building and paving roads and other infrastructure projects keeps people working during a slumping international economy and at a time when the federal government is looking to slash money to the provinces. It also chips away at the infrastructure deficit that previous governments had let accumulate.
What can we expect from the opposition parties? As with every session, expect the Conservatives to continue to say they would reduce taxes to create a surplus. In other words, expect them to fail math. Again.
As for the Opposition Liberals, with Rob Smith and Stephen Greene, good old boys from the Conservative Party, openly talking about a merger (or acquisition) of the two opposition parties, watch out for reactions from the Liberal MLAs. Several Liberals likely see themselves as potential successors to Stephen McNeil after the next election and they could speak out publicly against combining teams with their longtime foes to raise their profile.
Expect more Ships Start Here news. Although the opposition were all behind the campaign at first, once Nova Scotia won the ship building contract, both the Liberals and the Tories have looked for ways to turn the positive story negative. Irving has always said they wouldn’t have won the bid without the support of Premier Dexter. This spring, they’ll explain why. In fact, expect big news on the Irving bid very soon.
Administration costs in school boards and district health authorities should be a hot topic this spring. Although the Conservatives created all the district health authorities, Baillie suddenly wants to merge them. So far, the Dexter government has instead chosen to cut senior executive positions at the DHAs, while directing school boards to reduce administration by 15 per cent. Taking on the school boards will be trickier for Baillie, since several of his candidates in the next election are expected to come from school boards.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission will come out with their draft plan to reset Nova Scotia’s political map. Expect Conservative politicians and their supporters to go off-message here, as the MLAs want things to stay the same to save their seats, while their supporters will speak out in favour of a variance rate between constituencies much smaller than the 25% the government asked the Commission to consider (the one vote = one vote argument). We disagree with both – Nova Scotia’s population is changing and electoral boundaries need to reflect that, but allowing for 25% variance protects rural Nova Scotia.