Nova Scotia premier says key election promise of corporate tax rebate may not proceed

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Nova Scotia premier says key election promise of corporate tax rebate may not proceed
WATCH: Premier Tim Houston says a promise made during the 2021 election campaign may no longer be achievable. Dubbed “the better paycheque guarantee,” the PC Party’s goal was to help companies increase wages or hire more people. Callum Smith reports. – Oct 27, 2023

Nova Scotia’s premier cast doubt Friday on a corporate tax rebate that was a key promise in his party’s 2021 election platform.

Speaking to reporters outside the legislative chamber, Tim Houston appeared to back away from the “better paycheque guarantee” – a promise that was highlighted on the front of the Progressive Conservative election platform document.

The proposal was to give Nova Scotia companies a 50 per cent rebate on their provincial corporate taxes if they used the savings to pay their employees more. The measure excluded the top 20 per cent of a company’s earners.

But Houston now says he doesn’t know if the measure is possible as proposed.

“I’m not sure today that it goes forward as it was in the platform documents, but those (government) assessments are continuing to be done,” he said.

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Government officials have estimated the promise could cost the province around $200 million in revenue. The premier was asked whether his government could afford to forgo that amount given that the bulk of its budget is going toward health care and hospital infrastructure, while $1.7 billion was announced Monday for housing programs.

“There are lots of priorities in government and those priorities shift,” Houston said. “It could be the case on this one, I’ll say that. We’ll continue to assess the best way to meet the objectives.”

Houston added that he believes many Nova Scotians are already getting higher pay because of his government’s record in negotiating new contracts with public sector unions.

“Certainly, with the history we are developing with our labour negotiations, the contracts that we’ve been able to secure, I think lots of those people are getting better paycheques.”

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill welcomed the premier’s apparent shift, calling the Tory promise “a stupid idea“ that would have subsidized paycheques for the private sector.

Churchill suggested other measures that the premier could adopt to improve the bottom line for workers.

“He could cut income taxes, he could cut government fees and he could give some of the money that he’s collected from people back,” he said.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said she wasn’t surprised by what looks like a backtrack on a plan “that never made any sense to begin with.”

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“It was a tax cut to corporations with no strings attached … and it was never clear how it was going to benefit workers,” said Chender.

She suggested that targeted steps such as removing the tax on groceries and waiving pharmacare fees for seniors would make more of a difference for people who are struggling to make ends meet.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2023.

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