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Protests continue over changes in new Nova Scotia budget

HALIFAX – University students took over the office of Nova Scotia Finance Minister Diana Whalen on Monday morning to voice their displeasure with the new provincial budget.

“This is the most radical change to tuition change to happen in my lifetime and its not acceptable,” said John Hutton, a Dalhousie University student who took part in the student sit-in.

The 2015-16 budget lifts the three per cent tuition cap this year for universities. Students say they already graduate with nearly $40,000 in debt and the change is not OK.

“The sky’s the limit on how much fees can go up, so this will negatively impact students, said Hutton. “We already can’t afford to go to school. This will make it less affordable.”

The decision to lift the tuition cap is just one of the issues Whalen has been dealing with in the past week. Opposition to the province’s decision to cut the film tax credit is growing by the day.

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“Millions of dollars are disappearing and confidence is rapidly disappearing as well, so I really hope we can turn this around,” said Marc Almon, chair of Screen Nova Scotia.

The industry has been lobbying the government to reverse the decision, campaigning aggressively through television and radio ads. They have submitted a petition with the names of 24,000 protesters.

“We do not have an endless pot of money to support an industry at the richest level in the country,” said Whalen. “Sixty-five per cent of their labour costs can be covered. No other industry comes near that level of support.”

Late Monday afternoon, the minister agreed to meet with members of the film industry Tuesday morning to discuss their concerns.

“Were happy to talk. The stakes could not be higher,” Almon said.

“We’re talking about thousands of jobs at stake, hundreds of families that may be uprooted by this.”

The minister said she wants to move forward, but won’t say if she will budge on making any changes to the tax credit.

“We want an industry here, we want to work with them and we want a future for that industry here in Nova Scotia,” she said.

A rally is planned for Wednesday at noon at the Nova Scotia legislature to protest the changes to the film tax credit.

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