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Nova Scotia NDP proposes nearly $1 billion deficit over four years, touts spending in health and education

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WATCH ABOVE: NDP Leader Gary Burill is bucking the trend of his rivals and proposing deficits in the hundreds of millions in order to invest in health care, education and poverty reduction. Marieke Walsh looks at his platform – May 15, 2017

NDP Leader Gary Burrill is bucking the trend of his rivals and proposing deficits in the hundreds of millions in order to invest in health care, education, and poverty reduction.

In his platform released Monday, Burrill outlines a $966 million deficit over four years. The party says the deficit would last more than an election cycle but be phased out within six to eight years.

“We’re at a moment that calls for us to make a major move,” Burrill told a room of supporters and candidates. He said that means investment in Nova Scotians.

READ MORE: Complete Nova Scotia election coverage

Speaking to reporters after the announcement Burrill invoked the provincial Liberals’ federal cousins. Pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to run deficits with the aim of spurring economic growth.

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“The answer that the Federal Liberals gave in their last budget and in their last platform about this was the right one,” Burrill said. “When you provide effective stimulus to the economy, this generates serious, effective economic growth.

Over four years the NDP’s spending promises include:

  • $123 million for primary care
  • $60 million for new long-term care beds
  • $229.05 million for early childhood education
  • $138.48 million for free Nova Scotia Community College Tuition
  • $76.22 million to reduce university tuition by 10 per cent over four years
  • $164.87 million for income assistance

Burrill said he will measure his success as a government by eliminating the need for food banks and making college a possibility for all Nova Scotians.

“If we can eliminate those two things we will be one blistering success,” he said.

The party says despite the spending it’s projecting the debt to GDP ratio to hover around its current rate of 36.6 per cent.

READ MORE: Gary Burrill: The clergyman at the helm of Nova Scotia’s New Democrats

Deficit ‘could’ go higher

The platform points to a $256 million deficit this year if his party forms government. However, the plan outlined doesn’t include the potential costs of negotiations with public sector unions. The Liberals have budgeted for two years of wage freezes across the public service. It’s also banking on the end of the long service award dating back to April 2015.

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Asked if that meant his deficit could be much higher than projected, Burrill said “‘could’ would be the operative word.

“All of that depends on what happens in those negotiations which we will approach in an open and honest way,” he said.

Reinstating the long service award alone would add a $40 million liability to the books.

Other than a tax hike of three percentage points on the marginal rate for people earning more than $250,000, Burrill said there would be no other tax hikes under his leadership. He also ruled out other tax hikes like a hike to the HST.

Asked if he is ruling out any other tax hikes, Burrill said yes.

The NDP plan also says it will find $182 million in savings over four years through a program review that will include NSBI, advertising costs, and consulting contracts.

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