AMHERST – He promised to create a province where Nova Scotians would have good jobs, better health care and a stronger economy with balanced books. In a recent Question Period, Premier Darrell Dexter came under scrutiny for his promises from the Progressive Conservative Party, claiming the premier has not done his job. Taking the brunt of the criticism was his Jobs Here initiative.
Jamie Baillie, MLA for Cumberland South and leader of the PC Party of Nova Scotia, said all the premier has succeeded in doing through this project is increasing the province’s debt by bailing out large, outside-the-region companies using tax payers’ dollars in an attempt to keep jobs in the area.
“It has resulted in the loss of 7,400 full time jobs in the last three years,” said Baillie, referring to Statistics Canada numbers. “No one knows better than the people of Cumberland County the cost of raising our taxes to the highest in the country, allowing our power bills to skyrocket and making our neighbouring provinces like New Brunswick more attractive for jobs than Nova Scotia.”
Premier Darrell Dexter said Baillie could not be further from the truth.
“We do attraction rebates,” said Dexter. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve done a few retention rebates just because it’s better to have those jobs stay here than go somewhere else. But on every one of those, we make money.”
One example the premier provided was in the case of a company called Flag Stone. Over the period of time that the rebate was put in place, which Dexter claimed was done under the power of the Conservatives, the company received $1.7 million dollars. In order to receive that money, the company had to meet a hiring quota to qualify for the rebate. The company paid a portion of the money up front to the government and only received a portion of it back once the number of jobs was audited.
Baillie said if the government can help with the funding of these companies, then why were they not able to finish the River Hebert High School.
“The school has been waiting for months for the NDP to provide the funding to finish the reconstruction of that school,” he said. “We were told (by the NDP) that there isn’t enough money to finish the job. To me, an investment in education is a much better investment in our future.”
Dexter denied any of the initiative participants receiving tax payers’ money. He said the company received a portion of the rebate that they paid in, which was $5.7 million. The company, in this case Flag Stone, only received money after proving they met the hiring quota. They received only $1.7 million in return.
“We made $4 million which went into health, education and other government services,” said Dexter. “The rebate program is one of the most successful worldwide.”
Dexter said the only reason for the larger number of unemployed Nova Scotians had to do with the increase in readily available workers in the province.
“You look at the labour force. The participation in the labour force has increased,” said Dexter. “The number of jobs has increased. They will criticize saying that they’re part time positions. The fact is is that there are more people working in Nova Scotia than when we came to power in 2009.”
Dexter added that his government had the lowest unemployment numbers in the region.
Baillie said the premier refuses to recognize the hardship his policies are causing.
“I would be very happy if the premier would just admit the obvious,” said Baillie. “Jobs are being lost, taxes are too high, power rates are unaffordable and scrap his Jobs Here plan and bring in one that provides real tax relief and power relief and real job opportunities to the people of Cumberland County. If he doesn’t do it, then as Premier, I would be happy to.”