During his Back to Balance Tour, Finance Minister Graham Steele has said Nova Scotians appear to support the idea of raising the HST by two per cent to deal with a $525-million provincial deficit. Now it appears as though that claim might have been wishful thinking.
A poll commissioned by the CBC earlier this week indicates that 74 per cent of Nova Scotians are opposed to a tax increase to fight the deficit. And when asked how the province should best tackle it financial problems, some 60 per cent said they would support a wage freeze on all government employees.
A tax increase, first proposed last November by a panel of economic experts, would bring in about $350 million annually.
The poll is interesting in that Steele has been consistent in his message that while he has yet to make up his mind how to tackle the deficit, Nova Scotians have told him they would support a tax increase.
It’s something the minister said when he visited Amherst a couple of weeks ago. He told Cumberland County business owners and community leaders that their concerns over a tax increase were the minority view, even if he understands why people in this part of Nova Scotia are concerned with what a tax increase would do to this area’s competitiveness to businesses just a few kilometres away in New Brunswick.
It is already quite evident that government cares little for the concerns of Cumberland County residents when its comes to fuel taxes, tobacco taxes and the price of milk. The budget to be brought down by Steele later this spring may only reinforce that, especially if the minister continues to believe what he wants to hear.
Expecting government to hold the line on taxes while resisting the urge to cut programs and services may be asking too much, but let’s also hope it resists the urge to make up all its loses in one act and throws this county under the bus for the betterment of the rest of the province.