Should the provincial government raise taxes to balance its budget? Or should it cut program spending? What about its election promise to balance the books without making either of the unpopular moves?
The truth is, the province's finances are in a mess, and the government is going to have to both raise taxes and cut spending if it's going to come close to righting the ship. The premier was foolish to promise otherwise regardless of the depth of his knowledge prior to the election.
Now he has a $525 million deficit to contend with, while the economy is far from recovered from last year's recession.
The question is, what taxes should be raised? An HST hike, with protection for low-income families, was recommended by a panel of economic experts hired by the government last fall, but such a move would be particularly disastrous for this part of the province, which already suffers from cross-border shopping.
A decisive majority of Nova Scotians oppose increasing the HST, as do a growing number of organizations such as the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce, which rightfully predicts the hike would reduce competitiveness and the economy.
No one wants a cut to their personal income taxes, but it seems like one of the few remaining options if the HST is left alone. Everyone has to be prepared to feel the crunch. A growing deficit results in a growing debt that our children will have to deal with.
While Finance Minister Graham Steele continues his tour of the province, looking for advice from "everyday Nova Scotians," we hope he listens. But the answers to this problem are eventually going to have to come from those making the decisions. After all, they wanted this job.