The provincial NDP are heading for the unenviable position of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
While the anticipation has been that the party would balance the budget this coming spring, they’re making noises that doing so might be unadvisable at this point. In pre-budget consultations, says Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald, some are maintaining that doing it come hell or high water would not be wise.
As Nova Scotians are well aware, progress toward reattaining that goal over the past three years has meant great pressure on health care, education and other services. The concern raised by various groups in the consultations is that hastening to balance, considering the current fiscal year’s projected $227 million deficit, would result in too much pain.
But get ready for the opposition parties to pounce and say so much for the NDP and its promises. They will characterize this as excuses not to make tough decisions.
And what of the public? Cuts to education and health in the past couple of years have brought outcry.
Yet, on the other hand, a deficit in this day of heightened awareness of fiscal issues is a dark psychological cloud – much worse when prolonged over several years and ballooning the overall debt.
A bright spot in the recent past was the 2010-2011 surplus for Nova Scotia, but balance has not generally been within reach of this or other governments since the 2009 recession kicked in. The NDP when campaigning in 2009 vigorously pledged to stay in the black. But considering at the time, as they appeared headed to victory, and pundits and opponents insisted on invoking images of the costly Bob Rae NDP government in 1990s Ontario, the Nova Scotia NDP had no choice but to declare intentions unwaveringly.
Many were expecting a balanced budget this spring closely followed by an election call. An election can’t be put off much longer, and no matter which way the NDP go on this they must brace for the poison darts.