Accusations were flying in a leaders debate Thursday. Premier Darrell Dexter zeroed in on what he deemed an inconsistency in Liberal Stephen McNeil’s view on funding to the private sector. On another level, the exchange highlights a highly sensitive point for Nova Scotians.
The example in the debate hosted by News 95.7 came when the leaders were asked if they would consider provincial support for a proposed stadium in Halifax. It could ultimately be a catalyst in drawing an NFL franchise to the city, along with serving other big events.
Dexter said he would never automatically rule out a project but would want assurance of its long-term viability. After McNeil answered that he would enter into such a conversation, Dexter charged that such a position contradicts criticism the Liberal leader has expressed over public-private partnerships.
The premier expressed the crux faced by governments in terms of helping a company that provides jobs for Nova Scotians.
And there lies the rub. The NDP did take a lot of criticism over some high-profile attempts to help struggling businesses.
But the thing people should realize is that the other parties would have done the same thing given the circumstances. Pressure – to ‘do something’ – from the public in the area of the company in question is so intense that governments feel compelled. In Pictou County, just consider how heated things became in trying to find a new owner for the former TrentonWorks.
When the story unfortunately ends badly as in the case of, say, Bowater Mersey, the benefit of hindsight provides the opposition and public with ammo to condemn the use of taxpayers’ money for private business.
We also heard grumbling over the continuing saga of meeting conditions for the suitors of the Point Tupper paper mill.
There is no easy answer. Voters would do well to take any declarations on the subject with a grain of salt leading up to an election. Forethought and acting under pressure are two different beasts.