NDP's unchallenged anniversary | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

NDP's unchallenged anniversary

One year after being elected, Darrell Dexter's NDP government needs less help from the missing media and weak opposition.

Our new NDP government has turned its back on its dearest friends. At the party convention last weekend, Darrell Dexter made a point of not thanking the opposition parties and the media for helping his government weather its first year in office. Yes, the NDP won the provincial election a year ago this week and sailed into power rashly promising a balanced budget and no tax increases. But the government soon had to face the stark reality that massive spending cuts would have been required to balance the budget---an extremely stupid move in the midst of a severe recession. An independent economic advisory panel told it so last fall. The panel also recommended tax increases. And that's where the government fucked up. It did raise income taxes for people earning more than $150,000, but cut taxes for 30,000 people earning more than $83,000. What sense does that make? Worse still, Dex and co-pilot Graham Steele decided to boost sales taxes by two percent.

Raising income taxes makes sense because they're based on ability to pay. But regressive sales taxes are horrible for those on low incomes. So the NDP promised rebates for households with yearly incomes under $30,000. So, let's see, the poor pay the tax at the cash register, then get $240 back a year plus $57 for anyone under 19 living at home. What sense does that make? The Liberals and Tories muttered that they couldn't support the sales tax increase, but advanced no real alternatives. Has any Nova Scotia government in living memory ever been cursed with such weak-kneed opposition parties?

And where were the media? Well, so far, they've spent three months shouting about $75,000 in questionable MLA expense account spending. "Your tax money is being wasted!" they thunder. OK, so the province spends more than $9 BILLION a year and the media are all bent out of shape about $75,000? OK, there is a story here. A couple of MLAs resigned and some politicians are under police investigation, but, jesus murphy, the media have been milking this story since February. Has any Nova Scotia government in living memory ever been cursed with such weak-minded journalists?

Yes, it was a year of recession---economic hardship all round---especially for the poor. Yet neither the opposition nor the media held the government's feet to the fire as Feed Nova Scotia, homeless shelters and soup kitchens handed out food to 40,000 people a month. Nor did the government's friends in the media and opposition parties raise a stink about the fact that the poor are struggling to get by on incomes well below the poverty line.

To its credit, the government responded in its April budget with a few modest measures. It promised to pay an extra $200 per year to about 15,000 welfare recipients living on annual incomes of $12,000 or less; it's removing the provincial sales tax on diapers, children's clothing and footwear as well as menstrual products; about 18,000 of the poorest old-age pensioners will no longer have to pay provincial income tax and the government will invest $128 million building and renovating affordable housing. Yes, Dexter and company promised these modest measures out of the goodness of their "socialist" hearts without any pressure at all from the opposition parties or the media. Has any Nova Scotia government in living memory ever been cursed with such faithful friends?

Marshall McLuhan remarked that "the only cool PR is provided by one's enemies. They toil incessantly and for free." Unfortunately, our new NDP governors have no real enemies and therefore no "cool PR." Maybe that's why they're posting anonymous squibs on the Herald website praising themselves. Very uncool PR, especially when they get caught! The Grits and the Tories are too weak to provide real opposition and the media are too focused on nickels and dimes to hold the government to account. With friends like these, our new NDP government badly needs a few faithful enemies.

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