Tag Archives: Jamie Baillie

What if the results of the Nova Scotia election were declared unconstitutional?

vote-nova-scotia

This was a question some of us were mulling over on election night.

The ambitious and dedicated folks at community radio station CIOE in Lower Sackville asked me to moderate their coverage on election night with a panel comprised of broadcasting legend Al Hollingsworth, former NDP MLA Michele Raymond and former Nova Scotia finance minister and Senator Bernie Boudreau.

Bernie and I share a common failure. We ran in the 2000 federal election in Dartmouth. We both lost. Actually, former Buchanan era cabinet minister and now Senator, Tom McInnes was in the race too, so I was in pretty good company when we all failed to unseat incumbent NDP MP Wendy Lill. (I should point out, my ill-informed run failed much more miserably than the PC and Liberal candidates, mind you Bernie gave up his Senate seat to run, but I digress)

In advance of the provincial election night program in May, I asked Bernie if he would mind having a quick peek at the Reference of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal regarding the Final Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC). We all felt it was an important issue, but it wasn’t getting much media attention.

The Honourable Justices Fichaud, Saunders, Oland, Bryson and Bourgeois were asked to provide opinion on the following; Does Section 1 of Chapter 61 of the Acts of Nova Scotia 2012, by which provisions the recommendations tendered by the EBC by its Final Report to the House of Assembly were enacted, violate Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by abolishing the electoral districts of Clare, Argyle, and Richmond?

The Court’s answer in late January? Yes.

Now I’m not a lawyer, but Bernie is and his opinion on this, which he freely shared on the radio, is the province could be in some pretty thick soup. If the EBC violated the Charter, does this mean the electoral boundaries are unconstitutional as the Acadian Federation asserts? How many? If the boundaries were illegal during an election, does this mean the result of the election is illegal? What would that mean?

Earlier in the spring, the Acadian Federation’s executive director Marie-Claude Rioux said, “I don’t think it is in the government’s best interest to call an election before this issue is resolved. It opens a whole Pandora’s box, and I don’t think the government wants to go there.” Well, they did.

So, the implication of this seems, at least on the surface, pretty serious and requiring some delicate unwinding.

The Liberals essentially said, our lawyers see it differently and the Premier can call an election whenever he wants. However, the loss of former Minister of Acadian Affairs Michel Samson’s seat in Richmond adds another layer of intrigue, as Samson was widely seen as one of Stephen McNeil’s senior lieutenants, and his loss in the election can be attributed, at least in part, to the redrawing of the boundaries.

Cape Breton Richmond

Progressive Conservative Alana Paon beat Samson in Cape Breton-Richmond by just 20 votes. In 2013, Samson got 50 per cent of the vote. Prior to the election, Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said the legitimacy of an election would be in question if the government doesn’t pay attention to the Acadian Federation. They picked up the Richmond seat, so what are they saying now?

The issue is apparently going to be resolved one way or another later this year, but it could make for some very interesting political posturing.

Advertisements

Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones

Nova Scotia’s electoral Game of Thrones is in full swing and while it may lack the dramatic flair of the HBO series, it has one thing in common, winter is coming. Unfortunately, the parties are either unaware of it or are seemingly oblivious to a stark reality.

All of the parties have launched their offensives by flinging open the doors to the treasury, each with new and creative ways to spend our tax dollars with the greatest political efficiency.

The number one priority for CFIB’s 5,200 members in Nova Scotia, consistently, is a reduction of the overall tax burden and the clearest path to this is through alignment of public sector wages and benefits to private sector norms and an overall reduction of the size of the public service. In other words, reduce the cost and the size of government.

For those who argue we have already been dealing with austerity budgets, here’s the reality. Since 2007 Nova Scotia government spending has risen from $7.3 billion to $10.5 billion, an increase of 43 per cent. Additionally, we’ve seen a whopping 22.5 per cent increase in our debt from $12.4 to $15.2 billion over the same time period. All this with an increase of only 16 per cent in the CPI (inflation) and our population flat-lining at 1.5 percent. This is not restraint and certainly not “austerity” by anyone’s definition.

Spending restraint is becoming more important than ever before. Perhaps because the weather is warming our politicians are floating sunny prognostications but there is an inevitable, relentless sociological cold front headed our way. Stretching our Game of Thrones metaphor, let’s call it “The Wall”.

According to Statistics Canada, that “wall” can be found in baseline population predictions. In 20 years, those over 65 years of age will make up fully 30 per cent of our population. A great majority of those will be out of the workforce and needing higher levels of healthcare. Keep in mind, in 2013, that same cohort made up only 17 per cent of Nova Scotia’s population.

By 2038, the forecasts indicate our median age will be nearly 50 and our overall population is expected to decline to under 934,000.

So who will carry additional tax load? If you’re a voter in your 20’s and 30’s, have a look in the mirror.

While efforts are being made to increase immigration, and claims are being made about having the largest population “ever”, the fact remains, unless we make some fundamental and dramatic changes to the way our government spends, we will be faced with some very, very difficult decisions indeed.

Absent in all of the spending promises in this election is a discussion of any long-term fiscal planning to deal with this issue. By long term, we don’t mean 4 years out, we mean 25 years out. Intergenerational forecasts which will set sustainable spending patterns.

Where are the real plans to deal with the inevitable decline in revenues from a shrinking and aging workforce? While some creative gains are being made through immigration, they are incidental and the problem is not getting people to Nova Scotia, it’s keeping them here. More than half of those who arrive leave within five years.

It’s not much wonder as we’ve been struggling with economic growth and carry the some of the highest tax burdens in the country. Our public service is nearly 5 points larger than the national average and their salaries and benefits are completely out of whack with private sector norms. Is anybody connecting the dots?

Meanwhile, the front pages are littered with political spending sprees.

Small business owners want politicians to have the courage to not just stop the bleeding, but begin to fix the problem through an actual reduction in the size of government, lowering the costs of doing business and a putting laser-like focus on better regulation and more efficient service delivery.

If not, we are sentencing our next generation to a cold, bleak future, on the other side of the wall.

This originally appeared in the Chronicle Herald, May 13, 2017