Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Leaders Square off for Final Time as Campaign Enters Final Week

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Leaders Square off for Final Time as Campaign Enters Final Week

Article excerpt

Nova Scotia leaders square off for final time


HALIFAX - The final face-to-face encounter between the leaders of Nova Scotia's three main political parties covered well-worn ground Monday, ranging from their differences on whether corporate handouts create sustainable jobs to getting power rates under control.

But when asked if it is ever OK to break an election promise, the three leaders found themselves answering from unique positions during what was billed as a televised leaders forum on CTV.

For NDP Premier Darrell Dexter, the question served as a reminder of his government's decision to raise the harmonized sales tax by two percentage points shortly after it was elected on a platform in 2009 that promised no tax increases.

It was a decision that had to be made, he said, after widespread public budget consultations because government revenues needed to go up as the economy faced its worst downturn since the 1930s.

"We came in at a time when we were starting to experience the greatest recession since the Great Depression," he said.

After pre-budget consultations, Dexter said the decision was made to raise the HST to 15 per cent, which it will begin rolling back to 13 per cent in two stages starting next year.

"Then (after consultations) we took a very straight-forward approach," Dexter added. "We knew we had to raise revenue."

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, who began the campaign as the acknowledged front-runner, said his platform is based on a balanced approach that he can achieve without breaking the promises he is making during the 31-day campaign.

McNeil said the Liberal platform, estimated to cost $46.7 million annually over three years, would increase government spending by 0.5 per cent, a realistic goal as the province's finances don't allow the party to make lavish spending promises that it knows it would not be able to keep. …

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