By JOHN HEGENBARTH
The McNeil government has announced that the surplus is higher than expected. This comes as no surprise to anyone, as it was clear from the outset that the premier was going to deliver no further deficit, regardless of the cost to Nova Scotians.
We carry a huge debt as a province, so proclaiming a surplus is just a shell game. Clearly the “surplus” could have gone to pay down the debt.
However, as the premier continuously cried poor in the legislature, many items of concern were left unchecked: roads, health care, Indigenous rights, the environment and education.
To face facts, one must consider the role of government. Its primary mandate is to serve the people. All the people.
Consider the $149 million that is now languishing in the government coffers. Clearly, this is not enough money to fix what ails our province.
With people dying and getting injured on our highways, emergency room closures, extended wait times for treatment at our hospitals (or treatment not available in the foreseeable future), the rights of the Indigenous and the environment literally being trampled on, and, of course, the education fiasco, is there really a surplus at all?
I suggest that no, there is no surplus. There is a massive, albeit ignored, deficit. Perhaps all those zeros look great on paper. But if we aren’t repairing our infrastructure, are we on the plus side of the ledger? If people are suffering because of poor judgment, should we not be spending to correct this? (I’ve intentionally left the specific shortcomings out of this conversation because, quite frankly, this note would become a book. A quick example would be mental health care. From there, I’m sure you can create your own list.)
To sum up: The McNeil Liberals, with a new mandate, need to come to the table and face the fact that the vast majority of Nova Scotians are suffering. In some cases, dying. I don’t want to hear of another death on a highway that isn’t twinned; I don’t want to hear about another person not getting health care in a timely fashion. I cannot abide yet another story about the destruction of our environment, especially on traditionally Indigenous lands. We cannot wait until the end of August to hire people to run the pre-Primary classes.
We Nova Scotians understand that a surplus is a good thing, but it needs a revenue stream to go with it.
Mr. Premier, spend the money. You have a new mandate. If we spend into deficit, so be it. You are no longer in a position to use “fiscally responsible” as a safety net. It is time, and your responsibility, to create a true safety net for Nova Scotians. We need you to step up and fix that which you you have so far ignored. That is the health and welfare of Nova Scotia.
John Hegenbarth lives in Lake Echo.