CUPE Nova Scotia recommends that it is time for government to turn its attention away from budget bottom lines and focus on growing the economy and generating good jobs that sustain families and communities.

Since its election in 2013, the government of Nova Scotia has made balancing the budget its top priority. Programs, services and public sector jobs have all been put on the chopping block in pursuit of this goal.

Is Nova Scotia in a fiscal crisis? The Finance Minister’s figures tell us it is not.

The fiscal update tabled in December 2016 by the Minister of Finance forecasts a surplus of $12.1 million for 2016-17. Government estimates that surpluses will continue to grow over the next four years, rising to $132.5 million by 2019.

What about Nova Scotia’s debt? As a percentage of overall economic activity, Nova Scotia’s debt load is slightly lower today than it was a decade ago. In fact, the proportion of Nova Scotia’s total spending on debt charges is dramatically less today than it was 15 years ago. In short, Nova Scotia’s fiscal house is in order.

CUPE’s budget recommendations include:

• Investing in the caring economy: CUPE recommends that government should continue to invest in public long-term care facilities. Funding should be going to public, non-profit care that gets the best value for dollar and puts the patient at the centre of funding decisions, not profit. In addition, more financial resources should be invested to improve standards for staff to patient ratio and hours of care.

• Public early childhood education: Spending on early childhood education has a huge economic impact: for every $1 million that the Province spends on childcare, estimates are that we will see $2 million in GDP growth. CUPE recommends the government drive growth, not just by adding to the number of Early Childhood Educators who are employed, but by freeing up what is often a sizeable chunk of families’ disposable income.

• Public sector jobs support equality, especially for women: CUPE recommends that the more equitable public sector pay framework should be a model for the private sector and not the other way around. We urge Nova Scotia’s government to work towards that.

• Invest in schools in rural communities: CUPE recommends the Government of Nova Scotia address funding issues to protect local schools and good jobs in rural communities. The current model of funding to school boards by enrolment and by square footage needed for that enrolment is not serving student or community needs well. CUPE supports using school buildings in non-traditional ways as an alternative to school closure.

• Support a living wage: Recent calculations show that the living wage in Halifax is $19.17 an hour and, $17.30 an hour in Antigonish. CUPE recommends that the provincial government adopt a plan to increase the Nova Scotia minimum wage to a living wage over time with a medium-term target of achieving the $15.00 an hour by 2021. A higher minimum wage is good for Nova Scotian workers and will help generate economic growth.

Please read our full submission and recommendations available on our website.