CUPE Nova Scotia web banner. Images of 5 CUPE members at work, and the CUPE NS logo.For the third year in a row, the Houston government has reported a budget surplus despite projecting a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars. This money should be invested in tangible programs to lower the cost of living, rather than simply offering stop-gap measure tax breaks and credits to cover the difference.

“It’s about time that Nova Scotia indexed our tax brackets against inflation,” said CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen, “but those on assistance are once again being left behind by this government. A one-time payment of 150 dollars for those who don’t qualify for disabilities assistance isn’t going to save them from inflation or housing precarity. Social assistance needs to be tied to inflation, just like our tax brackets.”

Nova Scotia has the highest rate of rental inflation in the country at 11.8%, and this new budget does little to address this ongoing issue. Increasing the rental supplements, which are only available to 8,500 renters, does not protect the tens of thousands of Nova Scotians facing unregulated rental increases. The government needs to enact policy that limits rental increases, regulates predatory fix-term leases, and establishes harsher punishments for renovictions for the sake of increasing rent.

“I’m glad to see that the government is building public housing for the first time in 20 years,” said McFadgen, “but that will take time. People are struggling now. Hundreds of Nova Scotians are presented with unmanageable rent increases every month and pushed closer and closer to houselessness. We need real rental protections now, not just supplements for the few who qualify.”

Nova Scotia’s long-term care and home support sectors have long been struggling under the weight of working short with poor pay and benefits. This budget purports an increase in funding, an additional 350 beds, and easier transitions to home support for those who want to remain in their homes longer. The 9.6 million dedicated to this effort, however, does not offer enough support for the workers providing the care.

“Home support workers make less than their counterparts in acute and long-term care, while having to rely on their personal vehicles to move between clients. It’s great that we want to help people to stay in their homes, but that only works if we have enough home support workers to support them, which, currently, we don’t.”

Despite dedicating 73.8 million to environmental and climate change protection in this year’s budget, the Houston government announced last week that it wouldn’t proclaim the 2019 Coastal Protection Act that was previously supported by all parties, instead placing the burden of predicting climate change on the shoulders of everyday Nova Scotians.

“It’s interesting to see the budget dedicate money to protecting biodiversity in forestry and to help businesses convert to clean energy, while the Houston government is directly responsible for shirking their duty to protect the Nova Scotian coastline,” said McFadgen. “The Houston government’s solution to everything seems to be an app. First in health care, and now in environmental protection. An app can’t solve everything.”