Apr 062013
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NDP's tax breaks, service cuts, could have come from any party.

by Stephen Kimber

Did Darrell Dexter balance the budget? Is the pope Argentinian? Depends on which pope you mean. And what you mean by balance.  The perhaps more relevant pre-election questions out of last week’s legislature exercise: Would the other parties have done anything different in either the budget’s broad strokes or in its jiggery-pokery, see-we-kept-our-promise presentation?

And, setting aside for the moment everyone’s OCD-like obsession with balanced budgets, is there anything good, and/or different to be said about this NDP budget?

The answer to the first question is easy. No. One of the lessons learned from electing our first “democratic socialist” government four years ago is how little party labels matter.

Even in the current slice-and-dice-to-balance atmosphere, the NDP did play at its progressive edges.

This NDP has continued the dream-big-or-go-home Tory-Gliberal tradition dating back to at least Robert Stanfield, doling out wing-and-a-prayer pots of taxpayer dollars to multinational corporations — can you say Dae Woo? — for jobs that never seem to materialize.

And, like governments of all stripes everywhere, the NDP claims to worry about deficit and debt while implicitly subscribing to reality-discredited tax-cutting-to-prosperity theories. It continues to cut corporate taxes that help fund programs it then has to cut in order to pretend to bring down the deficit.

Throw in the uncontrollable constraints of a high Canadian dollar, an aging provincial population, declining federal transfers, corporate non-re-investment and the torrent-down joblessness of the global non-recovery… and you end up with an NDP budget that, in its broad outlines, probably resembles what Stephen McNeil or Jamie Baillie would have presented.

And McNeil and Baillie would almost certainly have engaged in the same reality-adjusting, future-finessing, Pollyanna presentation as the NDP to peddle it.

Which brings us to the tinkers.

Even in the current slice-and-dice-to-balance atmosphere, the NDP did play at its progressive edges. There were minor increases for those on income assistance, more funds for low-income housing, an upped age limit for free kids’ dental care, modest tax breaks for low-income seniors and laudable, targeted new spending from insulin pumps and newborn screening to head-start education programs for poor children.

It’s not much — maybe $12 million in a $9.5 billion budget — but, from a progressive point of view, it’s probably more than we could have hoped for from the Liberals or Tories. The question is, is it enough?

About Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. He is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

His writing has appeared in almost all major Canadian publications including Canadian Geographic, Financial Post Magazine, Maclean's, En Route, Chatelaine, Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post. He has written one novel — Reparations — and six non-fiction books. Website: http://www.stephenkimber.com.

© Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

  One Response to “Darrell Dexter’s budget like any other”

  1. The question is, Stephen, Why should progrerssives – who don't get paid to communicate at (mostly) others about what is progressive and what isn't – be listened to when so much of what they are against in their words, they are for in their deeds, namely the deed of voting?

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