The flag waving and chants of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union protest were part of the latest fall out from the April 9 provincial budget. On Monday, students occupied Nova Scotia Finance Minister Diane Whalen’s constituency office to protest the removal, for one year, of the cap limiting increases universities can make to tuition.
On Wednesday, film professionals and their supporters protested outside the legislature over cuts to a tax credit that sees the government refund between 50 and 65 per cent of wages paid in their industry. “We don’t just hand out the Doers and Dreamers Guide,” said Ann Delorey, a travel counsellor from Isle Madame, who was at Saturday’s protest. “We help book doctor appointments, dentist appointments for visitors, direct them to areas that aren’t on any pamphlets and offer them the human touch that is the reason they came to visit Nova Scotia.”
Cuts at provincial parks and tourist information centres were also among the measures in the Liberal government’s effort to bring the province back into a surplus by 2016-17. The uproar against the many cuts has been intense but not universal. According to a report by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released last September, Nova Scotia has the seventh largest public sector of the provinces with 99 provincial and municipal workers per thousand people.
On average, public sector workers made 61.8 per cent more than private sector workers in 2013. The report, however, is not a comparison of equal pay for equal work — just a global average for workers in both sectors.
“Bringing the province’s public sector to the Canadian average should be one of the important considerations among the several strategies the province of Nova Scotia could pursue to reduce spending,” said AIMS president Marco Navarro-Genie in a press release the day before Whalen’s April 9 budget that will eliminate 320 full time civil service positions. Christine Saulnier disagrees.
“In order to stimulate economic growth and increase revenue, the government needed to invest now, to create jobs,” said the Nova Scotia director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in a critique of the public sector cuts.
“It should not set up public sector workers as the problem: they provide much-needed services to Nova Scotians, and have good jobs that provide important economic injections in communities across the province. To cut those jobs will make things worse, create a fiscal drag and hurt rural Nova Scotia and women the most.”
Saulnier said the finance minister should have instead set her sights on growing the provincial economy to create greater revenues. NSGEU president Joan Jessome said about 125 members of her union are losing jobs as a result of the budget. At the Canso Causeway roundabout, Jessome focused her concern on cuts to positions in rural Nova Scotia. “There was no consultation,” said Jessome of cuts to seasonal provincial workers.
“They just called people in to tell them they’re not getting hired back. In these rural areas, jobs aren’t as plentiful and the savings to government are minimal for what is lost.” Article Originally published April 18 Chronicle Herald