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Key Houston election platform on improved paycheques now unlikely

By Evan Taylor Oct 30, 2023 | 12:24 PM

Source: Communications NS

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has indicated that the fate of the better paycheque guarantee, a pivotal election pledge designed to incentivize businesses to increase their workforce or raise wages for their existing employees, is now uncertain.

Speaking to the press at Province House on Friday, Houston explained, “We’ll continue to evaluate whether this remains a suitable tool to achieve our intended goals. At present, I’m uncertain if it will proceed exactly as outlined in our platform documents, but these assessments are ongoing.”

Initially introduced before the 2021 provincial election campaign, the program envisioned companies receiving a 50% refund on their corporate taxes in exchange for redistributing the savings to their employees, excluding the top 20% of earners, or hiring additional staff.

However, the practical implementation of this program, estimated to cost $200 million annually, has encountered challenges. With over $1.7 billion recently allocated to housing initiatives and additional funding committed to expanding healthcare infrastructure, the premier acknowledged on Friday that the budget may not accommodate the program as initially proposed.

Houston stated, “Government has numerous competing priorities, and these priorities can evolve over time. It is possible that this may be the case with this particular initiative. We will persist in assessing the most effective means of achieving our objectives.”

Opposition leader, Liberal Leader Zach Churchill, expressed skepticism about the program from the outset, asserting that it amounted to subsidizing private sector payrolls. He remarked, “I believe the premier is not pursuing this because it was an ill-conceived idea to begin with, and something he could not effectively put into practice.”

Houston’s reassessment of the better paycheque guarantee reflects the shifting dynamics of Nova Scotia’s fiscal priorities in the face of pressing demands for housing and healthcare investments.