OTTAWA – Politics – This past week the people of Nova Scotia cast a ballot and the New Democrat government of Darrell Dexter was defeated. While the electoral result is hardly something to brag about, I think there is a lot for Mr. Dexter and the Nova Scotia to be proud of after their first term in government in that province.
The results of the 2013 Nova Scotia election were quite different than the 2009 event that brought in the NDP into power. In 2009, the vote and seat totals were: NDP (45.3%, 31 seats), Liberal (27.2%, 11 seats), Progressive Conservatives (24.5%, 10 seats). In 2013, the numbers were: Liberal (45.52%, 33 seats), NDP (26.9%, 7), and Progressive Conservatives (26.39%,11 seats). Clearly, this was not the result that Mr. Dexter had hoped for, even losing his own seat by 21 votes, but his government leaves the province in much better shape financially than when it assumed power.
Prior to coming to the 2009 election Nova Scotia was mired in massive structural deficits left from the Progressive Conservative government. Overall, Dexter and the NDP made 50 promises to be kept over 4 years, and offered 7 key commitments to voters. Amazingly, Dexter’s government was able fulfill 46 of the 50 promises while making progress on the remaining four. You can view their promises and the scorecard here if you are interested – http://tinyurl.com/50NDPPromises.
So it wasn’t as if the NDP broke its promises to voters. Dexter and the NDP must have destroyed the economy in Nova Scotia right? Hardly. Just after his government was defeated on a confidence vote in 2009, PC Premier Rodney MacDonald launched his campaign with the following words: “People are going to have a choice between a government that has a plan for the economy and an Opposition in the NDP who simply don’t have a plan and are simply too risky with all the spending promises they have put forward.” This is essentially the same character assassination that opponents of the NDP engage in across the country on a daily basis, and it is absolute garbage.
After winning the election and coming to power, the Dexter NDP government faced an enormous $525 million deficit (in a province of just 940,000 people) that was left by – wait for it – the Rodney MacDonald Progressive Conservatives. So how did the “risky” Dexter NDP government fair? In their first year in power, after reigning in spending, Nova Scotia recorded a $447 million surplus – one of the largest in Nova Scotia’s history and only the 7th time the debt was paid down since 1950.
Now, to be fair, in order to balance their budget in 2009 though it should be noted that the Dexter NDP chose to increase to the HST by two percentage points, but with a commitment to reduce the HST by one percent in each of 2014 and 2015 once the budget was balanced again. On April 4, 2013 Dexter’s government presented the 2013-14 budget which was balanced on time again as promised, and kept the government on track to reduce the HST as they had committed. In fact, the province was doing so well economically that the Dominion Bond Rating Service upgraded Nova Scotia’s long-term credit rating to ‘A-high,’ the highest rating achieved by the province since the agency began assessing it in the late 1980s. Oh and I almost forget to mention that the Dexter government also won a 20-year $25 billion (with a ‘b’) shipbuilding contract from the federal government in 2011 as well.
So the Dexter government kept nearly all of its 50 promises, balanced the budget, and dramatically improved the long-term economic outlook for the province. So why did the people of Nova Scotia deny the NDP a second term? Many believe that rising hydro rates were to blame, but others said it was the HST increase or some combination of factors. The truth is that no one really knows but the voters, and the people are never wrong. Mr. Dexter would be the first to tell you this, and he accepted their decision with grace and humility on election night.
With the end of Mr. Dexter’s time in office perhaps we can once and for all put to bed the myth that New Democrat governments are fiscally undisciplined and bad for the economy. I want to congratulate Mr. Dexter and the Scotia NDP for their work and for providing the people of Nova Scotia with an ethical, competent, and fiscally responsible government that kept its promises – something we sorely need in Ontario wouldn’t you say?
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River