Gimmicky Tory platform fails to deliver

If you like boutique tax credits, gimmicky sales pitches, and oversized pictures of a grinning Tim Houston, you’ll love the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform.

“Solutions for Nova Scotians” is a mile wide and an inch deep. The slick but skimpy document clocks in at 12 pages, three of which contain full-page photos of the PC leader. (Houston’s candidates — that “team of proud Bluenosers with a common vision” he mentions in the plan — are nowhere to be seen.)

Health care is the main preoccupation of the Tory election brochure, as it has been for the party’s campaign.

The PCs are pledging “instant access for everyone on the waitlist for a primary care provider.” This will be accomplished by expanding telehealth and virtual care in an undefined manner, and through a doctor recruitment and retention strategy that offers little in the way of new ideas except a “physician pension fund tied to return of service agreements.”

The Tories are also promising to reduce surgery wait times “to or below the national average.”

This, they say, will be accomplished by “increas[ing] the use of operating rooms beyond the current hours of Monday to Friday from 9-5…” Presumably this would involve the hiring of more staff or the payment of significant overtime, but there’s no mention of either.

In fact, the entire “Hope for Health” section is only two pages long and curiously includes tax credits for fertility treatments ($20,000) and child fitness and arts ($500). It will cost $206 million, but that figure is not broken down by specific program or promise, and no timelines are given for their implementation.

The party does slightly better when it discusses mental health.

There are some good ideas, such as the establishment of a standalone “Department of Addictions of Mental Health” and the creation of a 9-8-8 mental health crisis line.

There’s also a $500 “Adopt-a-Dog Tax Credit” that sounds wonderful but might be difficult to administer and could have unfortunate unintended consequences.

As for economic plans, there’s the “Nova Scotia Loyal” program, which would “provide a point-of-purchase incentive to all Nova Scotians who buy made-in-Nova Scotia products.” Although presented as a “game-changing” initiative, this has government boondoggle written all over it.

Then there’s the so-called “Better Paycheque Guarantee,” a wage subsidy scheme that reeks of trickle-down economics and has been roundly condemned by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

The better solution, of course, would be to raise the province’s minimum wage. But the PC brochure doesn’t even mention the minimum wage, let alone seek to increase it.

The same goes for income assistance. The PCs never discuss it, despite the shamefully high number of Nova Scotians living in poverty.

On the environment, Houston plans to spend a measly $7.4 million while striving for modest benchmarks relating to land and water conservation, and renewable energy.

He also promises to impose “the toughest penalties in Canada for individual and corporate littering,” but it’s unclear if this would include corporate pollution.

All told, the PC platform would cost $553 million to implement over an unspecified period of time.

Existing government programs and services are not discussed at all, meaning we don’t know if the Tories are planning spending cuts or where they’d do the cutting.

(Photo: http://www.facebook.com/TimHoustonNS)

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