N.S. Liberal leadership candidates release economic plans

·3 min read

Two of the candidates vying to be the next Nova Scotia Liberal Party leader and premier have released plans outlining how they'd help the economy.

Labi Kousoulis detailed a plan Thursday that includes $60 million in tax relief for small businesses affected by COVID-19 as well as targeted economic development support for Cape Breton.

The tax money, which Kousoulis said would be a part of the spring budget if he becomes premier, would flow through municipalities and be a direct reduction in property taxes for small Nova Scotia businesses.

"I don't want the subsidy going to large, international and multinational companies," he said.

"It is not easy for [small business owners]. Many of them now are dipping into their own savings to even get through this because they want to do everything they can to save their businesses and government needs to be a partner in that."

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

Government can't solve all the problems stemming from the pandemic, but Kousoulis said as much as possible needs to be done to help people bridge this time.

"Interest rates are so low right now that we can't sit there and take a shortsighted view that we're not going to transition these companies," he said.

"Otherwise, what waits for us on the other side is much worse with reduced revenues for the province, more people unemployed, more people not participating in the economy."

The MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island also made targeted announcements for Cape Breton, including a plan that would set aside up to $1 million a year for startup companies, efforts to attract and retain more international students and support to make the island a year-round tourism destination.

Kousoulis said his aim for economic development is to have a particular focus on the areas of strength in each of the province's regions and create targeted strategies to help them grow.

One of his leadership competitors, Timberlea-Prospect MLA Iain Rankin, announced his own plans on Wednesday aimed at a post-COVID economic recovery, with a particular emphasis on ways to make it a transition to a greener economy.

Most notable in Rankin's seven-point plan is the intention to double the province's renewable energy target to 80 per cent by 2030, something he wants to legislate.

"What we're going to do is effectively increase the ability to bring on more wind, solar and have that discussion with the federal government that has started on the transmission line to be able to facilitate more hydro energy coming in [via Quebec]," he said.

"My focus is transitioning away from coal sooner than planned."

Leadership vote is Feb. 6

That transition is good for the environment and the economy, said Rankin, because it means more jobs created in relation to the increased renewables and expanded efficiency programs for farms and factories he wants to bring in.

He also wants to examine ways to find more value-added uses for solid waste and create an economic growth council focused on attracting capital investment in Nova Scotia for traditional and emerging sectors.

To help with job growth, Rankin wants to adopt focused skills training programs and career placement opportunities for women, Mi'kmaq and Black communities.

Members of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party will elect a new leader — and by extension the next premier — on Feb. 6. Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey is also running for the job.