Author: Richard Starr

Zombie federalism on the prowl again: Part One

John Quiggins’ 2010 book, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us describes how neoliberal economic ideas that should died with the Great Recession of 2007-8 continue to live on. Readers of the Chronicle-Herald and the National Post have recently been exposed to something similar: zombie fiscal federalism, an ungenerous view of the country from the distant past that should have stayed buried. The outbreak of zombie fiscal federalism made the opinion section of the Herald on April 24. A full-page article by David MacKinnon, with the headline, “Economic Reality Will Wreck our East Coast sand castle” reported...

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Post-budget advice to feds: Show us the health care money

There was a lot packed into the 740 page near $500-billion federal budget tabled last Monday. Somebody counted 230 new spending proposals, the largest of which is the $30-billion over five years for childcare. That’s an important, long-overdue commitment but it wasn’t the most noteworthy thing about the budget. The big story is what’s missing from the longest, most postponed and verbose budget in Canada’s history. Notable in their absence were increased health transfers to the provinces and national pharmacare, while elder care was barely in evidence. To that big three of health care can be added proposals that...

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Nova Scotia’s pre-election budget plan looks suspiciously like 2017 blueprint

Deliberation on what is likely to be Nova Scotia’s pre-election budget neared an end last week. The budget was filled with enough attractive promises to keep criticism at a low volume, but as Gary Burrill argued, what comes next is worrisome. In keeping with its pattern of departing as little as possible from the McNeil regime’s record, Ian Rankin’s government presented a budget predicting a return to operating balance in three years. But there’s a catch. It’s a plan predicated on reducing departmental expenses by over $200 million next year. And as the table shows, notional balancing of the...

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The old normal: Good news and bad on poverty and incomes

Economic fallout from the pandemic may change things, but the latest Statistics Canada data on income and poverty levels in Nova Scotia run according to form, with one major exception. The Canadian Income Survey (CIS) for 2019 shows a further drop in the province’s child poverty rate – a steep one. As described here, child poverty became a political embarrassment for the McNeil Liberals two years ago when the CIS revealed that while child poverty rates across the country were falling, they went up in Nova Scotia in 2017. The stigma eased a bit last year when the CIS...

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Nova Scotia budget takes cautious approach to redressing social program shortcomings

Last November as Nova Scotia was embarking on pro-forma public consultations on the budget, I argued that the provincial government has both the fiscal capacity and the moral obligation to “build back better” by significantly increasing expenditures on programs and services Statistics Canada classifies under “Social Protection.” Social protection includes sickness and disability, help for families and children, housing support and measures to increase social inclusion. Nova Scotia’s expenditures on this basket of programs actually dropped between 2013 and 2019, leaving the province with the country’s second lowest per-capita expenditure. The budget tabled last week takes some baby steps...

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Richard Starr, The man behind the Point

About Richard

RICHARD STARR has had careers as a journalist, public servant, broadcaster, political staffer and freelance policy adviser. He is author of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, a former radio and TV producer and weekly newspaper editor, and the author of three non-fiction books. Starr has lived in Dartmouth for more than 30 years.

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