Liberal leadership candidate Randy Delorey released a list of campaign promises today, a month before a virtual convention February 6 that will choose a new premier. The Antigonish MLA told the Halifax Examiner these ideas are aimed at helping businesses and people “rebound and thrive” once COVID-19 is behind us. Reporter Jennifer Henderson took a closer look at a few of those promises.
Support Nova Scotia businesses
• Defer provincial tax and loan payments until after the state of emergency is lifted.
Nova Scotia has been in a State of Emergency since March 22. Provincial property taxes have been deferred by the McNeil government for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector. Student loan payments and loan payments made by small businesses through credit unions or through provincial loan programs have been waived during the pandemic.
Delorey, who taught business management at St. Francis Xavier University before getting elected in 2013, would go a step further. He’s promising to give all businesses in Nova Scotia a break on paying corporate income tax until the State of Emergency is over. In December, the Finance minister reported a drop of $146.1 million in corporate income tax so far in 2020-21.
• Implement a tax holiday in 2021 for hospitality and food service businesses.
Delorey estimates this measure would cost the provincial treasury approximately $2 million. Delorey says that amount represents the provincial income tax small businesses in the restaurant, accommodation, and hospitality sector would not have to pay.
• Cap third-party delivery fees for online food and beverage orders.
Delorey says he is following the lead of jurisdictions such as New York City and most recently Ontario, which have capped fees that delivery companies such as SkipTheDishes and DoorDash can charge restaurants preparing take-out food. These jurisdictions capped fees at 20% of the bill, down from 30%. Delorey says the idea is to help struggling restaurants. In Ontario and NYC the cap applies only to areas where restaurants are closed to in-person dining. The context is slightly different here in Nova Scotia. Restaurants in HRM which had been closed for three weeks re-opened for in-person dining yesterday, although take-out remains the key to survival for most food-related businesses.
• Fund technology training for small businesses to increase productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.
The language is vague but as an example, Delorey says it could include a payment to small business such as a diner or Mom-and-Pop operation which needs to move their products and services online so people can order and arrange pickup remotely. Tax credits and programs are already available for medium and large businesses.
• Fund short-term training for high-demand fields so local businesses can hire more Nova Scotians, meet their skilled labour needs, and grow their companies.
“Although a lot of attention has been paid to creating jobs, there are many employers we have highlighted their biggest challenge is actually finding employees for the jobs that they have,” said Delorey. “This is about matching Nova Scotians in need of work with work that is available here in the Province and making sure there are training opportunities.”
Another message Delorey’s news release stresses (and appears similar in tone to one leadership rival Iain Rankin has used) is “the importance of an economic rebound that is fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable, and will ensure that all Nova Scotians, regardless of income, gender, race, or background, are able to benefit from this economic growth.”.
Delorey puts forward a number of what he describes as “policy intentions” or “critical area supports” needed to help people and companies affected by the pandemic over the next year or two.
The news release says Delorey will “Explore ways to waive provincial income taxes for low-income Nova Scotians who received CERB (Canada Emergency Relief Benefit) and for students who received the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).”
The payments from the federal government are indeed taxable benefits as far as Ottawa and the Province of Nova Scotia are concerned. Asked if CERB and CESB recipients would also have to pay provincial income tax on the money they received, Delorey who was Finance Minister from 2015-2017, was unable to provide a definitive answer.
“CERB and CESB were identified as taxable benefits but as leadership candidates, we don’t have access to the civil servants who can answer these details,” said Delorey. “Sometimes there are nuanced aspects to programs that are cross-jurisdictional. That’s why I used the word ‘explore.’ The intent is there to waive the provincial taxes but I have to engage to see if that is something that can be done.”
Such a change might be a big help to people and wouldn’t cost the province much because it piggybacks on a federal payment that was never anticipated prior to the pandemic.
Delorey’s news release also mentions providing “Free tuition to low-income Nova Scotians who do not have a post-secondary education and who have lost their job due to COVID-19.” It’s a noble idea but again the candidate was unable to offer an estimate as to how many people might be eligible or what such a program might cost. Delorey’s “to do” list — like those of his rivals former Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis and former Environment and Lands &Forestry Minister Iain Rankin — essentially identifies areas where more work is required.