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Danny Cavanagh: Premier Rankin must put people’s lives and welfare first

Premier Iain Rankin. Photo Novascotia.ca

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Despite all the soundbites and nice words from Premier Rankin, he needs to show Nova Scotians that his actions will back his words if he wants to stay on as premier in the next election. The next provincial budget must show that good-paying jobs will bring stability to the economy.

Premier Rankin needs to show taxpayers in his budget that he and his government are prepared to put families’ health and welfare above corporate interests.

Tax cuts and loopholes for the rich hurt the most vulnerable in our society. We have done well in the pandemic, but we have seen how quickly things can change.

Dr. Strang has provided advice that puts lives and health above all else, but that is not the case in other provinces. Businesses continue to lobby to open things up sooner, as if the value of life was second to the economy. Rankin will need to show in the budget that he and his government are prepared to put working families’ interests first.

Working families need to be confident that they will have stable jobs in safe workplaces, jobs that come with good wages, pensions and other benefits.

We have seen businesses get tax cuts while budgets for critical departments get cut, a prime example being long-term care. Rankin has an opportunity with this budget to restore trust in government by restoring and increasing the funding we need for safe workplaces, to ensure stable health care, education and that our seniors get better care and public services are propped up, not cut.

As we continue to listen to the mantra from the corporate business sector, it’s interesting to note that the number of jobs through December, January and February are almost on par with where they were a year ago nationally. Halifax, in particular, is doing reasonably well, with the unemployment rate falling to the lowest it’s been since last March. I know that outside the HRM, many seasonal industries have not gotten back to normal. Many of them have received a lot of taxpayer help, and hopefully we will soon get back to some sort of normal.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all realized in the new world that stagnant wages, income inequality and the spread of part-time and precarious work have created much inequality, and our government must lead on fixing that.

The budget is an opportunity to signal to all Nova Scotians the government recognizes this and wants to fix it. We have known that instability of work relates to poor mental health for many long before the pandemic made it worse. We know that good, stable, permanent jobs help people’s mental health,

We know that higher income and employment with benefits provide stability for families.

Paid sick days are needed, and the more of those types of benefits that get plugged into the budget, the better off our province will be economically. 

People are anxious about work, education, and childcare right now. How do we remove the barriers keeping women from joining the workforce without a plan for childcare? It is time for real action from a premier who paints himself as different than the Liberals of the past. Now he must do more than just talk the talk but put efforts in the budget to make a real difference for working families. 

There is nothing but opportunities ahead for Premier Rankin to show leadership and begin to fix a system that’s been broken for too long.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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