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News brief: Rent control and paid sick leave about to end, NDP suggests

Gary Burrill speaks at last year’s ACORN rally in support of rent control, Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Rent control and the provincial paid sick leave program both have built-in end dates and are likely to end fairly soon, a NDP press release warns. 

The paid sick leave program has a built-in end date of July 31. Rent control will come to an end with the lifting of the state of emergency, which could come as early as September. 

Based on the needs out there both programs should be permanent, says Gary Burrill, leader of the NDP.

Landlords never stopped sending out notices for rent increases in excess of the two percent cap. They just sent them out to take effect after the anticipated expiry of the state of emergency, with the same dramatic increases that we were seeing until rent control was brought in in November, says Burrill.

Until the province introduced rent control in November we heard from many people about rent increases as high as $500, forcing them out of their homes, not knowing where to go. All that will happen again. Anybody who thinks that’s not the case is not very acquainted with the realities of the renting market, Burrill says. 

How can Burrill be sure the liberals will not have a miraculous change of heart and make both programs permanent?

Neither paid sick leave nor rent control were things the Liberals ever wanted, says Burrill. These were things that they did because they were forced to by a sustained popular and political mobilization. 

For years they have said that they oppose rent control. And even when they announced the temporary program they made clear that in their view rent control is not the way to go in the long run, they’re only doing it to address the immediate issues caused by Covid. And the same is true for sick days, up until the very day that Premier Rankin announced the sick day program he said that he doesn’t believe the government has a role in paid sick time, that he hopes that private employers will accommodate the needs of their employees.

In fact, Burrill believes that there is worse to come if the Liberals are reelected. Every opposition politician worth one’s salt will say that, of course, but Burrill has a point.

Across Canada, some of the most fiscally conservative regimes like Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, they’re projecting getting out of the COVID hole and restoring balance in their budgets over 6 to 8 year periods. Here in Nova Scotia the government wants to balance the budget within four years, he says. 

In order to accomplish that you have to make dramatic reductions in departmental spending in that period. And they have in fact made clear in their budget documents, how they propose to do it. In the fiscal year following the election for instance they’re going to make budget reductions of $209 million. 

“There is just a very unreflective and slavish subservience to the idea that the be all and end all metric of effective government is the balancing of the budget,” says Burrill. 

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