The Public Accounts Committee is about to review the now defunct Nova Scotia Jobs Fund of the previous NDP government. The Fund was the politically controlled fund used to lend/give money to the Irvings and the Port Hawkesbury paper mill among many others. And apparently many of the loans were accompanied with non-disclosure clauses so the details of how taxpayers’ money was lent/given will remain secret. Although the cost to taxpayers is now only in the $10s of millions, the Traves Report on the Fund reported more than a year ago a portfolio of $776 million in loans, loan guarantees, equity investments and out-right grants.
The Liberals made overhauling economic development programs a key promise in the election. Although the horse is long gone the review is still a good thing; both fulfilling an election promise as well as being as transparent as possible. God speed to the Public Accounts Committee!
Governments should not assist business. It interferes with the free market, hurts jobs and growth and wastes taxpayer money.
However Nova Scotia Jobs was not just a NDP idea, the Fund was the re-branded 50-year-old Industrial Expansion Fund used by the PCs and Liberals in the past and although the Liberal government is reviewing the old Fund they have not sworn off the practice of corporate welfare. In the Election Platform the Liberals have pledged to:
- Continue government as the lender of last resort
- Pick winning and losing sectors instead of winning and losing companies
- Giving ‘supports and incentives’ to small business (while making small business taxes the highest in Canada)
A new fund will be needed.
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