Stephen McNeil and Rodney MacDonald both promise to cut the Small Business Tax. McNeil would slash it from five percent to one percent immediately. McDonald would cut it from five to 2.5 percent over three years, starting in 2011.

The Liberal Platform

There's one big problem with these promises. Nova Scotia doesn't have a Small Business Tax. It does have a corporate income tax, and that tax is progressive. It levies a lower rate on the first $400,000 of taxable income, and it's this rate the Liberals and the Tories would cut. The benefits of these cuts wouldn't  flow exclusively—or even mainly—to small businesses, or even to companies with small profits.

Contrary to popular belief, the busiest section of  Nova Scotia highway awaiting twinning is not Route 101 or 103, but Route 125, the Sydney Bypass. This circumferential  highway connects the communities of industrial Cape Breton. It runs from the TransCanada 105 at Sydney Mines to the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway. Its most heavily travelled section includes a roughly four-kilometer stretch that narrows inexplicably and dangerously to two lanes at Ball's Creek, before widening to four lanes at the Coxheath interchange. From time to time, seemingly always in election years, heavy equipment appears and spends a few weeks removing trees or scruffing overburden, only...

If Commissioner Jeffrey Oliphant puts the boots to Brian Mulroney for  massive dissembling on the witness stand, the former PM will be in no position to complain. Oliphant made sure of that Wednesday. As Mulroney ended six days of testimony,  the commissioner put one final question to him:
Mr. Mulroney, you've been on the stand for, I think, the longest of any witness I have either been involved in as a lawyer or in 24 years as a judge. I want to assure myself, before you leave, sir, that you feel, despite probing questions that may have been asked, that you leave here feeling that you've been treated fairly and with respect.
The former Prime Minister, under investigation for accepting unmarked, cash-stuffed envelopes from a foreign lobbyist shortly after leaving office, responded unctuously:
On Wednesday's Information Morning (Halifax edition), St. FX political scientist Jim Bickerton observed that all three candidates in Tuesday's debate stuck to pre-scripted talking points. Of course they did, replied co-panelist Ralph Surette. Nova Scotia's pathological political culture makes honest discussion of issues almost impossible. In health care, for example, no one can say out loud what everyone knows, that some small hospital emergency rooms ought to be closed permanently. We'd be crucify them on the spot. [I am paraphrasing from memory, and would gladly link to the discussion, but the good folks at Information Morning have not posted it online.] Marillia Stephenson talks sense in this morning's Herald on the leaders' pandering to rural hospital emergency rooms. She, too, points out what all three leaders already know—that many emergency rooms probably should close. Moneyquote:

Power Promotional Concepts announced yesterday that Paul McCartney will play the Halifax Commons on Saturday, July 11. Is there nothing David Rodenhiser can do to stop this?...

There are several grounds for opposing Darrell Dexter's promise to cut the HST on home electrical bills.
  • It will use taxpayers' dollars to give ratepayers the illusion they are protected from higher energy costs, when higher energy costs are a reality Nova Scotians must adjust to.
  • It will subsidize our dirtiest form of energy, coal-fired electricity. (Seventy-five percent of our electricity comes from burning coal, the mother of all greenhouse gas sources.)
  • It will go indiscriminately to all subscribers. A case can be made for subsidizing the energy costs of our poorest citizens, who have the least capacity to save on energy costs. But why is Dexter so keen on subsidizing the power bills of John Risley, John Bragg, and David Sobey? This is nuts.
More ominously, the NDP's home electrical subsidy bespeaks a poll-driven policy formation that bodes ill for Nova Scotia. At a time when we are finally witnessing real political leadership in the US, Dexter is showing the opposite: followership. 
Let's get a few things straight. The province ran a deficit of roughly a quarter billion dollars in the fiscal year just ended. We could have balanced the books by using the extraordinary payments from the Crown share adjustment, but legislation passed by the Hamm government prevents that. Without changing that law, that one-time resource revenue has to go toward debt repayment. (There are two good reasons for that law:  (1)  thanks to the excesses of the Buchanan administration, our provincial debt is far too high, and needs to be paid down to a reasonable level. (2) Non-renewable resource revenue should not be used for current expenditures; it should be used for things that produce lasting benefits. Otherwise, we're robbing future generations.) So last year's quarter billion dollar deficit is water over the dam. It's gone. We can't wish it back.

Jim Nunn announced his retirement from the CBC tonight. It's a big loss for the Nova Scotia News at Six, which has climbed steadily in the ratings since Jim retook the helm last year after a 12-year absence. His last show will be the June 9 election special. It's a great way for him to go out because, simply put, no one on earth does elections better. His command of Nova Scotia politics is without equal in journalism. I will be one of Jim's color commentators that night, a role I used to share with Harry Flemming. We'll have a ball....

Somewhere among our tweaks this afternoon, we did something that made the jump pages render incorrectly (and unreadably) in certain browsers. It works OK in Firefox and IE, but not in Safari, Chrome, or Opera (my own browser of choice). So I have reverted temporarily to displaying each post in full on the main page until I can sort this out. Ah, computers! [UPDATE] I think these issues are all fixed now, thanks to Mike Targett....

Years ago, a neighbor dropped into Baddeck's Alderwood Guest Home to visit Dolly O'Toole, a longtime Kempt Head resident who was in her 99th and final year of life. The TV flickered in the background, with the sound off, and at some point the visitor noticed that CBC's First Edition had begun. "Do you ever watch Parker debating with Harry," she asked. "Oh yes, never miss it," said Dolly, who lived just down the road from me. She paused before continuing. "I don't always bother to turn up the sound—but I can always tell who's winning." This is my test for who's winning a political debate. Voters may or may not be swayed by arguments and debating points, but they definitely tune in to get the measure of the candidates. Turning off the sound offers uncanny insight into how they are coming across.