Nova Scotia Liberals are betting tax relief — not the state of health care — will be the key election issue when Nova Scotians return to the polls in a general election.
Although the province has a fixed election date — July 15, 2025 — the Official Opposition is getting ready for a vote that could come earlier.
In a campaign-like speech before about 200 party members, Leader Zach Churchill promised Friday a government he leads will cut the sales tax in Nova Scotia from 15 per cent to 13 per cent.
"So that every single Nova Scotian can save money on all the necessities that they have to pay for," said Churchill to a standing ovation at the party's annual general meeting in Halifax.
He's convinced the province will be able to forgo the $500 million in revenue it will cost to fulfil that promise.
"I don't think we can afford not to do this," Churchill told CBC News after his speech. "People are feeling squeezed, no matter who I talk to. This is a way we can give money back to people on every single purchase that they have to make in their lives.
"People need to eat, people need clothes, people need phones, people need the internet."
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks at the annual general meeting for the Progressive Conservatives in Halifax on Friday. (Michael Gorman/CBC)
By simply dividing the $500-million cost of the promise by the almost 766,000 people who file taxes in Nova Scotia, the party estimates Nova Scotians would save roughly $650 a year.
In fact, the savings would depend on how much people spend. Those who spend more would save more.
Churchill said the promise is meant to help families and individuals who often cannot benefit from government programs aimed at helping those most in need.
"They're the ones that oftentimes fall through the cracks because government services are always directed to those on the lower side of the income spectrum," said Churchill. "But guess what? Working-class and middle-class people need some money back in their pockets, too."
The Liberals have also promised to index tax brackets to the cost of living, ending so-called bracket creep. That's when people are bumped up to a higher tax bracket simply because they get a raise to offset inflation. This means they pay more in taxes, which could wipe out any economic gains they've made from the raise.
Premier Tim Houston, who attended his party's annual general meeting at another Halifax hotel, acknowledged Nova Scotians could use some tax relief.
"Taxation is a big issue, for sure," Houston told reporters following his keynote address to about 350 party members. "We're watching."
"I was always clear to Nova Scotians on the campaign trail, I knew taxation was an issue, but it wasn't the main priority. But it's getting close to a point where that's something that will be a priority."
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