Cynicism over decentralization

On Monday, the Nova Scotia government announced plans to move 93 civil service jobs out of Halifax and put them in job-starved rural communities. The plan fulfilled a commitment made by the NDP government of Darrell Dexter in its Throne Speech earlier this spring.

It was modest beginning for the bureaucratic diaspora. While Dexter says there could be more to come, this is it for now. The jobs will provide economic stimulus to communities hit hard by job losses and attempt to be more fair in spreading the wealth created by good-paying civil service jobs. While it makes sense for many of them to be in Halifax, many can just as easily be in other communities.

One such service is the maintenance enforcement division of the Department of Justice. The work done by this group is done mostly over the phone and online. Their office could be anywhere in the province, so the NDP have decided to move it to New Waterford, a community that has been suffering for a long time but recently took it on the chin. Last year, 80 jobs left town when a call centre closed and, earlier this spring, Nova Scotia Power announced the seasonal shutdown of two generators at the nearby Lingan power station.

So, it would take a cynical, cold-hearted observer to begrudge New Waterford the 36 jobs it’s going to get when the maintenance enforcement staff move to town. Since New Waterford also happens to be in the riding of the NDP’s Deputy Premier, Frank Corbett, that had some wondering if that’s the only — or at least a main — reason why the jobs went there.

So, while opposition parties and media alike ridicule Monday’s announcements as being insignificant, some still trot out the question of patronage. As Nova Scotia pork goes, these 36 jobs are a pretty meagre portion. If it is patronage, it’s hardly worth the hassle because the NDP earned very little in the way of praise for this move and others like it.

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