The Liberals promised Thursday they would abolish the Industrial Expansion Fund if elected, but the Tories continue to defend the fund as a valuable tool.
Earlier this week, the opposition parties accused the Tories of investing in a slush fund when they topped up the IEF by $175 million. Cabinet can take that money and loan it out to businesses.
“Politics has no place in the loan business,” Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said Thursday in a press release.
“I believe this province’s greatest opportunities for prosperity are created when business decisions are made by business people and not by politicians.”
McNeil said he would fold the IEF and put the funds under the control of Nova Scotia Business Inc., an agency dedicated to attracting and growing Nova Scotia businesses.
Premier Rodney MacDonald suggested McNeil just didn’t understand the IEF, and called it a valuable tool for economic growth.
“What we’ve seen is the success of having both agencies and the flexibility of the IEF. So I don’t think that (McNeil) quite understands the process,” said MacDonald.
“There’s a reason why successive governments and successive premiers have continued with this fund, of different political stripes. Because it works. And when something works, you should continue it.”
The $175 million doesn’t actually appear on the province’s books because it is money that is borrowed and then loaned out again, usually, but not always, in interest-bearing loans to businesses.