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Friday, April 28, 2017

Damage control budget has something for everyone

Provincial budget unveiled as Liberals ready for election trail.

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:12 AM

click to enlarge Nova Scotia Finance minister Randy Delorey delivering this year's budget. - THE COAST
  • Nova Scotia Finance minister Randy Delorey delivering this year's budget.
Nova Scotia’s Liberals are presenting the province’s finances in the best possible light.

On Thursday, the government released the $10.5-billion balanced budget for 2017-18, which is showing a net surplus of $26 million.

Changes in spending programs and tax reductions were highlighted yesterday during the announcement by finance minister Randy Delorey, however, opposition critics say the Liberals are just making up for funding that should have been done years earlier.

Two surpluses in a row has the leader of the official opposition, Progressive Conservative MLA Jamie Baillie, thinking the Liberals are spending budget savings “on their own re-election and not on the things Nova Scotians need.”

All the new spending programs are dependent on an election that everyone is expecting to be called within the new few days.

The Liberals will be keen to use this “good news” budget on the campaign trail, but the financial plan is not yet set in stone. Stephen McNeil's government could still make changes if re-elected, and there's no guarantee a Progressive Conservatives or NDP government would use anything presented this week in their own first budgets.

click to enlarge Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie on Thursday at Province House. - THE COAST
  • Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie on Thursday at Province House.

Tax reductions for low-income Nova Scotians
The government announced an increase in the Basic Personal Amount from $8,481 to $11,481. Basically, anyone with an income of less than $25,000 will not be taxed on a larger chunk of their money. It’s the first change to the BPA since 2011.

Anyone making between $25,000 and $75,000 a year will get back an average of $160 in taxes.

Gary Burrill, leader of the NDP, said the tax break was good for Nova Scotians but questioned the timing as suspicious.

Burrill told reporters yesterday that the government has been saying for the last three years that it has no money, yet spent the last few months making millions in funding announcements and now has presented a budget full of new costs.

While claiming Nova Scotia is broke, the province has nevertheless “put both hands on the tap and opened wide,” said Burrill.

click to enlarge Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP, speaking about the new budget. - THE COAST
  • Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP, speaking about the new budget.

Little vision for students
Canadian Federation of Students spokesperson Charlotte Kiddell says the budget had “little spending and little vision for students.”

Most money towards post-secondary education was aimed at community college students, with $3.2 million in post-secondary infrastructure going towards projects at NSCC, and $1.3 million in funding towards apprenticeship tuition coverage for technical training.

click to enlarge University students protesting outside the Legislature on Thursday. - THE COAST
  • University students protesting outside the Legislature on Thursday.

Tinkering with health care
The government plans to add $6 million in funding to collaborative care centres across the province and $5.1 million more for home-care services. Finance minister Randy Delorey said investing in primary care services can give Nova Scotians the care they need and keep them out of emergency rooms.

Baillie says the budget’s $2.4 million commitment to recruiting just 20 new doctors is “tinkering when there’s a crisis in family doctors.” Half of that money is for ten new spots in the family medicine residency program at Dalhousie, which has a 75 percent retention rate. Earlier this week, the CEO of Doctors Nova Scotia told the legislature there were 118 vacancies in the province.

The additional $3.2 million for food and recreation budgets in long-term care facilities is still less than the $4.9 million that was cut last year.


Other highlights

Announced before the budget was a $12.8 million increase in funding for the Nova Scotia film industry, bringing the total government investment up to $22.8 million.

The fuel tax exemption for mining and quarrying industries was finally granted, a promise that was made back in 2014.

An additional $1.1 million will be spent to bring breakfast programming to all schools.

Nova Scotia will put $3.2 million towards mental health initiatives, including a streamlined approach for care and community mental health services in Cape Breton.

Autism Nova Scotia is getting an additional $800,000 in funding to support families of children with autism.

The Yarmouth ferry will get another $9.4 million this year.

You can read the full budget documents here.

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