Nova Scotia’s finance minister has provided an update on the 2019-20 budget, which despite being down $2.8 million from initial projections, is still expected to bring a surplus of $30.8 million.
If all goes to plan it will mark the fourth consecutive year that the province is in the black.
“Managing our finances and having balanced budgets has provided a strong fiscal foundation to build upon,” said Finance Minister Karen Casey.
But Opposition MLAs say the state of health care and other big ticket items show a need to invest now more than ever.
“We need investments in health care systems so that they can have functioning healthcare services in hospitals,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
“We know that we need to make investments in improving the productivity of the labour force,” Burrill said. “We need to make investments in enhancing consumer demand in the province.”
His sentiments are echoed by Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster, who serves as the finance critic for the PCs.
“If people aren’t getting health care when they need it, by the time they do get it the cost of that care may have increased,” MacMaster explained. “So that makes me concerned about how the government is managing health care.”
Some $85 million from the federal government for the remediation of Boat Harbour factors into the surplus.
MacMaster thinks that’s worth noting as federal funds aren’t something that can always be counted on to keep the provincial books in line.
“It could be tough next year for them,” he said. “They may not have something like they had here with the Boat Harbour increased revenue from the federal government.”
Casey said keeping a surplus ensures that unforeseen circumstances don’t wreak havoc on the province’s finances.
Often construction projects will go over their budget causing additional costs, along with issues arising that can’t be predicted such as the cleanup after Hurricane Dorian.
“There are always unintended consequences,” she said. “There are always financial implications for decisions that are made.”
The next budget update will be provided in December.