Nova Scotia not yet in deficit despite economic uncertainty: Casey

N.S. Finance Minister Karen Casey says the province will re-evaluate its priorities in this year's budget. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia will be redesigning this year’s budget to prioritize supporting small businesses, according to Finance Minister Karen Casey.

Casey announced the impact of COVID-19 is the province’s top priority.

Each department will have to re-evaluate its budget so the province can increase its support for small businesses, the tourism sector, hospitality workers, retailers and restaurants.

“Those drivers of our economy are in need right now,” Casey says. “They have become and will continue to be a focus of our investment.”

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For several years, Nova Scotia has been looking at a surplus in its budget.

“What we were looking for was stability in the government. We were able to achieve that,” Casey says.

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But Casey says the goal is not to have a surplus — it’s to have the capacity and ability to support programs needed for times like these.

“We know that our revenues will be down and our expenses will be up … We’re in a better position to meet that challenge.”

Click to play video: 'Minister of Finance, Karen Casey talks Nova Scotia budget' Minister of Finance, Karen Casey talks Nova Scotia budget
Minister of Finance, Karen Casey talks Nova Scotia budget – Mar 27, 2019

Monday, Scotiabank released a fiscal pulse outlining its predictions on the economic impact of COVID-19 by province.

It said, alongside Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia is the only province “likely to avoid record deficits” in the 2021 fiscal year. Still, it predicts the province to have around $970 million in deficit, making 2.4 per cent of its GDP.

Minister Casey says, however, the province does not have predictions yet and doesn’t know what that number will actually look like.

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“Because of the capacity we’ve built, we believe we are moving along without going into deficit.”

One thing is certain: there won’t be a new budget, just an update on the existing one.

Casey says it’s an opportunity to redirect some money to “support business and individuals that may be falling through the cracks.”

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