HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's Liberal government has announced the largest single-year capital plan in the province's history at just over $1 billion for 2020-21.

The $1.042-billion figure released Tuesday is a 51 per cent year-over-year increase in capital spending, which saw $691.3 million allocated in 2019-20.

Finance Minister Karen Casey said with the government preparing to table its fifth consecutive balanced budget next Tuesday, the time is right to increase spending in areas of need.

"Over the last several years we have followed a path toward fiscal sustainability, creating a foundation from which we can respond to the needs of citizens today and make important investments to support them in the future," said Casey.

The capital plan includes $385.3 million for road-twinning projects as well as $265.6 million to build, renovate and purchase schools, along with $154 million to support the ongoing development of new hospital projects in Halifax and Sydney.

A large chunk of the school spending will go towards the purchase of 30 schools previously built through public-private partnerships, while the rest will go to the design and construction of 16 schools -- the bulk of which have been previously announced.

The plan also includes $11 million to replace ferries in Country Harbour and Little Narrows, as well as $5 million for new school buses.

Casey said the increased spending would "add significantly" to the province's $15.1-billion net debt, but she said it is a good short-term investment that should reap benefits over the long term.

"We call putting money on the debt to keep the lights on and operate the departments bad debt," she told reporters. "We consider putting money on the debt that is investing in infrastructure that will serve the residents of Nova Scotia for years to come as good debt."

The minister was asked wether the large spike in spending was a sign that the Liberals could call an early election sometime later this year.

"This is not an election year," she said. "I don't make the call but I'm pretty sure there's no election."

The Liberals were elected to a second straight majority government on May 30, 2017.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.