N.S. finance minister says nothing in budget will lead to protests
Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 3:24PM ADT Last Updated Wednesday, March 30, 2016 5:20PM ADT
Nova Scotia Finance Minister Randy Delorey told reporters that there would be nothing in the budget that would be a major surprise to Nova Scotians or that would spark protests.
HALIFAX -- After a vocal industry backlash over the elimination of the film tax credit last year, Nova Scotia's finance minister is promising nothing in the upcoming provincial budget will lead to protests.
Finance Minister Randy Delorey didn't reveal any specifics about the 2016-17 fiscal plan in the annual preview speech before the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, in a departure from the pattern set by his predecessors.
Last year, then-finance minister Diana Whalen used the same speech to warn of pending changes to the province's film tax credit, a move that eventually sparked widespread protest by the industry.
Delorey said he isn't expecting the same reaction this time around.
"There will be some things in the budget that I think will be of a magnitude, but I think they will be things Nova Scotians will be happy to see," he told reporters. "I don't think we will see protests around province house."
Although most provinces are warning of dire fiscal measures needed to rein in budget deficits, Delorey took a more moderate tone about Nova Scotia's finances, despite a projected $241.2 million deficit.
He wouldn't say whether the budget - to be tabled April 19 - would move to balance the books, which the government has pledged to do by the end of its mandate.
However, he said it would stick with its program aimed at controlling costs as it grapples with a deficit figure that grew twice in the past fiscal year due to a drop in tax revenue and offshore royalties.
"It should be expected to see that progress continue," Delorey said. "As far as bracing for any major concerns, I think Nova Scotians will be comfortable with the budget."
Delorey told the audience of business leaders that there are signs of momentum in the economy because of progress on such things as lowering youth unemployment. He said there was a net growth of 1,300 full-time jobs for young people in 2015.
"Momentum is building, but we have more work to do," he said. "We cannot stop being responsible financial managers."
In a measure that was previously announced, Delorey said the budget would include $3.2 million for the Graduate to Opportunity initiative to help businesses hire new college and university graduates. That would double the amount for a program that covers 25 per cent of a recent graduate's first year work salary and 12.5 per cent of the second year.
Rob Batherson, chairman of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said while Delorey appeared to be signalling a steady approach to the books, many business leaders want to see the deficit tackled in a more aggressive manner.
"We saw in last year's budget the schedule that it would be balanced this year. I'm hopeful we'll get there I just haven't seen much information yet indicating we will," he said.
Delorey's relatively upbeat approach is in stark contrast to New Brunswick, which tabled a budget last month that increased taxes, cut spending and shrunk the civil service by more than 1,000 positions as it deals with a projected $347 million deficit.
Newfoundland and Labrador is also warning of "decisive actions" needed in its upcoming April 14 budget to deal with a budget deficit of nearly $2 billion.