As our communities, our families, our friends, our neighbours and our co-workers grieve the loss of 22 beautiful, innocent souls, we have come together in solidarity to support one another. As your MLA and Minister of Finance, I have worked closely with other Government Departments to provide access to the various supports available. Navigating the system can often be challenging, and it was my intent to make that process as easy as possible.
Under the leadership of the Attorney General, Minister Mark Furey, the various levels of support were co-ordinated and communicated to you. Connecting with Care, a Support Navigator Program was implemented and available to all communities impacted. This program includes a team of professionals who are trained in a variety of support services…grief and trauma counsellors, social workers, family resource staff, financial advisors, wills and estates advisors and supports for children and youth. These services are FREE.
Each year at this time, the provincial budget is released and it provides the fiscal plan for the next 12 months. As Minister of Finance, I was pleased to table Budget 2020-21 in the Legislature on February 25, and to support the passage of that budget on March 10. Although the release of the budget happens at this time, preparations begin several months in advance.
One of the first steps is to develop a set of economic assumptions on which to build a solid foundation. These assumptions must be challenged by a team of economists from all the major banks in Canada, universities, private sector, and of course, the Auditor General. The results of that challenge showed that our assumptions were “wise and prudent”.
The next major step is to consider all sources of revenue available to the province, and to identify expenses required to continue to deliver programs and services that Nova Scotians need and deserve. The completion of that process resulted in a positive financial position, and confirmed, that for the 5th consecutive year, the province was living within its means. This good fiscal management has built confidence in the private sector, both provincially and globally.
Improving the lives of Nova Scotians, building on economic success, modernizing much-needed infrastructure and fostering confidence in a brighter future are the focus of government's fifth consecutive balanced budget.
"As a new decade begins, I am hopeful and optimistic about the future of our province. All Nova Scotians deserve to see benefits from the province's stronger economy and our positive fiscal position," said Minister of Finance and Treasury Board Karen Casey. "Budget 2020-21 supports Nova Scotians who may not have been feeling the success of the province. For our province to thrive now and in the future, we need to ensure our citizens receive the programs and services they need."
Budget 2020-21 estimates a surplus of $55 million with revenue of $11.60 billion and expenses, after consolidation adjustments, of $11.54 billion. It also projects balanced budgets in each of the following three years.
In 2018 the Government established the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust with a commitment of $193 million to help improve internet access to underserviced and unserved areas of the province. We recognized that reliable internet service is important and allows Nova Scotians to live where they choose and stay connected.
Develop Nova Scotia was given the responsibility to oversee this project and called for proposals to be submitted for review and approval. Connectivity in the province helps to support business startup and growth. It is critical for Tourism and most importantly it improves the quality of life in our rural communities. A better connected Nova Scotia is criteria to our expanding economy.
On February 7th the first round of Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative projects was announced and I was delighted to see that one of those five contracts included the Municipalities of Cumberland and Colchester. They will partner with Xplornet as the service provider. This is great progress. Multiple communities and individuals will be captured in this project and the solution in our County will include a mix of wired and fixed wireless services. I understand the limitations for small business owners in rural Colchester County and this improved access to reliable high speed internet service can be a game changer for them. It is anticipated that work will start in some communities early this year.
By this fall, every four-year-old in Nova Scotia will have access to pre-primary. This is, and has been, an incredibly important investment in the future of our youth.
Find the schools near you.. https://www.ednet.ns.ca/pre-primary
September 7, 2019 will be remembered by many as the weather event known as Hurricane Dorian struck our province. The results of the hurricane were felt in both rural and urban communities and varied in strength across the province. Damage resulting from the hurricane also varied across the province. For example: in Halifax the collapse of a crane from one of the construction projects attracted a lot of attention and caused significant damage and loss of property value in the city.
In 2016, a weather event that included extensive flooding, also caused damage in certain parts of the province. As we did then, Government introduced the Disaster Financial Assistance Program to help those who were impacted. This program is designed to help individual property owners, as well as small businesses for uninsured losses.