Since mid March and before, our province, our nation and in fact, countries around the world have been battling the COVID-19 virus. We have all seen our lives change dramatically, whether it was our employment, our access to childcare, public schools, public healthcare systems or all professionals who deliver services to our communities.
Together with strong advice from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Strang and strong leadership from our Premier Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotians have made sacrifices and worked hard to manage this pandemic. We have been able to significantly reduce our positive cases. However, during the past four months many businesses and professional services have had to close. Restaurants, bars, lounges, recreational facilities, sports training camps and professional offices (doctors and dentists) to name a few, have been heavily and negatively impacted by this shutdown.
Borders have been closed to help contain the virus and that has been effective. However, it has greatly impacted the number of tourists who can visit our province, we are already into the second month of our tourism season.
There is no question that our communities, our province and the world have experienced a pandemic none of us could ever have anticipated. It forced us to take extra ordinary measures to protect our own health and the health of others. Let me thank each of your for your commitment to respecting the directives from Department of Public Health.
Both Premier McNeil and Dr. Strang have been consistent in their commitment to communicate on a regular basis with respect to the situation in Nova Scotia. There were many days that their messages were difficult. However, those directives were critical to containing the virus and limiting the community spread.
As the number of confirmed cases has declined over the last two weeks, Public Health have been able to ease some of those restrictions and have allowed us to open our social and economic activities to more contact and more interaction. That has been made possible because Nova Scotia respected Public Health Information and direction.
The return to our “normal” will be gradual. We cannot afford to destroy all the good that has been achieved through your sacrifices.
As your MLA, let me thank you for your co-operation. We are not through this yet, but we are on the right side of the curve. Remember, we are Better Together. Stay strong, stay healthy and stay safe.
Karen Casey, MLA
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.