As Finance Minister, the focus is to finalize the Nova Scotia provincial budget for 2019-20. The budget will be presented during the Spring Session of the Legislative Assembly. This budget will continue to deliver on the plan to strengthen the fiscal health of the province.
The budget building process began several months ago, and includes starting with a set of basic economic assumptions which, once approved, form the foundation upon which to build the budget. As with all construction projects, that foundation must be solid and the assumptions must reflect the economic conditions of the province, the country and the major trading partners around the world. Those assumptions are prepared by the Department of Finance, but must be reviewed by many outside the department before they are accepted. That includes an external panel of experts made up of economists from the 5 major banks in Canada, universities within Nova Scotia, the Office of the Auditor General and business leaders of major corporations. This high level of scrutiny and independent assessment provides me, as Minister, with a level of confidence that our budget is a solid plan for Nova Scotians. On December 4, we presented before the expert panel, and they determined that our assumptions were “wise and prudent”…so the building process began.
In 2013, when the Government was elected, Nova Scotia was operating with an annual deficit of over $500 million. That meant borrowing money to pay for daily operations. That was unacceptable and unsustainable, and unfair to Nova Scotians and our future generations. It was very clear and very important that our focus had to be on managing the finances of the province and balancing the books of the province. That meant living within our means. As we do in our personal lives, that meant making choices so that we do not spend more than we earn. Together with Nova Scotians, we achieved that goal and have delivered balanced budgets in 2016, 2017, 2018 and are on track to deliver our fourth consecutive balanced budget in 2019. These efforts have not been easy, but they have allowed us to invest in programs and services that Nova Scotians need and deserve.
In 2018, we received our highest ever credit rating…among the top four provinces in Canada. This attracts investors looking to establish, grow or expand their companies, and we want them to consider Nova Scotia. That in turn leads to more employment opportunities right here at home. And it is making a difference. In fact, our unemployment rate in Nova Scotia is now at the lowest rate ever in the history of our province. That is good news. Our population is at the highest in our history. That is good news. More of our youth are staying in Nova Scotia than area leaving. That is good news. There are more full-time jobs in Nova Scotia now than in the past. That is good news.
Good fiscal health allows us to spend taxpayers’ dollars on much needed programs and services like Health Care and Education. It allows us to create a climate where businesses, both large and small, want to invest. As we build a stronger province, we recognize there will continue to be challenges. A balanced approach and management and control of our spending allows us to respond to those challenges in a positive way.
Karen Casey, MLA