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.
Business owners use this information as they determine whether they will expand their existing company here in Nova Scotia, or whether they will locate here from outside the province. It is the private sector that drives the economy. They employ thousands of Nova Scotians. They are the reason our employment rate is the highest this province has seen in decades, and unemployment is at an all time low.
Budget 2020-21 also builds in flexibility, capacity and sustainability. In the face of unexpected risks, we must be prepared and be able to respond. We know that events like the decision of Northern Pulp to hibernate their mill is having an impact on the economy of our province and the personal lives of many of my constituents. The flexibility and capacity in our budget is allowing us to respond to the industry with both short term and long term support.
The potential impact of the COVID-19 virus, as well as railway or highway blockades that disrupt the movement of goods into and out of our province are all risks beyond our control. That makes it critically important that we have a fiscal plan in place that is solid and will allow us to respond as we protect and support all Nova Scotians.
As we move through the months ahead, regular updates on Budget 2020-21 will be shared with the public. Any adjustments required are part of our standard practice, and all Nova Scotians will be informed.
Karen Casey, MLA