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.
With Christmas 2018 now in our past, we can take time to reflect on time spent with family and friends during the holiday season.
I recently had the honour and privilege to represent the Province of Nova Scotia at the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Boston. Over 30,000 men, women and children attended the event at Boston Commons. I was so proud to represent you and our Province as Deputy Premier. One of the best ways to share that great experience with my constituents is through the pictures that tell a thousand words.
The Christmas tree which was cut on private lands in Oxford was magnificent, with its many lights and grandeur in Boston Commons. I had the opportunity to attend the tree cutting at the private owners’ woodlot where we were joined by students from Oxford Regional Education Centre. It was a bitter cold day, but warm toques provided by the Province of Nova Scotia and lots of hot chocolate and cookies helped keep the spirits bright. Students sang Christmas carols and watched safely as the 46 foot white spruce was cut and loaded onto a tractor trailer where it began its journey to Boston.
Let me begin by extending to all my constituents and to all readers of The Shoreline Journal, wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. It is a wonderful time of year, and we need to pause, to enjoy our family and friends, and to support those less fortunate.
It is also a time to reflect on the past year, to give thanks, and then to look forward with hope and excitement. It is a time when communities come together to decorate and to celebrate. Countless volunteer hours are given to transform our homes, our businesses and our communities into a Winter Wonderland. I wish to acknowledge and thank those who have been busy organizing events that allow us to celebrate the Season together. These events provide great opportunities to meet, to laugh, to share and to enjoy one another.
It is that time of year when many of us are thinking ahead to the winter season and that means among other things, prepare our homes for the cold weather that we can expect. The Heating Assistance Rebate Program (HARP) launched October 15, offers rebates that range from $100 to $200. This helps low income Nova Scotians with the cost of heating their homes. Each winter the program helps thousands of Nova Scotians manage their heating costs. The online application process is easy, fast and convenient and it has helped people get their rebate sooner.
The HARP program is available to Nova Scotians who buy energy to heat their homes with oil, electricity, natural gas, wood, wood pellets, coal, or other heating source. To qualify for the rebate, the income threshold for one-person households is $29 000 and $44 000 for households with more than one person. More than 42 000 people received rebates in 2017.
Community groups in northern Nova Scotia are adding more clean, renewable solar energy to our electricity grid with support from the province. Five organizations in the region have been approved for the solar Electricity for Community Buildings Program through the Department of Energy and Mines.
“This is a pivotal time in Nova Scotia’s push toward our cleaner energy future, and this program offers local groups the chance to participate in, and benefit from, our potential,” said Ms. Casey. “Together we are reducing emissions and building on Nova Scotia’s successes as a leader in fighting climate change.”
We have been hearing a lot about climate change and Nova Scotia’s cleaner energy activities go back more than a decade. Nova Scotians have been clear. Addressing climate change is a priority. Today, we are leaders in addressing climate change by reducing emissions. Over the last decade, no province has reduced its emissions as much as Nova Scotia.
Residents in Northern Nova Scotia will have more ways to walk or cycle to key areas in their communities with support from the province's Sustainable Transportation grant program, Connect2. Sustainable transportation is about driving less and moving more. It means providing more mobility options to more people, and greater connectivity between the places we need to go.
Convenient, safe, clean, and attractive modes for sustainable transportation are key to building vibrant, livable, and low-carbon communities that are suitable for aging populations, young people, newcomers, and small businesses.