On Tuesday February 25th Nova Scotia Finance Minister Karen Casey tabled the 2020-21 provincial budget, “Better Together.”
The budget has four core priorities that are targeted and regularly referenced throughout the budget document. They are as follows:
- Improving the lives of Nova Scotians, including accessibility and community supports, affordable housing, and pre-primary programming
- Building on economic success
- Investing in modern infrastructure
- Providing confidence in a brighter future
While moving forward on achieving the goals associated with these priorities, the province has acknowledged the need to maintain fiscal sustainability. As such, the province projects an estimated surplus of $55 million and projected balanced budgets for the next four years.
To improve the lives of Nova Scotians the government is investing in:
- The Nova Scotia Child Benefit through increasing the low-income threshold and increasing the amounts families receive through this initiative to address Child Poverty
- Increase initiatives related to the provision of safe, suitable, and affordable housing
- Develop and launch a pan-provincial action plan to address homelessness
- Improve the recruitment and retention efforts of family and specialist doctors
- Provide increased funding to Nova Scotia Universities to increase the number of seats for Doctor and Nursing programs
The Government of Nova Scotia is building on the economic success of the province by:
- Reducing the Provincial Corporate Tax Rate by 2 percent to 14 percent
- Reducing the Small Business Tax Rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent
- Increasing the Student Loan Forgiveness program to alleviate the pressures of student loans to Nova Scotia Graduates
To enhance efforts to invest in modern infrastructure the Province of Nova Scotia has committed to:
- Invest the largest single-year capital funding amount in the province’s history ($1 Billion)
- Support two major hospital revitalization projects through the QEII New Generation Project and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Healthcare Redevelopment project
- Invest $385.3 million dollars into the Department of Transportation’s Highway Improvement Plan which will continue the progress being made in twinning the 100-series highways
- Invest in green infrastructure projects with the intention of reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions
- Implement the “Green Fund” which will support programs specifically related to climate change initiatives
As it relates to Nova Scotia Municipalities, the 2020-21 budget continues to support the mandated initiatives as set out in the 2017 budget, primarily focusing on increasing the sustainability of Nova Scotia municipalities as well as improving overall service delivery from local governments. The 2020-21 budget identified 12 key action items that will be undertaken to continue to support these initiatives. The primary focus of which is to increase standardization of approaches across Nova Scotia municipalities through the encouragement of regional collaboration and framework development. The Department has identified some key initiatives related to supporting municipal efforts in Asset Management and Climate Change adaptation activities, however no details were provided on how these programs will receive continued support. The Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing had its budget increase from $283.4 million in 2019-20 to $308.5 million in 2020-21.
In conjunction with the budget, the Municipal Government Act and Halifax Regional Municipality Charter were amended in an effort to reduce red tape and improve municipal autonomy. The amendments will remove the following requirements from the legislation:
- The need to approve lease arrangements that a municipality enters into, or to approve financial commitments beyond the current year
- The need to approve municipal bylaws that have already been approved by another minister
Overall, the budget and corresponding actions taken by the Nova Scotia government signal an increased commitment to supporting Nova Scotia municipalities and improving the overall service delivery of the government to residents.
For more details on the Budget, and to read it in its entirety, visit Nova Scotia’s website.