MLAs return to Province House under threat of election
Last Updated: Thursday, April 30, 2009 | 11:48 PM ET
Nova Scotia MLAs returned to the legislature on Thursday for what could be a short sitting and the launch of an election campaign.
The opposition parties appear poised to kill a pre-budget bill the minority Progressive Conservative government claims it needs to pass before tabling a fiscal plan.
The bill, tabled on Thursday by Finance Minister Jamie Muir, would allow the Tories to spend $106 million on universities from an offshore revenue payment that, by law, must go to pay down the province's $12-billion debt.
Premier Rodney MacDonald urged the opposition parties to support the amendment to the Finance Act, saying this is a better use of tens of millions of dollars.
"I'd rather see this money being spent on the people of Nova Scotia then sent to the bankers in New York," he said.
But Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil isn't buying that.
"I made it very clear on the position months ago what I was willing to do and not willing to do, and I wasn't going to change the laws of our province retroactively to bail them out fiscally," McNeil said.
Nova Scotia's Official Opposition doesn't support the bill either. NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said MacDonald should simply admit to overspending.
"Why didn't he just take that position that yes, we ran a deficit last year. It was an extraordinary period in our time. It was a calamitous set of circumstances and we did what was best," Dexter said.
Dexter said he's not interested in helping the government "misrepresent" the ledger.
The opposition parties have accused the Tories of unofficially campaigning for months.
The MacDonald government has made a number of big spending announcements. In fact, the premier is campaign-ready when it comes to his party's main message that it needs to pass a budget or it won't have money to match funds the federal government is offering for roadwork and other projects.
"What the opposition is saying is they're willing to see part of that $400 million go to another province. I'm not. I want to see that spent in Nova Scotia," MacDonald said.
Both opposition leaders insist they're not to blame for any delay.
The minority MacDonald government needs the support of opposition MLAs to pass a budget and stay in power. If not, the government falls, triggering an election.
The last provincial election was in June 2006.