One of the people who has been advocating for a judicial inquiry looking at abuse allegations at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children said the government's plan to set up a panel on the issue falls short.

Tony Smith said the Premier's office told him about the panel Monday night, on the eve of the announcement.

It will be unveiled in Tuesday’s speech from the throne.

Smith said the panel will serve more as a venue for people to speak about the abuse, as opposed to an inquiry which can summon witnesses and dig deeper into matters of blame or responsibility.

Smith and others are part of a class action lawsuit, alleging years of abuse at the orphanage.

Budget next week

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Darrell Dexter is promising a balanced budget. (Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, the opening of the House has people anxious to hear the provincial budget.

Premier Darrell Dexter has promised it will be balanced. But what his political rivals are eager to know is how the province has been able to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars to do that.

"I think the most important element of the budget will be that after some very, very tough years in which Nova Scotians have shared in the challenge of getting back to balance, that it has been achieved," said Dexter.

"I really want that to be true," said Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie. "This province has a sorry history of budgets that people said were balanced that really weren’t."

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil is also skeptical

"This government says they're turning the corner and they've added a billion dollars to the debt of the province of Nova Scotia," he said. "They cut $65 million out of public education. Unemployment is up."

McNeil said he'll wait to see the fine print before he believes the budget is actually balanced.

Election on horizon

One expert sees the spring sitting as a warm up to the coming election campaign which he thinks is imminent.

"There's no question that this will set the stage for the election that I think will follow in the next six months," said Don Mills, the president of the survey firm Corporate Research Associates.

"I can't imagine that the government would try to extend the government beyond the end of this year. I think that that would look desperate and it would probably make it much more difficult to win an election."

Mills said the good news for the party in power is the volatility of the electorate.

He said voters appear to be searching for a reason to support someone but so far none of the leaders has a clear advantage.

Successive CRA polls have had the NDP trailing the Liberals in support.