A looming nurses strike is expected to dominate today's opening of the spring sitting of the Nova Scotia legislature, which comes one week ahead of the first budget to be tabled by the Liberal government.

Premier Stephen McNeil has made it clear he will do whatever is necessary to ensure patient safety if registered nurses employed by Halifax-area hospitals walk off the job on or before April 3.

Nurse protest Capital Health Stephen McNeil

Nurses with the Capital District Health Authority say they will be wearing these masks in protest. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Earlier this week, McNeil was urging both sides to resume bargaining after mediated talks broke down Sunday.

He wouldn't say whether some form of essential services legislation would be introduced.

Meanwhile, the Liberals will have plenty on their plate when they introduce their first budget since the party was elected in a landslide on October 8.

Finance Minister Diana Whalen has said she expects to table a deficit budget next Thursday.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says the budget represents a test of whether the Liberals are prepared to make the changes necessary to strengthen the province's economy.