Nova Scotia is carrying a smaller deficit, but the province's net debt has ballooned to a record $14 billion, according to the government's latest audited financial statements.


Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald arrives to talk with reporters as she delivers the Nova Scotia budget at the legislature in Halifax on Thursday, April 4, 2013. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald presented the financial update for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

In April, the province tabled a $9.5-billion fiscal plan for 2013-14. It touted a balanced budget forecasting a slim surplus of $16.4 million, which followed a $356.4 million deficit in 2012-13.

The deficit is now about $54 million less, sitting at an estimated $302 million.

MacDonald called the numbers "encouraging."

The debt is now $233 million more than budgeted. The only year in which the NDP government reduced Nova Scotia's net debt was in 2011.

"Show me a province or a jurisdiction in the last four years, particularly in the last year, [that] hasn't faced similar challenges. Nova Scotia is not an island and we faced those same kinds of pressures," said MacDonald.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the Dexter government is trying to paint a rosy fiscal picture because an election call is imminent

"The threat to Nova Scotia of our debt is higher than many other places and to come into office as the NDP did four years ago and add another $1.7 billion to it is poor management and it is cheating the next generation of Nova Scotians who are going to have to pay that back," he said.

The government is in the last year of its mandate.