Duelling infrastructure promises from PCs and Liberals on campaign trail
Liberals promise $20M a year for gravel roads, PCs pledge $2B overall
Stephen McNeil and Jamie Baillie seldom see eye to eye, but both party leaders were focusing their campaigns Monday on money for roads, buildings and other capital projects.
The Liberal government quietly set aside $50 million in the provincial budget tabled last week for community projects, but Liberal Leader McNeil waited until a campaign stop in the Halifax area to announce the cash along with a commitment to double the amount of money his party would spend on upgrading 700 kilometres of gravel road starting next year.
The government has budgeted $10 million for gravel road repairs this fiscal year. The Liberals are promising to spend $20 million a year starting next year.
Gravel road upgrades
"For years, government after government has ignored these roads even though they are in desperate need of repair. Not anymore," McNeil told reporters while standing in front of a bulldozer and other road repair equipment at a business on the Kearney Lake Road.
He also said the province would work with the federal government to build and renovate key pieces of community and recreational infrastructure in the province.
PCs make 1st major promise
Baillie, leader of the Progressive Conservatives, made his first election campaign promise by pledging to spend $2 billion on infrastructure over 10 years. He's banking on half of that money coming from the federal government.
The Rebuild Nova Scotia Fund would twin highways over seven years, build a new Victoria General hospital in Halifax, double spending on rural roads and pay for environmental cleanups. It would also provide 100 per cent rural internet access that would be mostly achieved in the first year of a Tory government.
"The best thing we can do at this point in time for our economy is put people to work on these important infrastructure projects," said Baillie.
A Tory campaign official said the program would blend new spending with elements in the current capital plan.
Full platform to come later in campaign
Baillie declined to reveal the annual cost and the order of the projects, saying those details would come in the party's platform to be unveiled later in the campaign.
He said the program would be carried out within a balanced budget, but would freeze Nova Scotia's current debt-to-GDP ratio of 35.9 per cent. That would in effect spend the modest surpluses forecast by the Liberal government in its last budget.
The Liberals forecast the net debt-to-GDP ratio to fall to 33.7 per cent by 2020-21 from 35.9 per cent in 2017-18.
Baillie made the announcement at insulation manufacturer Guildfords in the Burnside Business Park in Dartmouth. The PC leader told reporters the infrastructure program would create 10,000 construction jobs.
Baillie calls Bayers Lake land deal 'shady'
He also promised to review the Liberal government's purchase of land for a new outpatient centre in the Bayers Lake retail park in Halifax.
"That deal looks very shady," said Baillie.
"What we do know now is the land was bought for 12 times the assessed value from a Liberal donor. What we do know now is [Halifax Mayor] Mike Savage and the city warned the McNeil government that was not the right place for that facility and yet they ignored those warnings."
The latter was a reference to a report in AllNovaScotia.com that the municipality told the provincial government in early April the site had poor transit access and was the worst of four sites under consideration.
McNeil defended the land purchase when asked about the report, saying it was one of 15 sites considered.
He said the municipality's preferred site on the Mainland Common was too small compared to the six hectares ultimately chosen in Bayers Lake.
"We have landed at what is the appropriate site for that facility," he said, adding that a Liberal government would work with the municipality to bring in bus service.