Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia releases largest ever capital plan, topping $1.5B

The Progressive Conservative government’s first capital plan is the largest in the Nova Scotia’s history, with a total of more than $1.5 billion in spending, primarily on hospitals, highways and schools.

Spending on hospital redevelopments is ramping up

Allan MacMaster is Nova Scotia's finance minister. He released the PC government's first capital plan on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Halifax. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The Progressive Conservative government's first capital plan is the largest in Nova Scotia's history, with a total of more than $1.5 billion in spending, primarily on hospitals, highways and schools.

Finance Minister Allan MacMaster released the 2022-23 plan Wednesday.

"The past couple of years have been challenging but I believe we are emerging from the pandemic with a bright future," MacMaster said at a media briefing.

"Nova Scotians are seeing cranes in the sky and structures going up, and with this year's capital plan, they will see even more."

The largest share of the $1.587-billion capital plan, about $630 million, goes to health care. That includes $464.6 million for ongoing hospital projects in Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional Municipality.

Spending on hospital redevelopments ramping up

Spending on those projects is significantly higher this year than last. The two hospital redevelopments accounted for $178.2 million in the 2021-22 capital plan. 

Ryan Grant, executive director of Nova Scotia's Finance and Treasury Board, said the greater costs reflect the natural progression of the projects. He said a further cost breakdown would be available after a tendering process for a large component of the QEII project in Halifax closes sometime this year.

MacMaster was joined by Ryan Grant, executive director of the Finance and Treasury Board, at a media briefing on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Other health care spending includes $122.6 million for construction, repair and renewal and other health projects, and $32 million to replace medical equipment — a doubling of the previous allocation for equipment upgrades.

The capital plan also includes $507.8 million for repairing or building highways, bridges and roads, as was announced earlier this year in the five-year highway plan.

Public schools will get $175.3 million this year for renovations, and design and construction of new buildings. Gone from this year's capital plan is money to buy back schools built through public-private partnerships. The last of those buildings were purchased in 2021-22.

Budget coming next week

MacMaster released the plan one day before the spring sitting of the legislature is set to begin. The capital plan will be subject to approval by the House along with this year's budget, which will be released on March 29, MacMaster announced.

Spending on the QEII hospital redevelopment is ramping up this year. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Absent from the capital budget is any spending on affordable housing, but MacMaster said that will be addressed in the coming budget.

"Our intent is clear, we want to invest money to increase the supply of housing," MacMaster said, referring back to his government's announcement of a $35-million housing strategy last fall.

He said it's too soon to tell how well that strategy is working.

MacMaster said long-term care, also left out of the capital plan, would also get attention in this year's budget.

Disappointment

NDP finance critic Sue Leblanc said she was disappointed that investment in public housing and long-term care infrastructure did not factor into the capital plan.

"We know we have a serious housing crisis in Nova Scotia and we know that it's going to require supply ... different types of supply," Leblanc told reporters Wednesday.

The PCs have committed to increasing the number of long-term care beds, but Leblanc said the approach is inadequate.

"We suspect that because it's not in the capital plan, that if there is investment in long-term care [in the budget], it's not going to be in public long-term care, it's going to be in private, and frankly we need to get the profit out of long-term care," Leblanc said. 

Spending big while interest rates are low

This is the third year the capital budget has topped $1 billion, and MacMaster's Liberal predecessor said last year that trend is likely to continue. MacMaster was not ready to make the same prediction, but he said now is a good time to be making big investments since interest rates are low.

"It's always a concern to me when I'm seeing money going out the door, but I know it's for infrastructure, it's meant to last many years into the future."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

now