Nova Scotia budget panned by opposition politicians
'Where is the plan for job growth?' says PC Leader Jamie Baillie
Opposition politicians say Nova Scotia's budget is dishonest and unrealistic.
"I'm absolutely saying they've resorted to accounting trickery, to inflated investments, to rosy scenarios, to impossible projections to try and make themselves look better," said Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
"This is a dishonest budget. It's not real."
On Tuesday, the province released its 2016-17 budget, which is projecting a slim $17.1-million surplus and contains no major new spending commitments.
One of the assumptions in the budget is that health spending will remain flat.
"It hasn't happened before," said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
'They're inflating the guesses'
Over the past five years, health-care spending has increased at an average rate of two per cent annually. Today, it represents roughly $4 billion of the province's $10 billion budget.
Burrill says there is nothing in the budget documentation that gives him confidence the Liberals will be able to hold the line on health spending.
The budget anticipates a $147 million increase in revenue from personal income tax. Baillie says that Nova Scotians aren't getting significant wage increases and jobs aren't being created, so that isn't realistic.
"They're inflating the guesses about how much tax they're going to get," he said.
Social assistance increase
The budget also includes an additional $20 per month of social assistance for eligible recipients. The Liberals say this is the largest individual increase in income assistance in the province's history.
Burrill says the Liberals accomplished this by using some of last year's money for social assistance that wasn't spent. If all the leftover money had been used, he says the province could have upped income assistance by $35 per month.
"We think that would have been better," he said.
Recipients 'will be very grateful'
Premier Stephen McNeil defended the small increase. He said the province would have liked to have given more, but it doesn't have the money to do so.
"[The recipients] will be very grateful for the increase," said McNeil.
Burrill says the provincial Liberals should have followed the lead of the federal Liberals in how they approached the recently tabled federal budget.
"What we need is public investment," he said.
Overall, Baillie says the budget lacks direction.
"Where is the plan for job growth? Where is the plan to get government out of the way to small business? Where is the plan to give Nova Scotians meaningful tax relief?" he said.
With files from Jean Laroche