The 2017/18 Budget is the first budget of your government’s second mandate.
Your Liberal Government was returned in May 2017. This is the first back-to-back majority for a government in Nova Scotia in close to 30 years. As we begin 2018, it is important that all Nova Scotians understand the success of Premier Stephen McNeil and your government in restoring the fiscal health of the province. As the Minister of Finance and your MLA in Colchester North, I was pleased to recently present our second consecutive balanced budget.
We want to continue our work to build a stronger province, not just for families today but for future generations. That starts with our own fiscal health and we have laid out a clear, reasonable and sustainable fiscal plan. In fact, our Bond rating from Standard & Poor’s has improved. As well, the Parliamentary Budget Office has stated that Nova Scotia is one of three provinces in Canada to have achieved financial balance.
This improvement has been realized through your government making some difficult, but necessary decisions. One of the largest expenses of government is to pay the interest on the current provincial debt. That debt is $15 billion. The 2016/17 surplus has allowed us to make a payment on the provincial debt and Nova Scotia has not been in that position to reduce the debt since 2011.
We are working very hard to ensure that we do not live beyond our means and that we do not continue to add to that debt for future generations to pay. Matching revenue to expenses and balancing the cheque book of the province is not unlike managing our own personal cheque book. It often means making difficult decisions.
Your government has continued to invest in education, health care, and community services. These are all programs that benefit all Nova Scotians in one way or another. We are also in a stronger position to invest in pre-primary, orthopedic wait times, mental health services, supports for expensive take home cancer drugs, opioid addiction programs, and in creating an economy that provides jobs for our young people.
Jan. 1, 2018, also marked the beginning of your government’s Tax Reforms. Premier McNeil has said in the past that these reforms would begin once our budgets were balanced. He has kept that commitment by introducing tax relief to more than 500,000 low and middle income Nova Scotians. This was achieved by increasing the Tax Free Basic Personal Amount allowed for tax credit when filing your Income Tax. This is the largest tax break in recent history for the province of Nova Scotia and the first for your government.
I look forward to your continued support as your government moves forward with tax changes designed to help more Nova Scotians.
Karen Casey is the MLA for Colchester North.