The Nova Scotia government is fuelling talk of an election after it announced plans Tuesday to spend a record amount on roads, buildings and repairs.
Finance Minister Karen Casey unveiled a capital budget that will see spending top $1 billion, which is 51 per cent higher than last year’s $691-million budget.
Although the plan will drive up the debt faster than forecast last year by Casey, she defended it as “good debt.”
“We call putting money on the debt to keep the lights on and operate the departments bad debt,” she told reporters following a briefing by senior department officials.
“We consider putting money on the debt that is investing in infrastructure that will serve the residents of Nova Scotia for years to come as good debt.”
The $1.042-billion capital plan includes spending on major projects:
- $166 million for purchasing 30 P-3 schools and building 16 more.
- Twinning highways 103 and 104.
- Ongoing renovations to the Halifax Infirmary’s third and fifth floors, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, as well as the Dartmouth General Hospital’s expansion.
- $11 million to replace ferries in Country Harbour and Little Narrows.
- $5.9 million for new school buses.
Most of the money will go to the construction or renovation of buildings, while highways get the second largest slice of the pie, followed by capital grants and the purchase of new vehicles and equipment.
New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender noted during the past decade, there have been capital spending spikes in 2013 and 2017.
“We see peaks in spending when we see a government going to the polls,” Chender told reporters after the briefing.
“From where we sit, it’s frustrating that we continually ask for spending to meet Nova Scotians basic needs [and] we are continually rebuffed until this government might need someone’s vote.”
Casey brushed aside the suggestion this spending is tied to election timing.
“This is not an election year,” she said. “I don’t make that call, but I’m pretty sure there’s no election.”
The PC MLA for Northside-Westmount, Murray Ryan, is concerned all the spending on new hospital buildings is not matched by money to retain and recruit more staff.
“I don’t think the solution to hallway medicine is bigger hallways,” said Ryan. “Until we have proper staffing, being doctors, nurses and support staff, building all these new facilities and not having the staff, who’s to say they’re gonna be here in five years time?”
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