Finance minister softening on 'back to balance' stance
© Nancy King - Cape Breton Post
[HALIFAX, NS] – The Nova Scotia New Democrats say they will "work very hard" to balance the books in the next fiscal year.
Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald told reporters Thursday that the government is on track to be back in the black in 2013-14. But she says that target – set out when the NDP first came to power in 2009 – will be very difficult to reach.
"We've worked very, very hard and some of the things we've done have sometimes met resistance," MacDonald says.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm very optimistic that we're on the right track, and if we continue on this track we will be back to balance in the spring."
MacDonald's comments came at a press conference to release the 2011-12 Public Accounts.
According to that document, the province finished 2011-12 with a deficit of $248.5 million – a $141.1 million improvement from that budget's estimate and about $12 million better than expected in March 2012.
The NDP are still projecting a $211.2 million deficit for the current fiscal year before posting a $15.4 million surplus in 2013-14. Premier Darrell Dexter has committed to reducing the HST by one per cent that year – at a cost of around $180 million – and a provincial election is likely before that budget is tabled.
MacDonald's language was somewhat more reserved than her predecessor Graham Steele, who up to his resignation in May remained adamant the books would be balanced by the end of this government's first mandate.
That caused some opposition critics to question the likelihood, if not the desire, to return to balanced budgets next year.
"I would say they're within $250 million of a balanced budget today, but once they factor in deferred costs... they're actually much further away from that," says Liberal MLA Andrew Younger.
"I see a marked difference between the previous ministers statements... and what this minister is saying about going back to balance. And I don't think they can do it," adds Tory MLA Chris d'Entremont.