The 2015-16 budget holds the line on spending, restructures and reduces the size of government and continues to clear the way for private-sector growth.
Finance and Treasury Board Minister Diana Whalen tabled the budget today, April 9. It projects a deficit of $97.6 million.
“This budget holds the line on spending and protects the things that matter most to Nova Scotians, such as health care and education,” said Ms. Whalen. “We have questioned the status quo and made major structural changes in this budget.”
Revenue for 2015-16 is an estimated $9.9 billion, a 3.7 per cent increase from 2014-15. Expenses are an estimated $10 billion, an increase of 0.9 per cent from 2014-15.
“In the areas where we have control — such as departmental spending — we have made thoughtful, strategic changes,” said Ms. Whalen. “But there are also costs we can’t control — previous labour settlements were just too generous and have added significantly to our deficit.”
Budget 2015-16 will:
— establish a Department of Business that will focus on key sectors and create the climate that enables the private sector to generate jobs
— hold the line on government spending, which is essentially flat at 0.2 per cent without labour added in, and would be 0.7 per cent were it included
— reduce the size of the public service by 320 full-time equivalents, or 3.1 per cent
— impose a three-year wage freeze for non-union civil service employees and a permanent freeze on their public service awards, as initial steps toward addressing labour costs
— make strategic decisions at the Department of Health and Wellness to contain costs to an overall increase of 0.8 per cent, the smallest increase in more than a decade
— increase investment in public education to implement the Education Action Plan to help renew, rebuild and refocus our education system ($20.4 million)
— save taxpayers $119 million through Program Review, including changes to the camping park system, eliminating the out-of-province student university bursary, closing two visitor information centres and consolidating land registry offices to five locations
— increase university funding, continue the Nova Scotia Bursary and no-interest student loans, and increase up-front grants and graduate scholarships ($34 million)
— create an Office of Regulatory and Service Effectiveness to streamline government regulations and cut red tape
— develop the province’s first multi-year provincial health plan that will ensure the most effective and efficient use of system resources to improve health outcomes
— develop the One Person One Record plan, a single, secure electronic record that connects a person’s health information from various health sectors ($2.6 million)
— create a new Division of Public Safety and Protection at the Department of Environment that will consolidate enforcement programs from the departments of Environment, Health and Wellness and Natural Resources
— expand the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program to two more areas ($700,000)
— address orthopaedic surgery wait time by providing 450 more surgeries
— increase funding in the Caregiver Benefit to support 385 more families ($1.8 million) and home-care services ($3.8 million)
— create Tourism Nova Scotia, a private-sector-led Crown corporation
“These initiatives are part of a deliberate four-year plan that includes program review and cost control,” said Ms. Whalen. “We are headed toward a surplus budget and this will provide us with options to address the things that matter most to Nova Scotians.”
For more information about the 2015-16 provincial budget, visit www.novascotia.ca/finance/en/home/budget/ .