Premier Rodney MacDonald announced yesterday that at least 70 per cent of the Crown Share payment to the province will be slapped onto the debt, but critics say it should be 100 per cent, as was promised in 2005.
“I assume if that, at my home, I say I’m going to put all the money I have for the next little while on my credit card debt to get it down, well, I would follow through on that commitment,” said New Democrat Leader Darrell Dexter.
In 2005, the government passed legislation saying any “extraordinary revenue” to the province must be used to pay down the debt.
The Crown Share payment from the federal government, however, will be split between the debt, offshore energy research, a land trust and a university infrastructure renewal trust.
The actual dollar amount of the Crown Share has yet to be decided, and a three-person panel continues to work out the details which will be released sometime in the next few weeks.
Premier Rodney MacDonald said it could be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250 million.
MacDonald joined Finance Minister Michael Baker in announcing that aside from the 70 per cent to be placed on debt, 10 per cent — or up to $25 million — will go to each of a Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Trust, grants to two offshore energy research associations and a Nova Scotia Crown Share University Infrastructure Trust.
Baker said he believes in the potential of these investments.
“They will bear the same fruit as payment on our debt,” he said.
Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the MacDonald government is manipulating the legislation passed in 2005.
“If this isn’t extraordinary revenue, I don’t know what would be,” he said.
Creating the trusts allows the government to book off money on last year’s finances, he said.
But MacDonald said creating the trusts yesterday simply allowed the government an opportunity to take advantage of the Crown Share money before the end of the fiscal year.