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Deficit puts the squeeze on the province and city

Provincial Finance Minister Michael Baker gave the thumbs up to the federal budget, even though it will make his job tougher.

Provincial Finance Minister Michael Baker gave the thumbs up to the federal budget, even though it will make his job tougher.

With the feds planning on five years of deficits, balancing the province’s budget will be even more difficult.

“It’s very, very challenging to meet that commitment, but I think it’s incumbent on us to do what we can,” Baker said at a Tuesday news conference.

He said the budget shows “strong federal action,” and reflects the advice given by premiers and provincial finance ministers.

Baker said he wants to take advantage of every available federal dollar for infrastructure. Since the province, and sometimes municipalities, match infrastructure money, the province may have to go into deficit to be able to access all the federal funds up for grabs.

Last month, the province was still predicting a surplus of $212.9 million for the 2008-09 year.
Mayor Peter Kelly said the federal deficit will trickle down to pinch the HRM’s budget, too.

“It’s going to affect all of us across the country,” he said. “It is a budget of good intentions and now, all we have to do is make sure those good intentions get fulfilled.”

Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie doesn’t believe the federal government will fulfill its budget promises. Her party plans to vote against the budget.

“It’s one thing to say in the budget, we’re going to earmark this much money for affordable housing,” says Leslie. “It’s another thing entirely to trust them to actually do it.”

She says federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had initially announced a surplus in November.

“Now he’s saying we’re running a deficit,” said Leslie. “That’s irresponsible.”

She said she would have liked to have seen a government that paid attention in November.

“I don’t have the confidence in (the Tories) to actually implement any of these measures.”

 
 
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