The Nova Scotia Liberal Party is launching an election-readiness campaign today with 30-second ads airing on local news stations throughout the province.

Asked yesterday if the move is a sign his support for the Conservative budget isn’t quite so solid, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil replied: “That’s one way of putting it.”

He said if he has to run a campaign based on cutting gas tax, he will do so, saying, “It’s my hope that this government sees the error of its way and provides Nova Scotian consumers with a break on gas.”

Political interference may be at the heart of gas price regulation in the province, he said.

He demanded Premier Rodney MacDonald live up to his promise of having an independent board determine weekly gas prices.

Service Nova Scotia Minister Jamie Muir signs off on the set gas price each week, and McNeil said all other jurisdictions have an independent body set the price of gas.

Muir told the legislature during question period yesterday that if gas price regulation were a political tactic, the government would set the price much lower than it has been.

Darrell Dexter, leader of the NDP, said he also has concerns about the budget after reviewing its details.

He pointed to a speech MacDonald made in May 2006 about families struggling to cope with energy costs.

“We will rebate a large part of the tax families are now paying to heat their homes and run basic necessities like the fridge,” MacDonald said.

Tuesday’s budget address revealed the HST tax rebate on power will be cut, adding another $95 to the average family’s electricity bill each year, and Dexter said the premier is not living up to his promises.

Both leaders yesterday intimated their support for the budget is on shaky ground, but the premier said he’s not concerned.

“The budget is what it is; there will be no changes to the budget,” he said.

He said the Conservative party, as a “political machine,” is always prepared to go to the polls if necessary.

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