With the first NDP legislative session for Nova Scotia kicking off this afternoon, the Official Opposition Liberals are coming out swinging by accusing the government of underhanded budget moves.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil is accusing the NDP of using deceptive accounting tricks to make themselves look better and the third-place Tories worse.
The charge comes after Monday’s announcement by Finance Minister Graham Steele that the province would run a $590-million deficit this year.
Last year the Tories controversially spent $340 million to cover the operating budgets of universities for this year. The NDP are keeping that trend going, putting next year’s university budget on this year’s books. That means next year – the year Dexter promised a balanced budget – there will be hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses taken care of.
McNeil said the NDP are piling the debt onto this year so they can blame it on the Tories.
“They’re ballooning last year’s deficit intentionally, for politically motivated reasons,” he charged. “At least the Conservatives, for all their faults, openly said what they were doing. These guys try to get in the back door and pull one over on everyone.”
Steele said the NDP is just trying to return to normal, annual payments to universities. He said the Liberal attacks are based on assumptions and misunderstandings.
“Mr. McNeil’s criticism is based on his presumption about what will happen next year,” Steele countered.
“Because of what the Conservatives did we will be one year ahead. But what we do with that is a decision we’ll make in next year’s budget. Mr. McNeil was just presuming that he already knows, and he doesn’t.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Karen Casey said the NDP needs to be clearer on this year’s deficit.