Nova Scotia needs another Atlantic province’s approval to hike the HST, but that may soon change.

 

Raising the HST by two percentage points was one of the recommendations made by the premier’s economic advisory panel. However, under the current deal with the government, Nova Scotia can’t make that move unilaterally, Finance Minister Graham Steele told reporters Thursday following a weekly cabinet meeting.

 

“Under the existing agreement, at least one of the other Atlantic provinces would have to agree with it,” Steele said.

 

“But as I said, we don’t expect that to be the rule at the time the next budget is delivered.”

 

Ontario just finished working out a new HST deal with the government and British Columbia is currently in negotiations. Steele said the outcome of those deals will affect what happens to Nova Scotia.

“We can basically pick and choose the best available rules,” he said.

“We know the regime is changing. What I don’t know, because it’s happening right now, is exactly what the new rules will be.”

Steele said adding two percentage points to the HST would bring in about $250 million per year. The economic panel advised the move as a way for the province to combat crushing deficits.

Steele said his department only began looking at that step after last Friday’s report, adding the province hasn’t decided if or when a hike would take place, or what could be exempted.

“I absolutely don’t want anybody to think that we’ve made the decisions on these things -- on amount and timing -- and we’re just not telling anybody,” he said.