All three political parties have a different version of whether Nova Scotia ran a deficit last year.
The Liberals say we did, the Tories say we didn’t and the governing NDP say it was both.
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New financial documents released by the finance department Thursday show revenue was lower than expected last year while capital spending was up.
The province also had a $19-million surplus or an $82-million deficit, depending on who you ask.
The then-governing Tories say their budget was balanced because they re-borrowed federal offshore money that was put on the debt years ago -- a valid accounting move according to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP.
But provincial law demands offshore money pay down the debt, and the Tory attempt to repeal that law led to their defeat in the legislature. Therefore, the Liberals insist the province was in deficit last year according to Nova Scotia law.
For their part, the governing NDP isn’t taking a side.
“I don’t want to get into semantic games. According to GAAP it’s a surplus, according to the rules of the provincial finance act it’s not,” said Finance Minister Graham Steele.
Steele refused to say which definition of ‘balanced’ the NDP will use in their upcoming budget, expected to arrive in two weeks.
It’s a predicament for the new government. If they do change finance laws they will face charges of hypocrisy from rivals because the Tories were defeated for doing the same thing.
But if they don’t change the rules they’ll have an incredibly high bill to pay down – including the previous year's deficit – at a time when revenue is dropping.