Opposition parties accused the government of hiding a broken promise yesterday as Premier Rodney MacDonald confirmed money that was supposed to go on the debt never did.
The province receives $870 million of crown share money from Ottawa spread out over 15 years. During the 2008 budget the Tories vowed to put 70 per cent of that towards paying down the debt.
But the premier acknowledged Monday that didn’t happen last year. The $95-million share from 2008-09 went into general revenue, and the $79 million for this year was budgeted to do the same.
“In the last six months things have drastically changed for Nova Scotians,” MacDonald said. “We ended up using those dollars to go towards ensuring we could provide programs and services.”
NDP Leader Darrell Dexter didn’t have a problem with spending the money, but said the Tories should have been truthful about it.
“In one of the deepest recessions our country has seen in decades, if not a century, all people really wanted was for him to be honest with them,” Dexter said. “He just simply failed to do that.”
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil agreed the premier broke his promise and should have been up front about it.
Last July the province signed a deal with the federal government ending a long dispute over who gets offshore revenue.
The first lump sum of $234 million went mostly on the debt as planned, but the approximately $175 million received since then went towards programs instead.
MacDonald said the choice was necessary to avoid cuts or raising taxes. The Tories also said that the decision was not hidden.
The money spending was mentioned when the budget was introduced at the beginning of the month, but was mostly overlooked when the government fell later that day.