After an unexpected turn of events Friday, a new Nova Scotia budget will be released today.
As late as Friday morning it looked like Premier Rodney MacDonald’s government would be defeated before its budget could see the light of day. The Conservative budget was thought to need a law change before it could be introduced.
But a loophole granted the Tories a stay of execution Friday when the legislature voted unanimously to let the budget be presented today.
However, the budget still must be tabled away and can only be voted on if the law change is accepted first.
The Tories are looking to make a rule change allowing them to spend $100 million in offshore money that currently has to go on the debt, which would keep them from running a deficit.
That amendment needs to pass for the budget to be valid. If both opposition parties vote against the confidence measure, which both say they’ll do, an election would be triggered.
Under the Provincial Finance Act, a government is not allowed to introduce a deficit budget in Nova Scotia.
However, in 2005 the province got a lump sum from the federal government for several years’ worth of offshore offset money. That money went on the debt, but the Conservatives want to take some of it back and put it into general revenue.
“Those dollars are required to ensure that we can fund the services and programs Nova Scotians need,” said MacDonald.
The premier said if they didn’t spend the offshore money, they would have to raise taxes or make major budget cuts.
But opposition parties have so far stuck to their guns, saying the Tories led the province into debt and are trying to cook the books to disguise it.
“It’s not surplus money. It’s re-acquiring a debt that was paid down in 2005,” said NDP Leader Darrell Dexter.