HALIFAX - The province is cutting red tape for small business, making it easier and more affordable for them to do business and create jobs in Nova Scotia.
"Balancing the budget will set the stage for an economic future that looks vastly different from our past and holds tremendous opportunity for us all," said Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald at the annual Halifax Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.
On April 4, the province will introduce a balanced budget. Nova Scotia will be one of only a few provinces to achieve this goal.
"Nova Scotia is back to balance because government had a four-year plan" said Ms. MacDonald. "The past four years have required sacrifice and commitment. Nova Scotians deserve the credit for helping us stick to our plan, which balanced fiscal responsibility and maintained the vital services that improve the lives of Nova Scotia families."
In 2009, an expert panel outlined the steps necessary to get off the path to a $1.4-billion deficit. Government implemented a comprehensive, four-year approach that reduced government spending, increased revenue and helped grow the economy. The province introduced a number of initiatives, including ending March madness, holding program expenses flat and bringing departmental spending in under-budget for three consecutive years.
"We made the right decisions in tough times because it was the right thing to do to build a better future for all Nova Scotians and for our children," said Ms. MacDonald.
Donald Savoie, a member of the expert economic panel, also said Nova Scotia should "set out to be the most business-friendly jurisdiction in Canada."
The province is cutting taxes for small businesses for the fourth year in a row, Ms. MacDonald told the chamber.
On Jan. 1, 2014, the rate will drop to three per cent. Government has dropped the income tax by two-per cent over the last for years, meaning almost $78-million in savings for small business. The reductions will save small business $26-million in 2013-14, and more than $33-million per year when fully implemented.
This year's reduction will be offset by a reduction in the threshold to qualify for the tax rate.
Small businesses will also spend less time trying to find the right program and more time growing their business, thanks to major changes that will provide better support and simpler access to business programs and services.
Stomp Labs is an innovative small business that designs and manufactures guitar effects pedals and accessories in Sydney. CEO Jeff Slipp welcomed today's news.
"Offering small businesses like mine better support and easier access is a big step in the right direction," said Mr. Slipp. "The province offers a lot of programs and services, but I'm sure I'm not the only business owner who's had a hard time figuring out which programs are the right ones. More one-on-one support to talk through the options will be really helpful, and leave me more time to focus on growing my business."
The province is opening five doors to businesses as clear entry points to the same range of programs and services, instead of them having to wade through nearly 40 programs. The province will also provide better one-on-one support, more frequent site visits and shorter approval times.
"We are starting to turn the corner with a balanced budget and unprecedented opportunities like the 25-billion shipbuilding contract, the Maritime link, and with today's announcement, an even more competitive tax regime and less red tape for small business," said Ms. MacDonald. "It's all about creating good jobs right here at home."