Promise of a balanced budget for 2013-14 comes as a pleasant surprise. It would be interesting to know how much calculation went into that surprise.
The news, as announced Wednesday by Premier Darrell Dexter, is invariably coupled with the recollection just weeks ago of Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald hedging on the issue. Although it had been a firm pledge from the NDP, MacDonald openly questioned whether sticking to it would be wise if it meant painful measures – considering the $277 million in cuts needed to hit the target.
It’s strange, for starters, that the finance minister would appear to be simply musing out loud on a key issue – one that has gained status as the main attraction in any party’s platform.
It’s hard to fathom that weeks ago balance had become on open-ended question. Was the government simply floating the alternative to test reaction, and plan from there? We’d only be guessing, but MacDonald’s comments didn’t elicit a great uproar.
So, a pleasant surprise following doubt works as a great mood enhancer.
At any rate, for those concerned about continuing deficits and growing debt, this assurance from the premier will be welcome news. Achieving balance has come with major belt-tightening – a good exercise in any case – and this province will be one of the first to do it following the recession setting in at the time the NDP took office in 2009.
The news also launched speculation whether an election call would follow the budget delivery. That would come as no surprise, despite a dismissal of the idea by the premier.
Keep in mind, the NDP trail the opposition Liberals these days in the polls – to gain traction such a budget would need to be both balanced and relatively good news.
If the budget details reveal a coming cut to the HST – one per cent promised in each of the next two years – Nova Scotians will have to pinch themselves to see if they’re dreaming. We’ll also want to know where they found that $277 million to cut.