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Smith-McCrossin questions provincial spending spree

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is surrounded by family as she announces her bid for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party on Tuesday.
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is concerned with a massive spending spree announced by the provincial government on Thursday.

Cumberland North MLA, PC leadership candidate says March Madness is back

AMHERST – Cumberland North MLA and PC leadership candidate Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is not pleased with how the Liberal government is spending millions without any public consultation.

“March Madness is back in Nova Scotia under Stephen McNeil's Liberals,” Smith-McCrossin said. “While much of the spending is welcome, this should have been done through better management of a budget of more than $10 billion, rather than spending a one-time windfall of offshore energy revenues behind closed doors and with zero public consultation.”

Her comments come after the premier announced $244 million in spending in new projects – of which half is one-time funding generated fromoffshore revenues.

"Previous PC governments - both under John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald - established the principle of allocating all or most of one-time offshore dollars through the Offshore Accord and the Crown Shore payment to pay down the debt,” she said. “Hamm put all of the proceeds of the Offshore Accord on the debt, while MacDonald put 70 per cent of the Crown Shore proceeds on the debt and 30 per cent towards offshore research, university infrastructure and land conservation.”

As PC leader, and premier, she said she would introduce legislation to ensure better management of non-renewable resource revenues and she would consult with Nova Scotians on a responsible formula to be included in this legislation, so that a portion would go to pay down the debt and a portion would go to investments in the priorities of Nova Scotians.

The spending announced Thursday will expand and improve high-speed internet service to homes and businesses, while an additional $40 million will fund projects that drive research and innovation, including money for post-secondary research in oceans, clean energy, health and other key sectors.

"We are laying the foundation for a brighter future and a stronger economy that more Nova Scotians can participate in," Premier McNeil said Thursday in a news release. "We are making the most of this opportunity to give Nova Scotians the tools they need to succeed, make the most of the ideas that come from our brightest minds and help Nova Scotians in need."

In total, the province will invest about $244 million in new projects by the end of 2017-18.

"These are opportunities we may not have been able to support without this one-time revenue, and without already having a solid fiscal plan that is working," said Finance and Treasury Board Minister and Deputy Premier Karen Casey. "Even with these investments, we expect to end 2017-18 with a balanced budget."

Investments will also be made in sport, recreation and events that contribute to communities. More than $16 million will help support Nova Scotians who need specific supports, including funding for job coaching for people with autism spectrum disorder, needle exchange programs and assistance for low-income Nova Scotians to make their homes more energy efficient.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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