Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis unveilled the provincial budget for 2021-22 in the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday.
The budget estimates a deficit of $584.9 million with revenue of $11.8 billion and expenses, after consolidation adjustments of $12.4 billion.
MENTAL HEALTH AND COVID-19
This year’s budget contains the largest mental health care budget in the province’s history, at $336.5 million — a $19.5 million increase from last year.
There will be a $12.3 million increase for new programming, and $1.5 million to establish the newly created Office of Mental Health and Addictions.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberal government is spending $64.2 million for personal protective equipment, and $24.2 million to distribute vaccines.
There will also be an $11.3 million increase to support nurses and cover additional sanitization.
$12.2 million is being spent to train more doctors in the province. $1.5 million is budgeted to support new dialysis units, and $1.9 million for more hip and knee surgeries.
The government says $617.3 million was spent on COVID-related expenses in 2020-21.
This year’s budget also allocates $1.02 billion in long-term care and home care in Nova Scotia.
Some of the initiatives include $22.6 million more to act on findings of the long-term care expert panel and $8.6 million to begin a multi-year plan to replace or renovate seven nursing homes, and add over 230 beds across the province by 2025.
There will also be some pandemic-related investments in long-term care, including $12.3 million to extend regional care centers for long-term care patients with COVID-19, and $3.9 million to cover COVID related lost revenues and expenses for the sector.
Last year, just over $900 million was spent on long-term care.
ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND AFFORADABLE HOUSING
When it comes to the environment and climate change, some of the highlights of this year’s budget include $26 million for new Green Fund programs to address climate change, $16.4 million for infrastructure projects aimed at helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and $7.6 million for active transportation and public transit.
$29.1 million is being spent to provide more safe, suitable and affordable housing in Nova Scotia.
While government says they are making the largest single additional investment in income assistance in the province’s history at $35.2 million, increasing the standard household rate by $100 a month per adult.
There will also be $46.7 million more for programs that support adults and children with disabilities and a $15 million increase to a more inclusive education system for students.
An additional $8.8 million will go to support youth with complex needs or who require safe placements.
There will be a $2.4 million increase to the Land Titles Initiative to address the legacy of systemic racism relating to land ownership and $2 million to support the new Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives.
460% INCREASE IN THERAPY SUPPORTS FOR SEXUAL ASSUALT SURVIVOURS
This year’s budget contains a $2.3 million increase for therapy supports for survivors of sexual assault, representing a 460 per cent increase from last year. The total investment for 2021-22 is $2.8 million.
In addition, there will be a $320,000 increase for the Accessibility Directorate, for a total of $2.2 million this year, to help achieve the goal of an accessible Nova Scotia.
TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY
This year’s budget will also contain investments in the tourism and hospitality sectors including $1.1 million to the digital content marketing program for tourism operators. As well as $1.2 million to expand the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation discount for the hospitality industry to include canned and bottled beer, cider and ready-to-drink products.
In addition, there will be $1.3 million for the first year of a Nova Scotia’s Quality Wine Strategy and $1.5 million for the first year of an Aquaculture Expansion Strategy.
Capital projects like improving roads, hospitals and schools will total $1.17 billion. Government says they will also be reducing the regulatory burden on businesses by another $10 million.
“Nova Scotians rose to the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we embark upon our recovery, we have an opportunity to strengthen our economy and work toward creating a fair and prosperous future for Nova Scotia,” said Kousoulis.
“Budget 2021-22 is government’s first step in this new direction, balancing much-needed supports for Nova Scotians, investments to help business grow and a commitment to sound financial management.”
This is the first budget for Premier Iain Rankin, who was selected as the leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party in February.