Auditor warns of financial challenges for NS after 10 years of spending

first_imgHALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s auditor general says 10 years of spending by governments of all political stripes has left the province facing significant fiscal challenges — and $3 billion more in debt.In a report released Wednesday, Michael Pickup praises the Liberal government for producing a surplus budget in 2017, reducing the long-term debt by $400 million and decreasing annual interest costs by $28 million.However, Pickup points out that in the last 10 years, net long-term debt has risen 30 per cent in order to pay for capital expenditures, and a 37-per-cent increase in expenses has not been fully covered by increases in revenues.“One never wants to lose the cumulative nature of the results of government,” he told reporters.“The situation the government is in today is the result of years of decisions and also what a government has to deal with today is partially the result of decisions made by governments before it.”Pickup said he wanted to reinforce that the province’s debt had climbed by $3 billion over the 10 years.“On a 10-year-cycle basis there are things that can’t be left aside,” he said.The report also says personal income taxes from those who filed taxes are up 49 per cent since 2007. That’s an extra $1,134 per tax filer.Premier Stephen McNeil was asked Wednesday whether people should expect their taxes to keep going up.He said the government’s budget tabled last week cuts taxes for 500,00 low- and middle-income Nova Scotians, and also gives a tax break to small business owners.“We are going to continue to make sure that we control the costs of delivering services to the best of our ability so that we can deal with the issue around taxation,” said McNeil.The report says health care spending has also increased 46 per cent since 2007, while the population only increased two per cent.Meanwhile, the province has paid $7.5 billion in interest on the debt, which currently stands at about $15 billion.Pickup said the interest costs alone amount to about two years’ worth of health care costs.“That needs to be housed in a discussion with questions like, what did we get for that?” said Pickup. “Did we get strictly an increase in expenses? Did we get infrastructure, did we get capital improvement?”last_img