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Province promises Hwy 104 twinning in budget

Provincial Finance Minister Karen Casey, who is seen speaking about the provincial budget in September, says she is happy with the investments in broadband and opioid treatments that were announced in Tuesday’s federal budget. ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Provincial Finance Minister Karen Casey– FILE

The province is following through on its promise to twin Hwy 104 from Sutherlands River to Antigonish in its 2018-19 budget tabled in the legislature Tuesday.

Pictou County also stands to gain from new child-care centres and a province-wide investment of $19.6 million in additional funds for doctor recruitment announced by Minister of Finance Karen Casey in Halifax.

“We know there are Nova Scotians waiting for a family doctor, and it is a priority for this government to help increase access to primary care. We want to reduce the wait list, and we cannot do it without help from family doctors,” said Casey in her budget address.

The government tabled its third consecutive balanced budget, with an estimated surplus of $29.4 million with revenue of $10.81 billion and expenses of $10.78 billion.

In her address, Casey said the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer has identified Nova Scotia as one of only two provinces in Canada that are on a fiscally sustainable path over the long term and the province had received a positive outlook from major credit-rating agencies.

The minister went on to say that 16,000 new jobs were created province-wide since the Liberals took office in 2013 and sectors like tourism and wine are prospering.

“Working with our post-secondary institutions, businesses, and social enterprise communities has reversed the trend of youth outmigration. That is something we can all celebrate,” said Casey.

But Pictou East MLA Tim Houston said that mental health services and health-care provision in general were major issues affecting Pictou County, where family doctors are hard to find.

The Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful remained concerned about the allocation of funds for the Aberdeen Hospital’s emergency room and how this may affect staffing levels.

“A balanced budget is a good thing only if the government is delivering the services it needs to deliver to the people,” said Houston.

Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane said the budget surplus was “hanging by a string,” relying on new cannabis taxes and a one-time windfall for joining the National Securities Regulator.

In addition, the interim PC leader said that no money was budgeted for expenses related to cannabis education and prevention of its possible health effects on youth.

MacFarlane further criticized the budget for lacking a clear plan on mental health supports and job creation.

“These numbers have a real impact on people’s lives and their ability to live and work here in Nova Scotia,” said MacFarlane in a release Tuesday. “We will continue to pressure the government for a plan for jobs and more mental health supports.”

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