Federal budget's impact on Nova Scotia 'still to be determined'

This year's federal budget is not detail-oriented and the impact on Nova Scotians is "still to be determined," according to one policy expert.

"The overall 10-year plan is out, but the regional and project allocations have not been detailed within that decade," said Finn Poschmann, the president and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. "There is still a long way to go."

In 2016, the federal government introduced a 10-year infrastructure plan including $81 billion in funding. Fifteen billion comes from the yet-to-be-established Canada Infrastructure Bank. Poschmann says there are no more details in this year's budget and that it may be a challenge to get going as it relies heavily on financial support from the private sector. 

Public transit investment won't boost economy

"The only reason that private sector participants would want to put up capital towards an infrastructure bank would be if they could make some money doing it and that's going to steer toward projects that have a revenue stream attached to them," he says. 

The infrastructure bank is set to invest about $5 billion in public transit to reduce urban congestion. Poschmann thinks Nova Scotia's urban centres are too small for that to help grow the economy. 

"Public transit moves people and deals with congestion and traffic where you have congested areas, but it doesn't do that much for the overall performance of the economy," says Poschmann.

Each of the provinces will get funding over 11 years through the public transit infrastructure fund, worth $20.1 billion. Poschmann predicts $600 million will be spread across Atlantic Canada, with Halifax receiving the lion's share. 

Savage praises 'big wins' for municipalities

Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Mike Savage sees the federal budget as good for Canada's municipalities.

"For transit, we've got some big wins for municipalities in the transformative infrastructure and in Halifax's case, I obviously hope that might be the commuter rail." 

Savage points to another positive of nearly $22 billion to be spent over the next 11 years on social infrastructure. He's hoping Halifax will get its share of $3.2 billion set aside for provinces, over the same period, for affordable housing. 

"The city has got a goal of 5,000 affordable housing units over five years — that's a combination of new and renewed. I think it works well with what the federal government has announced will be available."

Savage says municipalities have been invited to discuss their needs with the federal government. 

"It provides us flexibility on funding. The other thing is it just means that we're at the table, we are a legitimate third order of government. We're not just getting the scraps that get fed to the provinces."

Province happy with budget

Nova Scotia Finance Minister Randy Delorey said the federal government's priorities are in line with local ones for his Liberal government.

"When you look at the themes around innovation, investment into exports, investment into youth and training and education opportunities, those are strategies and priorities that the Nova Scotia government has been working on over the last couple of years as well," he said Wednesday.​

Nova Scotia will introduce its provincial budget at the end of April.