'A lot to balance' as N.S. considers ways to combat rising cost of living

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Premier Tim Houston says his government is talking to Ottawa and other provinces about different approaches to the rising cost of living. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)
Premier Tim Houston says his government is talking to Ottawa and other provinces about different approaches to the rising cost of living. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia is looking at ways it can help people struggling with the rising cost of living, but is not announcing any additional aid yet.

Premier Tim Houston said the province wants to make sure any possible measures that could be introduced are sustainable and have a meaningful impact.

"We have to realize there is a lot to balance here," Houston said Thursday, while acknowledging high fuel prices and affordability of things in general are making it difficult for many in the province.

However, he explained inflation is an issue around the world and his government is looking for the right opportunity to step in.

A short-term measure "could potentially have long-term ramifications which are negative on the ability to deliver services in health care, in education, in addictions support," he said.

"We have to make sure we have a long-term view."

Supports already in place

Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said Nova Scotia is not in the same position as provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, which have moved to give people a break on fuel prices.

"Both Alberta and Newfoundland are also benefiting from the higher price of fuel right now because they're making royalties off oil and gas being extracted in those provinces, so they have a luxury we don't have," MacMaster said.

Nova Scotia has already taken steps across the board, Houston said, pointing to more than $13 million in aid that was announced in March for people who need the most help.

The province also extended the cap on rental increases as another way to protect people from higher costs, MacMaster said.

NDP calls for urgent action

The province is talking to the federal government and other provinces on the issue.

"We'll continue to have discussions about what is possible," Houston said.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he was disappointed in the response, suggesting a number of ideas such as boosts to income assistance and the possibility of accelerating an increase to the minimum wage.

"It indicates very clearly they do not have an economic grasp of the situation and they don't get it in terms of the suffering going on amongst the people," Burrill said.

Houston said he's aware Nova Scotians are struggling, but is mindful of the long term.

"We're very focused of course on health care and delivering services to Nova Scotians. We have a $500-million deficit. We are investing in Nova Scotians," he said.

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