COVID-19 expenses push Nova Scotia budget into $585-million deficit

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Liberal government has tabled a budget focused on coping with continuing pandemic costs and improving its health system, creating a $585-million projected deficit for 2021-22.

The new deficit estimate in Premier Iain Rankin's first budget breaks a string of four consecutive balanced budgets, though the government has included a goal of returning to balance in four years.

Additional COVID-19 expenses of close to $276 million for such things as personal protective equipment and mental health services are adding to a health budget that's consuming 42 per cent of the $12.5-billion overall budget.

The budget projects the largest mental health spending in the province's history at $336.5 million, which includes a $12.3-million increase for new programming and $1.5 million to establish the new Office of Mental Health and Addictions.

Overall, long-term care and home care spending has increased to $1 billion, with $22.6 million added to increase the number of care assistants, expand access to outside health professionals and provide primary care in nursing homes.

The province says $617.3 million spent on Covid-19 expenses last year left it with a deficit of $705.5 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021

The Canadian Press