HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government is ruling out a second package of short-term inflation relief just two weeks after Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said more measures were on their way.
The province announced a $13-million package in March that included a one-time payment of $150 for people on income assistance and those eligible to receive the province’s heating assistance rebate.
As prices continued to climb, MacMaster said on May 19 that more relief would be coming "soon" for people with lower incomes.
But following a cabinet meeting Thursday, Premier Tim Houston said his government is now seeking measures that will be sustainable over the longer term, although he wasn’t specific.
“We will continue to seek opportunities to support Nova Scotians,” he said. “We are reaching out to the federal government and we are talking to premiers across the country to see what’s possible.”
However, the premier said his government has many issues to balance and has to ensure that anything done to fight inflation in the short term doesn’t adversely affect the delivery of services in other areas, such as health care and education.
MacMaster had previously ruled out a cut to gasoline taxes to deal with rising gasoline prices, saying the loss of revenue would affect improvements to the province’s roads and highways.
“We know that Nova Scotians are struggling and we will continue to have discussions about what is possible,” Houston said. “When we see something that is sustainable and will have a meaningful impact, we will certainly take that step.”
Nova Scotia’s decision followed the announcement by New Brunswick Wednesday of a $20-million package that will distribute $225 to low-income individuals and $450 to families.
Meanwhile, motorists in Newfoundland and Labrador have seen gas prices drop seven cents a litre after the province passed legislation this week cutting the gasoline tax in half. The measure is in effect until Jan. 1.
Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill called the government’s decision “odd” at a time when the province's food banks are seeing an increase in visits. “I think it is a sign of … being greatly removed from the realities of the situation,” he said.
Burrill suggested the government could take steps, including improving income assistance and accelerating planned increases to the minimum wage.
On another front, Houston was asked by reporters about the decision announced this week by the Speaker's Office to strike an independent panel to review pay for members of the legislature.
“Every single Nova Scotian is struggling right now,” he said. “That wasn’t a decision that I had input to. I don’t think it’s appropriate timing.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press