Nova Scotia's capital plan to top $1B for a second year

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A truck dumps a load of rock last September as part of a twinning project near the Highway 101 causeway in Windsor, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
A truck dumps a load of rock last September as part of a twinning project near the Highway 101 causeway in Windsor, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

The provincial government's capital plan is topping $1 billion for the second year in a row and Nova Scotia's finance minister says that will become the new norm.

Labi Kousoulis released the document Tuesday, outlining major spending plans on projects such as schools, hospitals and other buildings. The figure also includes the $467 million for the annual five-year highway plan.

"We're going to be continuing with over $1 billion of capital investments in future years, as well," Kousoulis told reporters in Halifax.

Major spending in this year's $1.17-billion plan includes $217.2 million to buy and build schools. Fifteen new schools are being designed or are under construction and the province will spend $24 million to buy the final four public-private partnership schools remaining on the books.

There is $178.2 million in 2021-22 going toward the major development projects at hospitals in Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional Municipality. An additional $95.5 million is going toward work on other hospital-related projects around the province.

One area that does not include any notable spending increase is new government housing, although there is money for renewal of existing stock.

The province has experienced a documented housing shortage in the last year, but Kousoulis said the challenges facing the market are not predominantly related to the availability of government housing. The province continues to await recommendations this spring from the affordable housing commission.

"The largest part of our housing crisis is we have a lack of supply out there," he said.

"We have the lowest vacancy rate in the country and that has contributed to the pushing up of the prices, so that's one area that also has to be looked at."

Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis says $1-billion capital plans will become the norm in Nova Scotia.
Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis says $1-billion capital plans will become the norm in Nova Scotia.(CBC)

Kousoulis said the province can continue to afford capital spending at this level thanks to recent years of balanced budgets, the retirement of old debts that were at high interest rates and current low interest rates.

"When we came into government in 2013, interest expense was over $900 million. Today it sits at approximately $700 million."

Last year's capital plan was $1.04 billion, and the government later pushed up $228 million in additional projects that were ready to go as a form of stimulus.

While that could be an option this year if necessary, Kousoulis said the provincial economy is beginning to look more positive as employment numbers rebound to near pre-pandemic levels.

"Indicators are going in the right way, but we don't know what can be held in the future."

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