HALIFAX — Opposition parties are accusing Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil of playing political games by refusing to rule out a quick election call after tabling the spring budget next month.
McNeil said Thursday the legislature would be called back into session on April 25, with the budget to follow two days later on April 27. He said the plan is to have the session wrap up by the Victoria Day long weekend on May 22.
But with speculation high that an election call could come this spring, McNeil refused to rule out whether he would drop the writ before the budget is debated and passed by the legislature.
"I'm looking forward to tabling a budget to communicate to Nova Scotians how I see this province going forward and I'm looking forward to spending my summer going around talking to Nova Scotians," was all McNeil would say on the subject.
This year, the budget will be presented about three weeks later than it has been for much of the last decade.
In noting that, Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the premier is playing politics and that's why the province should have a fixed election date.
He said McNeil is manipulating the public.
"There are hundreds of good organizations, government departments and agencies that are waiting for their budgets for no good reason," said Baillie. "They are concluding that he is putting his political needs ahead of the needs of Nova Scotians that need those services and the budgets that go with them."
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said when a budget is tabled, it should be debated and voted on because of the broad implications it has for the public.
Burrill said that's especially true because of the government's emphasis on balancing the books.
"This is a principle that has caused a great deal of destruction in our health-care system and in our education," he said. "If this is to be the case again, then this (budget) should be subjected to the maximum amount of democratic scrutiny that our system provides for."
The government's agenda appears to be light, although McNeil said legislation on making the province more accessible for the disabled would be brought back with changes after being shelved last fall following objections from those it was meant to help.
"But obviously the budget will be the most dominant part and we are looking forward to laying out the fiscal plan for the future," said McNeil.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press