Public services take a hit in Nova Scotia budget
April 10, 2011
|N.S. NDP Pemier Darrell Dexter|
Halifax (11 April 2011) - The Nova Scotia budget has created more questions than answers about what will become of public services in the province. With the government downloading many of the final decisions to cut services and jobs much of final impact is yet to be determined.
A few things that are clearly known. The government remains committed to holding wage increases to 1% annually and to reducing the civil service (or approximately 1,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees by 2013-14) through retirements and voluntary departures. This initiative is projected to save $60 million. It has been reported that the Civil Service has been reduced by 153 FTEs since 2009-2010.
On top of that, the government will continue to reduce program expenditures and other administration costs.
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees’ Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) has strongly opposed the 10% cut to the civil service since it was first announced in last year’s budget. "This downsizing fails to address the devastating impact of failing to fill vacancies for our members and the vital services they provide," says NSGEU/NUPGE (Read the union’s full analysis)
The budget also contained previously released elements such as a 4% cut to university funding, a 2% cut to regional school boards (with teacher and support staff reductions being achieved through, as much as possible, retirements and attrition) and no funding increase to health authorities and municipalities. Provincial user fees will increase by 2% and the small business tax rate is being cut for the second time in two years by .5%, reducing it to 4%.
While there were a number of initiatives to improve emergency health care, reduce waiting times, and care for seniors announced, there was nothing to improve human resources, especially the serious shortages.
The biggest pre-budget surprise was the pre-budget announcement that the government actually achieved a $447 million surplus in 2010-11 after first projecting a $222.1 million deficit in last year’s budget. Dexter said this was partly due to higher than expected adjustments to the government’s revenues, and also to what he called “good management and sustained discipline.” This surplus is being used to reduce the government’s servicing costs and the government’s net direct debt.
The government was quick to point out that the underlying financial situation for the province has not changed and that it is projecting an almost $400 million deficit for 2011-12.
The key question being asked by many is why public sector workers are once again taking a hit in wages, vacancies are not being filled and key services are being cut while the government has realized a large, unanticipated surplus. Is this approach really making life better for families?
More info. HERE.