This fall is shaping up to be a busy time for the provincial government. Over the next few months, we will begin to see the results of many of the initiatives that the government announced last spring and it should give us a great idea about where they want Nova Scotia to go. Here are a few of the things that the policy team will be watching for:
Any day now, Diana Whalen will release an update to last April’s provincial budget. The key thing to watch for will be whether the provincial deficit is significantly different from the $279 million shortfall that was projected in the budget. There was a lot of public concern in July after the government announced that it had posted a $679 million dollar deficit in the last fiscal year so if this year’s deficit has grown again it will be a cause for concern.
Also, if you are really policy inclined, be sure to look at the fiscal update’s detailed spending and revenue estimates, and the updated economic forecast. That will give you an even better idea if things are going according to plan.
The Minister’s Panel on Education will present its final report on Nova Scotia’s education system this October. There has been little information leaked about what direction the report will take, but it will be intriguing to see if they can recommend concrete reforms to the education system while being mindful of the province’s finances. It will also be interesting to see how many of the report’s recommendations are accepted and how much of an appetite there is for change in the education system.
The government’s second major review is taking a look at taxes, regulations, and fees in Nova Scotia. The hope is that the Review will be able to recommend changes that will make our tax system more competitive while also identifying regulations that can be safely eliminated. Like the education review, the million dollar question is how many of the Review’s recommendations will be implemented. Tax debates are often contentious and its will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds.
The province created the One Nova Scotia Coalition last spring and tasked it with creating a ten-year economic and population plan for the province. Creating a plan that will have the support of organizations across the political spectrum will certainly be a challenge but it is an important one. The Coalition is not planning to release their final report until the end of 2015 but expect to hear more about their direction once they begin engaging with the public.
Eric Blake is the Policy and Research Analyst for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. His responsibilities include providing supporting research for the Chamber’s policy positions; drafting its submissions to government; and coordinating the Chamber’s two Task Forces and its Energy Committee. Eric studied International Relations and Economics at Mount Allison University before completing a Masters of Public Administration at Queen’s University. He also spent a year traveling New Zealand with his fiancée (now wife) and came back with a love of meat pies and Kiwis (the animal). He can be reached at (902) 481-1351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.