HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government says it will spend $1.62 billion on its capital plan in the coming year to strengthen health-care infrastructure and respond to the province’s population growth.
Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said Monday that the province’s planned 2023-24 spending on highways, schools, hospitals and land is the largest single-year infrastructure budget in the province’s history. Last year the government budgeted spending of $1.58 billion.
“This is an ambitious plan, but we are a growing province and we need to invest in our infrastructure,” MacMaster said during a press conference.
The minister said this year’s capital funding plan includes “generational investments that (will) make a big impact today and prepare us well for the future.”
For the year beginning April 1, Nova Scotia will spend $275.1 million on the province’s two biggest hospital projects: the Halifax Infirmary expansion and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality health-care redevelopment.
It will also spend $91 million on other medical facility upgrades in Bridgewater, Pugwash, Yarmouth and Halifax.
The province plans to spend $498.5 million on its five-year highway improvement plan, which includes $60 million more than last year for secondary highways and $15 million more for gravel roads.
As well, $240.8 million is budgeted to build and renovate schools in Nova Scotia, which includes an increase of $24 million for repairs and $40 million for new modular units.
The provincial capital plan has set out $50 million to be spent on strategic land investments. MacMaster said this is a new designation that shows that the province is planning for sustained population growth. He said this funding could be used to acquire land for future infrastructure developments in education, housing or health care.
“We need to make sure that we're acquiring properties that we're going to need before we're in a jam and we're stuck trying to buy them when we really need them,” MacMaster said.
The province is putting $21 million toward repairs and maintenance for public and affordable housing.
Nova Scotia’s opposition Liberals and NDP both say they are disappointed by the lack of spending planned on affordable housing.
“There’s a major housing crisis in the province. We've got almost 7,000 people on the waiting list for (public) housing,” said Braedon Clark, the Liberal finance critic. Clark said he would have liked to have seen money for the creation of “hundreds” of new public housing units included in this year's capital plan.
NDP finance critic Lisa Lachance said to tackle the significant number of people waiting for public housing, the province should have planned to build 1,000 new units of affordable public housing.
“It would still be a drop in the bucket, but it would be a signal that the government was taking this housing crisis seriously,” Lachance said in an interview Monday.
The largest chunk of this year’s capital funds will go to the Public Works Department, with more than $552 million in planned spending. The Health Department is close behind with more than $537 million budgeted.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press