Federal budget turns N.S Finance Minister’s eyes to the shoreline

Nova Scotia Minister of Finance is concerned about the province’s marine-based economy following Thursday’s release of the federal budget.

By Nathaniel Basen

N.S Finance Minister Graham Steele is concerned for the province's marine-based economy (Nathaniel Basen photo)
N.S Finance Minister Graham Steele is concerned for the province's marine-based economy (Nathaniel Basen photo)

Nova Scotia Minister of Finance Graham Steele is concerned about the province’s marine-based economy following  Thursday’s release of the federal budget.

Specifically, his worries lie with the shipbuilding contract recently awarded to the Irving Shipyard, Halifax’s large naval presence, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

“Even something as simple as an across-the-board cut to the armed forces would have a disproportionate affect on Nova Scotia,” Steele says. “The armed forces are such an important part of our economy.”

The budget includes major cuts to the public service, although specific job losses are not outlined.

“We were working with a specific outline based on previous statements by the government, and the cuts were a little deeper than we expected,” he says.

The government had expected a cut to the federal civil service of around $4 billion, but, he says, “the final number is something like $5.6-5.8 (billion).”

These cuts have led to increased concern from the minister, despite federal assurance that Nova Scotia would be relatively spared. He worries about military cuts as part of public service reductions.

“Half or more of the people who draw a federal paycheque in Nova Scotia are in the armed forces,” he says.

Shipbuilding
Graham Steele discusses concern over shipbuilding contract in latest federal budget

Meanwhile, the province is starting to get antsy about the shipbuilding contract. The budget includes a seven year delay in capital spending on military vessels such as ships and planes.

“We would’ve preferred to have an explicit statement in the document saying ‘no impact on the national shipbuilding procurement strategy,'” says Steele.

He doesn’t believe that the contract will be affected.

The DFO, a large employer in Nova Scotia, will also see their budget cut by $79.3 million.

On a positive note, the Coast Guard’s funding has been increased.

“This is good news for Nova Scotia, as this is another institution with a long, strong history here in this province,” he says.

However, Mr. Steele believes that this is not in the operational budget, but instead for things such as shipbuilding.