Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia's Auditor General Says Province's Net Debt Too High

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia's Auditor General Says Province's Net Debt Too High

Article excerpt

Nova Scotia's debt continues to grow: auditor


HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's auditor general recited a familiar yet grim warning Thursday about the province's growing debt.

Jacques Lapointe called attention to the fact that Nova Scotia's net debt per capita in 2012-13 is $14,832 for every man woman and child in the province.

"This remains a considerable burden for future generations," Lapointe said after releasing his final report before he retires this month.

Lapointe said of five provinces auditors compared Nova Scotia to -- New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan -- only the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador carry a heavier debt burden.

As well, Lapointe said that although the total net debt has remained relatively stable over the past 10 years, it has increased by $1.6 billion to $13.9 billion.

The per capita debt has jumped by almost $2,000 -- an increase of 13 per cent in the past four years alone -- even though the province's population has remained flat.

"It would be nice to at least stabilize it at some point so that we quit adding to that burden," said Lapointe, noting that the province's aging population isn't helping matters.

"This is something that's coming down the track in the future, so it doesn't help the province in being able to deal with the debt issue."

According to the 2011 census, Nova Scotia's population had the highest proportion of seniors in Canada at 16.6 per cent. And the province's median age was 43.7 years -- tied with New Brunswick for second-oldest in the country. Newfoundland and Labrador led the way at 44.

It's not the first time the soft-spoken auditor general has raised a red flag about debt.

In January 2012, he released a report that asked whether it's fair for governments to spend more than they earn while leaving the tab for someone else.

"Government's practice of borrowing to pay for current expenditures raises ethical questions," he wrote. "Is it right for Nova Scotians to expect and receive government services that they as a group do not completely pay for, deferring part of the payment to future generations? …

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