Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Surplus Tightens to $12.1 Million on Shrinking Revenues

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Surplus Tightens to $12.1 Million on Shrinking Revenues

Article excerpt

N.S. surplus tightens on shrinking revenues

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's finance minister says the provincial surplus is shrinking, and there simply isn't room to sweeten salary offers to the province's unhappy teachers and civil servants.

Randy Delorey released his year-end fiscal update Thursday, with a revised surplus of $12.1 million -- $5 million less than the razor thin surplus estimated in last April's budget.

He singled out the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), which in a vote Wednesday rejected a tentative contract agreement for 7,000 civil servants that was reached over a year ago.

Delorey said the deal, which saw the government move from an initial wage offer of two per cent over five years to three per cent over four, was "fair and affordable." He said the government intended to stick to its plan to keep the books balanced.

"We have been clear that we will stick to our plan," he said. "It is not fair to ask our children and grandchildren to pay for unsustainable compensation packages provided for services delivered today."

Finance officials said the projected surplus was based in part on contract agreements that both unions had already rejected. They said the surplus could be at risk depending on what is worked out at the table.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said it's apparent the government is willing to pay any price to avoid a deficit, something he said was "folly on their part."

Burrill said Nova Scotia is going against the grain of current economic thinking on running deficits.

"I think the best economic thinking including the International Monetary Fund and all kinds of leading thinkers around the Western world is that this is not the way to go in the present moment," he said.

Delorey said the government has been consistent all along in its message to the unions -- teachers are currently in class under work-to-rule in their own dispute with the province -- that any movement on salaries would have to be balanced with savings found in other areas of their contracts.

"We don't have a lot of room to move in this round of negotiations, that's just the reality that Nova Scotia faces," he said. …

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