N.S. finance minister says Ottawa’s budget will ‘bear fruit in our province’

The Nova Scotia government’s initial response to the federal budget introduced Tuesday in Ottawa was almost entirely positive, but the province’s finance minister said officials in his department would need more time to study the Trudeau government’s plans in detail.”We’re optimistic the investments they spoke about today will bear fruit in our province,” Allan MacMaster told reporters Tuesday evening. “A renewed infrastructure fund — that is something we can make use of in the province.” Like elsewhere in Canada, Nova Scotia is facing an affordable housing crisis, and the vacancy rate in the province is among the lowest in the country.Tuesday’s budget includes $8.5 billion in new spending for housing.MacMaster said many municipalities across the province need to grow, and money set out in the budget could help them do just that.”They need that funding to help grow the infrastructure to increase housing in their local areas, so we’re happy to see that,” said MacMaster, who added he was anxious to see how federal funds would dovetail with the plans he laid out in his spring budget.The governing Progressive Conservatives passed that budget earlier this month in a sitting that lasted 20 days.MacMaster’s fiscal plan included more money for people with a disability who receive income assistance, plans for a school lunch program that will take four years to roll out, and what the government describes as “significant investments” in health care.Few details on national school food programMacMaster said he had hoped to learn more Tuesday about the federal plan to create a national school food program, but “there were not a lot of details or indications on how costs will be shared.”He estimated the province’s share of the program outlined in the federal budget would be about $6 million or about one-third the cost of the program the province is planning to roll out starting next fall.When it comes to infrastructure money, he estimated the province could receive $150 million, with another $30 million available to municipalities.Meanwhile, Ottawa’s new defence policy, announced last week, included an additional $8.1 billion in new defence spending over the next five years. The policy, titled Our North, Strong and Free, committed an additional $73 billion in defence spending over the next two decades.MacMaster noted that kind of spending would also benefit the province.”We have a large military presence in this province so investments in defence are important to us,” he said.

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