Nova Scotia targets health care, roads and schools in $1.1 billion capital plan | Provincial | News

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HALIFAX, N.S. —

The province unveiled a $1.17 billion plan Tuesday to invest in hospitals, schools and roads. 

“These projects contribute to our province’s economic recovery and provide modern infrastructure for today’s communities and for future generations,” Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis said in announcing a capital plan for the 2021-22 fiscal year, the second consecutive provincial capital plan to top $1 billion.

“We are fortunate here in Nova Scotia that our province entered this pandemic in a strong fiscal and economic position,” Kousoulis said. “While we see encouraging signs with the most recent employment numbers, full economic recovery will take some time.

“Our strong economic foundation means we can respond to the needs of citizens today and make important investments to support the future of this province.”

Kousoulis stood up in the House later to announce that the province’s operating budget would be introduced Thursday.

The capital investment plan includes:

  • $178.2 million to support the QEII new generation project and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality health care redevelopment;
  • $95.5 million for construction, repair and renewal of other hospitals and medical facilities; 
  • $22.4 million to replace medical equipment and ambulances; and
  • $217.2 million to design, build, renovate and purchase schools

The capital plan of $1.17 billion is up from last year’s capital spending plan of $1.04 billion. The federal government’s contribution will account for $215.8 million of the capital spending bill this time around after coming in at $115.5 million last year.

Highways and structures will make up $481,833 million of the capital spending plan, $81,253 million more than in the 2020-21 capital budget. The major highway expenditures come from twinning projects and new interchanges on highways 101, 102, 103, 104 and 107.

Hospital and health infrastructure make up $306,603 million in proposed spending, more than a $70-million increase from last year. 

“These are the largest hospital redevelopment projects in the province’s history,” Kousoulis said of the QEII and Cape Breton redevelopment efforts.

Another $95.5 million has been pegged for other hospital projects, including the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, the IWK emergency department, the Halifax Infirmary dialysis unit, the Yarmouth emergency department, South Shore intensive care unit and the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash.

The province will shell out more than $22 million to replace ambulances and equipment.

The province will spend $217 million on the design, renovation and construction of 16 schools

School construction spending is down $48.5 million from last year, primarily because the province is spending less than in the past on purchasing P3 schools. The only four schools remaining on the purchase books — Antigonish Education Centre, Bayview Education Centre in Port Hood, Dalbrae Academy in Mabou and Northeast Kings Education Centre in Canning — will be purchased this year.

The province will pay $24 million this year for those schools, compared with $166 million spent last year on P3 school acquisitions. In total, the province will have spent $222.5 million on P3 school acquisitions.

The capital plan earmarks funds for a new NSCC Marconi campus in Sydney, the waterfront arts district in Halifax and support for the tourism sector.

Kousoulis said even without the pandemic, capital spending would still likely have topped the billion-dollar mark.

“We’re going to be continuing over a billion dollars in capital investments in future years as well,” Kousoulis said. 

“The capital plan would have looked pretty much the same if we had not been in the pandemic. It was just the speeding up of projects, pulling them forward … just to indicate to the private sector as well that the government is very confident in us coming out of the pandemic and so should the rest of the province.” 

Kousoulis explained the government’s ability to spend on capital projects by pointing to five consecutive years of small surpluses that allowed the province to significantly bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio. Coupled with lower interest rates that mitigate the costs of capital spending, Kousoulis said the province is in a much better fiscal position than when the Liberals took office in 2013.

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