News Release Archive

An overwhelming majority of Nova Scotians see the province's $8.7
billion debt as a threat to their economic future, and support
the government's efforts to balance the books and keep spending
under control.

The results of the government's consultation on the future
direction of the province's finances are in, and it's clear most
Nova Scotians want the government to keep a firm hold on the
public purse.

In February Finance Minister Bernie Boudreau released a white
paper called Shaping the Future, which laid out a plan to ensure
the province's long term fiscal security. The paper advocated
principles and proposed actions the minister said would achieve
three essential goals.

"First, we proposed legislation that goes as far as the law can
to ensure no government ever takes Nova Scotia to the brink of
financial ruin again. Second, now that we have achieved a measure
of fiscal stability, we believe public programs and services can
be expanded, but it must be done responsibly, without borrowing
to pay for them. And third, we said the government must strive to
begin paying down the debt, so we can start to recover some of
the $1 billion a year it costs to service the debt."

Mr. Boudreau said the consultation results show Nova Scotians
support those goals and the government's efforts to achieve them.

The consultation itself took several forms. The minister
travelled the province to speak to Nova Scotians and get direct
feedback. The white paper included a survey that was completed
and returned by more than 5,000 people. And, the government
commissioned public opinion research in which Nova Scotians were
polled on the issues raised in the white paper.

Among the findings:

- More than 90 per cent of Nova Scotians view the provincial debt
as a serious problem and a threat to Nova Scotia's economic

- Fifty-three per cent believe social programs are most
threatened when governments fail to balance the books, while 36
per cent believe spending cuts pose the more serious threat.

- About 70 per cent of Nova Scotians favor a law to limit
government borrowing and to require balanced budgets. Almost half
want surplus funds used to pay down the debt, with the remainder
split between favoring tax reductions or more spending on

- A majority believes government can tighten its belt some more,
before programs and services are negatively impacted, although
most say only moderate or minor cuts are possible.

- Most Nova Scotians would support more private sector
involvement in many of the services traditionally provided by
government, but the level of support varies widely depending on
the service.

Mr. Boudreau said the public opinion research, conducted by
Corporate Research Associates using scientific polling methods
and representative sampling, confirmed the results of the
government's less controlled approach.

Among the government survey results, Department of Finance
analysts identified 1,700 responses as clearly part of an
organized effort. Another 266 came from the Metropolitan Chamber
of Commerce, leaving 3,300 that came from the "general"

The government fully expected some form of organized response to
its survey, the minister said. The fact that 1,700 responses to
the government survey were part of an organized response "in no
way diminishes the validity of the opinions those people

"The organized response tells us there is a significant interest
group that is very anxious about any move by government to
involve the private sector in public services. The same group
universally opposes the sale of any public assets in order to pay
down debt. Obviously, before we take any concrete action in that
direction, we need to talk to Nova Scotians some more and
particularly, we need to talk to government employees and their
unions," he said.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The report on the consultation process
associated with Shaping the Future is available to the media
today at Communications Nova Scotia, Media Services, 1700
Granville Street, One Government Place, 902-424-5200 or 
1-800-670-4357. The report will be publicly available at the Nova
Scotia Government Bookstore, 1700 Granville Street, One
Government Place, beginning tomorrow (Tuesday), 902-424-7580 or

Contact: Jim Vibert  902-424-4886

trp                       Apr. 22, 1996 - 2:00 p.m.