Co-operation, More Money for Health Care, Balanced Budget
PREMIER'S OFFICE--Co-operation, More Money for Health Care, Balanced Budget
More money to reduce health-care wait times, expanded support for seniors and Nova Scotia's third straight balanced budget are the highlights of the spring sitting of the legislature.
The House of Assembly concluded today, May 20, having passed 16 new government bills into law thanks to co-operative efforts from all parties.
"Our Blueprint said that health care would be the number one priority of government and by working together with all MLAs, we passed a budget that kept our word to Nova Scotians," said Premier John Hamm. "We made the tough decisions to make significant investments in front-line health care that will lower wait times, put more doctors, nurses and other professionals at the bedsides with patients and cover the full medical costs of seniors in long-term care facilities."
Effective Jan. 1, 2005, Nova Scotia will become the first Atlantic province to pay the full cost of health-care services for seniors residing in nursing homes. An additional $9.2 million is being invested in 2004-05 to bring this fully on stream in this fiscal year, almost two years ahead of schedule. As a result, nursing home residents will be able to keep more of their income -- about 15 per cent, a minimum of $150 -- each month. As well, those entering nursing homes as of Jan. 1, 2005, will be assessed for their ability to pay based on their income only and not on their assets.
"Seniors and their families will face less stress under our accelerated plan," added the premier.
The new tax plan announced in the budget means that 53 per cent of taxpayers will continue to receive their full 10 per cent income tax reduction. It also means 96 per cent of all taxpayers will continue to pay less provincial income tax in the 2004 taxation year, compared to the year before. As promised in the previous budget, an additional 3,500 Nova Scotians will not pay any provincial income tax this year.
"Because of federal underfunding on health care, other provinces were forced to make decisions which we refused to make in Nova Scotia, such as a hike in the provincial sales tax, a new health- care tax, the firing of hundreds of health-care workers and massive public sector layoffs," said Premier Hamm. "Here in Nova Scotia, we made tough choices that improved health care and education, maintained tax relief for nearly everybody, put more dollars into our highways, roads and bridges and made us the only province outside of the Prairies to deliver three straight balanced budgets."
Passage of the 2004 Financial Measures Act triggers the creation of the Debt Retirement Fund, enshrining government's commitment to reduce the crushing provincial debt. It also eliminates the proposed 39 per cent salary increase for MLAs.
"Now is not the time for making Nova Scotia politicians among the highest paid in Canada," added the premier.
The government also took additional measures to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The budget accelerated small-business tax relief by one year. The legislature also passed a bill to protect existing jobs and create new jobs in the energy industry by regulating commercial tax increases on oil refineries and liquified natural gas facilities.
"More Nova Scotians are working than ever before in our province's history, but we can't take those jobs and prosperity for granted," said the premier.
With all-party co-operation, MLAs addressed issues of immediate concern to Nova Scotia families, including amendments to the Assessment Act that will protect homeowners from skyrocketing tax assessments for properties where little change has occurred. The legislature also, by way of a unanimously supported resolution, established an all-party select committee to investigate fuel pricing and supply issues in the province. Its members will report their findings by Aug. 31, 2004.
"It's unfortunate for Nova Scotia drivers this summer that our proposed legislation did not pass, as it would have provided government with all necessary powers, including full regulation, to protect consumers," said Premier Hamm. "However, I look forward to the advice the all-party committee will bring forward so we can consider other measures this fall."
Nova Scotians will also benefit from other legislation passed this spring, including:
- a new, modern Health Protection Act to provide the legal framework for public health officials to protect the public against possible health threats without unduly interfering with civil rights and liberties;
- a bill that gives municipalities the ability to assess commercial day-care centres at a residential rate;
- a new tuition support program developed in recognition of the needs of a small number of special needs students who might benefit from specialized services for a period of time; and
- a new law to hold heads of government agencies directly accountable for the tax dollars they spend.
FOR BROADCAST USE:
The spring session of the Nova Scotia legislature concluded today (May 20th).
Bills passed this session include expanded support for seniors, more money to reduce health-care wait times and Nova Scotia's third straight balanced budget.
The premier attributes the successful session to the hard work of all M-L-As and co-operation among the three parties.
NOTE: The following is a complete list of government legislation passed in the House of Assembly this spring:
Bill 26: Health Protection Act Bill 40: Assessment Act (amended) Bill 46: Public Service Act (amended) Bill 48: Education Act (amended) Bill 49: Mi'kmaq Education Act (amended) Bill 50: Credit Union Act (amended) Bill 51: Provincial Acadian Day Act/Loi sur la Fête provinciale des Acadiens et des Acadiennes Bill 57: An Act to Amend Chapter 62 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act Bill 58: An Act to Amend Chapter 277 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Mechanics' Lien Act Bill 62: Financial Measures (2004) Act Bill 67: House of Assembly Act (amended) Bill 68: International Interests in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act Bill 70: Municipal Law Amendment (2004) Act (amended) Bill 73: Justice Administration Amendment (2004) Act Bill 74: Oil Refineries and LNG Plants Municipal Taxation Act Bill 78: Appropriations Act, 2004
njm May 20, 2004 6:22 P.M.