POLITICS

Nova Scotia spring budget will address some tax recommendations:finance minister

03/25/2015 12:51 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's spring budget will address some recommendations in a report on the province's tax system but it won't touch a tax credit for volunteer firefighters or see taxes applied to books, Finance Minister Diana Whalen said Wednesday.

Whalen told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce the budget to be delivered April 9 will also incorporate the results of a departmental review. She said the province's shrinking workforce and aging population will result in a steep revenue decline if changes aren't made.

"I want to be very clear today that we are taking a long view," said Whalen. "A systematic and structural plan that rolls out over a number of years is necessary."

The government is reviewing a recommendation by former Ontario cabinet minister Laurel Broten that many tax credits be reformed or eliminated, Whalen said, adding that tax exemptions and credits cost the government $350 million per year.

Whalen revealed few specifics but did say the province will keep the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and would not be taxing books.

A report by former Ontario cabinet minister Laurel Broten on the province's tax system was recently released that called for a number of tax changes to improve Nova Scotia's fiscal situation.

One of Broten's recommendations was a carbon tax. Whalen refused to rule out the idea when questioned by reporters.

"Every recommendation in the Broten review is looked at and as I said, we need to find another source of revenue."

Whalen also announced that the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency will be transformed into a private-sector led Crown corporation on April 1. She couldn't say whether the move would save money.

Ben Cowan-Dewar, chairman of the tourism agency's board, said the change will see the new body operate along the lines of Nova Scotia Business Inc.

He said taxpayers will continue to fund operations, although its reporting function would go through a private sector board and not a government minister.

Cowan-Dewar said the change would not affect existing staff at the agency.

The province's largest public sector union issued a news release saying it is planning a protest Thursday against reductions in provincial government services and the tourism agency changes.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said it's unclear whether adequate standards including inspections will be maintained by the new tourism agency.