The Liberal leader promised Friday to refrain from complaining that the books are in far worse shape than expected — a well-worn tactic used by new governments hoping to pull back on costly election promises.
"We'll look at the books, but you won't hear that phrase," McNeil said after meeting with Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant, who formally asked McNeil to form the next Nova Scotia government after the Liberals won Tuesday's provincial election by a wide margin, defeating the NDP government led by Premier Darrell Dexter.
"I'm very proud of the fact that we laid out a platform for a half per cent of growth for expenditures," he said, suggesting his modest platform won't be derailed by any nasty financial surprises.
"We believe that we are in a deeper deficit than was laid out. We'll look at the books and get a true picture of them ... but that phrase will not come from this premier."
In 2009, soon after the New Democrats were elected to govern the province for the first time, Dexter said the province's finances were in such bad shape that he had to break a key election promise not to raise taxes, and the harmonized sales tax was increased by two percentage points in 2010 to 15 per cent.
McNeil said there will be a financial update in December. In the meantime, he must first select a cabinet and get sworn in as premier, a process he said should be completed within the next two weeks.
Dexter, whose party was reduced to third place in the house after the election, submitted his resignation to the lieutenant-governor on Thursday, but he will remain premier until McNeil is sworn in.
On Friday, McNeil also met with the 32 other members of his caucus at the party's headquarters in Halifax. He was met with cheers and applause as he entered the room.
"I'm so proud that we're embarking on what is an exciting journey together," he told them. "I've been fortunate to have Nova Scotians send me 32 very quality individuals. ... Let's get ready to work."
McNeil confirmed that the legislature will convene for a fall sitting, but he says it remains unclear when that will happen or how long the sitting will be.
The Liberals won 33 of the 51 seats in the legislature after Tuesday's election. The Progressive Conservatives under Jamie Baillie won 11 and the NDP held on to seven seats.