02/07/2014 07:21 EST | Updated 04/09/2014 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia Tory leader urges Liberal government to balance budget

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative leader is calling on the Liberal government to address the province's debt and balance the books as it prepares its spring budget.

Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie told supporters at the party's annual general meeting in Halifax that the government's first budget since coming to power last October must be balanced in order to create jobs.

"That debt stands between all Nova Scotians and real tax relief," said Baillie in a phone interview prior to his speech Friday evening.

"Nova Scotians did not vote to change NDP deficits and excuses for Liberals ones, and this upcoming budget is their chance to prove it."

Baillie's calls come as the province's finance minister kicked off consultations Friday in preparation for its spring budget.

Diana Whalen has already vowed to reduce departmental spending by one per cent, except for Health and Education.

Last month, Nova Scotia's then-auditor general said the province's net debt stood at $13.9 billion at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, a 5.3 per cent increase over the previous year.

Jacques Lapointe, who retired at the end of January, said that ranked as the second highest in the country and represented a $617 million increase in the per capita debt.