03/19/2015 12:27 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia Finance Minister Diana Whalen: Expect 'Difficult Decisions' In Budget

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's finance minister is warning there will be hard decisions ahead as she prepares the spring budget and attempts to steer the province back into surplus.

Diana Whalen said Thursday there is a lot of work to be done to balance the books but the government is committed to that goal.

"I don't think that it will be a surprise to Nova Scotians that it's going to be a budget with difficult decisions and change is going to be a part of that budget," Whalen said.

"We have a very big hill to climb to get to a balanced budget."

Nova Scotia is operating with a projected budget deficit of $220.6 million for 2014-15. The deficit for 2013-14 was $679 million, more than double the deficit recorded the year before.

Premier Stephen McNeil would not discuss Thursday details of the budget but said it will take a balanced approach.

"All of us will have a role to play and all of us will help the province get back to fiscal health," McNeil said.

"It will also send a signal that when we do, that all of us will get an opportunity to benefit from that hard work that all Nova Scotians are being part of."

McNeil has previously said the budget will focus on streamlining the delivery of programs and not sweeping cuts to the province's taxes.

In November, the government received a review of the province's tax system compiled by former Ontario cabinet minister Laurel Broten. The report recommended major changes that included introducing a carbon tax, broadening the harmonized sales tax, and lowering income and corporate tax rates.

Whalen said she is not ruling out any of the suggestions in Broten's report but said it is a lengthy process to evaluate all 42 of her recommendations.

Whalen has held eight public meetings around the province in advance of the budget. She has not announced when it will be released.

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