Province hid $27M mistake from budget

Auditor General releases N.S. financial report

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe annonces his financial conclusions for Nova Scotia. (Photo: Matthew Woodman)

Auditor general Jacques Lapointe released his annual report of the province’s spending yesterday, exposing a mistake the NDP made with the budget.

The report shows that last year the province knew about a $27-million mistake with the budget, but ignored it. The province’s projected deficit should have been $238 million and not $211 million. The province was aware of the error, but did not fix the problem before it released the budget, even though it had ample time to do so.

Lapointe said the error was caused mainly by not using updated economic assumptions and a change in adjusting calendar year revenues to fiscal year revenues.

Opposition parties expressed their displeasure with the NDP for hiding the error.

“That fact that revenues were overstated by $27 million just shows the fallacy of the budget that the NDP have presented for this year, and is both unfair to today’s voters but also unfair to the next generation,” said Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie.

“It means we can’t have any faith in the budgets presented to the legislature,” said Liberal MLA Andrew Younger. “At the end of the day the premier lied to the people of Nova Scotia.”

The province’s debt also continues to pile up. The report showed that last year the NDP added another $400 million to the province’s debt. Since 2008, Nova Scotia’s debt has risen from $12.5 billion to $16.2 billion. Theoretically each Nova Scotian would have to pay $13,960 to fully erase the debt.

“It is fiscally irresponsible for government to transfer payment for current spending to future generations,” said Lapointe. “Over the long-term, ethical government will live within its means and reimburse its accumulation of debt.”

The province did however clean up its poor financial management practices that led to an MLA spending scandal that was revealed by Lapointe in his report two years ago.

Previous deficiencies with spending regulations allowed MLAs to make inappropriate and even fraudulent purchases with taxpayers’ money. Lapointe’s report led to criminal charges against four politicians. Two were already found guilty, while the other two await trial.

But since 2010 Lapointe says “considerable progress has been made.” One improvement is that MLAs are no longer allowed a general $1,050 a month allowance and a $2,500 a month allowance for electronics, both of which did not require receipts when spent.

“Our recent audit of legislative expenses found no evidence of misuse of public funds,” said Lapointe.

“It’s only a step in the right direction,” said Baillie, regarding the MLA spending cleanup. “But I’m not satisfied all has been done to restore that public trust.”