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Nova Scotia​ Budget:  Strategy Investments Welcome

April 19, 2016, Province House - Halifax
The Government of Premier Stephen M​cNeil released its 2016 budget earlier today, ​and the investments in those areas that matter to March of Dimes are welcome indeed.

The Government proposes to increase income assistance rates while overhauling the Department of Community Services in an effort to provide improved job training to clients so they can find work, and provide more effective assistance to people with disabilities.​

The budget increases the Employment Support and Income Assistance program by $7.5 million.  It is the biggest Increase in Nova Scotia's history.

The budget also includes:
  • $14.4 million more for home support and nursing, and the caregiver benefit and wheelchair programs, to keep seniors active and healthy in their communities
  • $3 million to help seniors pay for Pharmacare costs
  • $9.9 million more for the Disability Support Program
  • $5.4 million more for children, youth, and family support services through Community Services
  • $3 million more to help Nova Scotians with disabilities transition out of facility-based care into the community
As with last year, structural changes and widespread reductions to the public service, already in progress, both receive continued fuel in this 2016 budget and related upcoming legislative measures.

Official documents of the Nova Scotia 2016-2017 Budget may be found at the following:


Nova Scotia Budget:  Restructuring with Select Spending Increases

April 9, 2015 - Province House - Halifax

The Liberal government of premier Stephen McNeil delivered its $10 billion budget earlier this afternoon, its second since having been elected.  And at this stage in the March of Dimes Budget-watch (provincial and federal budgetary review), and comparison to the budgets delivered thus far (BC, Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick), Nova Scotia's budget is a comparative breath of fresh air.

Certain changes will help students with permanent disabilities.  Currently, students need to complete their studies within four years to qualify for maximum assistance under the old Debt Cap Program.  Newly proposed measures under the new Nova Scotia Loan Forgiveness program will allow students with permanent disabilities up to 10 years to complete their degree and receive maximum debt forgiveness.

The Budget also proposes an increase of $3.8 million in home-care supports, an increase to the Caregiver Benefit of $1.8 million, $1.5 million for the Seniors Assistance Program, and $1 million to expand services for Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention for pre-schoolers with autism.

Finance Minister Diana Whalen also highlighted program changes for Nova Scotians with disabilities;  "Our focus this year will be on continuing to transform services for persons with disabilities.  This year we will take the first step toward stable, multi-year funding for disability support program providers.  We will change the way we fund these providers to ensure more equitable distribution of funding and improve accountability."

This change comes with an immediate investment of $2.5 million in direct family support programming.

Consistent with a number of other jurisdictions, including the federal government, the province will begin examining the efficacy of social impact bonds.  Committee consultations are to begin shortly.

No cuts are being made to the affordable living tax credit.  And smokers will incur an increase of two cents per cigarette.

Structural changes and widespread reductions to the public service, already in p0rogress, both receive continued fuel in this 2015 budget and related upcoming legislative measures.

Consistent with this approach, the government "will explore the opportunity to improve delivery and enhance the quality of home-care services across the Province through a request for proposals."  Here is a tangible​ opportunity for March of Dimes Canada to determine where program and service efficiency can meet the needs of Nova Scotians.  More to come on this as we obtain detailed information on the RFP process.

Official documents of the Nova Scotia 2015-2016 Budget are found at the following:
http://www.novascotia.ca/finance/en/home/budget/budgetdocuments/2015-2016.aspx



Another First for March of Dimes Canada


June 17, 2014 - Halifax, Nova Scotia

While we have appeared before parliamentary committees dozens of times at Queen's park and in Ottawa, we were delighted to have been invited to appear before the Nova Scotia Legislature's Standing Committee on Community Services to talk about how we deliver programs and services, and what specific outcomes are produced in Nova Scotia.

We are looking at how our inventory of services will complement and enhance those in Nova Scotia and how to improve the lives and livelihoods of Nova Scotians with disabilities​, their families and caregivers.



Nova Scotia Delivers Maintenance Measures and Possible Re-Think of Disability Programs


April 3, 2014

Province House - Halifax, Nova Scotia


Nova Scotia's first budget under the government of Premier Stephen McNeil was delivered this afternoon by newly-minted Finance Minister, Diana Whalen.

The 2014 Nova Scotia budget contains no surprises and no major shifts in policy.

More measures than not are maintenance measure.

A few highlights include the following:
  • There is a commitment to transforming Services for Persons with Disabilities.  Provision has been made within the budget to continue this important work to create a much clearer roadmap toward significant improvement of programs.
  • Home care funding increased by $22 million, representing an emphasis away from nursing home beds.
  • 300 more seniors each year will stay in their homes through a $1.5 million increase in the Senior Citizens Assistance Program (for a total investment of $4.15 million).
  • This Budget will reactivate a rate-review process for providers of residential services for persons with disabilities ($2 million).
  • The government also intends to continue to support home care services, allowing older Nova Scotians to stay in their homes longer ($32.6 million).​​

​Perhaps the most interesting, yet lease explained, feature in this year's budget is the commitment to creating a "clearer roadmap" to improve disability programs and services - a possible window for the campaign commitment to consider provincial accessibility legislation?  This is certainly one area that will require close attention.


Official budget documents for Nova Scotia's 2014-2015 Provincial Budget may be found at http://www.novascotia.ca/finance/en/home/budget/budgetdocuments/2014-2016.aspx



New laws promised for seniors and disabled - Parties speak out on access and inclusion:

Nova Scotians overwhelmingly choose Liberals to govern

Nova Scotia has the highest rate of disability in the country, averaging at one-fifth of the population. This number typically does not include the increasing number of seniors, many of which often age into disability. So the numbers, in effect, are much higher, and they will continue to increase.
 
If the Parties vying to form the government think the current pressures of public policy are challenging, wait till they see what will happen if nothing is done to address the needs and challenges of aging and disability.
 
To be fair, the Nova Scotia government has recognized that the government’s current basket of programs and services is complex and disparate; that change, harmonization and improvement are drastically needed.
 
But the change that is needed goes far beyond the development and management of programs and services. The overall challenge will be achieving accessibility and inclusion. And this requires a change in thought.
 
Governments, such as Ontario and Manitoba, have introduced new laws. The accessibility legislation in both provinces is designed to achieve inclusive and barrier-free societies and economies. The laws establish regulatory standards in employment, transportation, public spaces, the provision of goods and services, and the built environment. 
 
So why not something province-wide and comprehensive? Why not an Accessibility for Nova Scotians Act?
 
This is precisely the thinking underpinning the dialogue spearheaded by March of Dimes Canada and Community Living Toronto, both of which have programs and affiliates throughout Nova Scotia. The two organizations asked the leaders of the governing NDP, the Liberals and the PCs whether or not they would introduce an Accessibility for Nova Scotians Act. Very specifically, the question was posed as follows:
If elected, will you introduce an Accessibility for Nova Scotians Act that would entail regulations affecting the built environment, public spaces, employment, transportation and the provision of goods and services, to achieve a barrier-free and inclusive Nova Scotia? 
The responses, received between September 20 and 25, give valuable insight into the policy thinking on such future challenges as aging, disability and barrier-free societies.
 
The Progressive Conservative Party committed to several program enhancements to assist seniors and people with disabilities. These range from expanding the eligibility of the Caregiver Benefit Program and creating new Community Care Centres that bring together family health care, early childhood/learning and eldercare options under one roof.
 
The ten main commitments of the PCs are practical, responsive and tangible policy measures. However, no comment is made in the PC response to introducing accessibility legislation. 
 
The Nova Scotia New Democratic Party mentioned ongoing measures and related commitments, such as the development of a single entry point to access programs and services, and references seven key platform points on health care. The NDP response is quite specific: “The NDP agrees that Nova “Scotia needs a modern legislative framework to support people with disabilities. It is our intention to introduce that legislation in the Spring 2014 session of the legislature.” The NDP response goes on to describe the public consultation that will precede the introduction of new legislation and the participation of stakeholder groups in developing “comprehensive regulations.”
 
The NDP response implied that the current system needs to change, and that new laws and regulations will be a key part of achieving that change.
 
The Nova Scotia Liberal Party committed​ to a funding increase for the Community Transportation Assistance Program, which assists all low-income Nova Scotians. The Liberals then very specifically commit to “appointing an Accessibility Advisory Committee with a mandate and strict timeline to develop accessibility legislation for Nova Scotia.”
 
The Liberal response also implied that change is needed, and go on to state that “government plays an integral role when it comes to enhancing the independence, empowerment and community participation of persons with disabilities.”
 
Aging and disability are not the only issues facing Nova Scotians in this election. People are worried about jobs, mortgages, paying their kids’ tuition, and a plethora of other issues. Aging and disability seldom assume priority status among the majority of the population. But, as pointed out earlier, populations are changing, and the change is upon us. 
 
Steven Christianson is the National Manager of Government Relations & Advocacy at March of Dimes Canada, the largest organization of its kind providing programs and services to Canadians with disabilities.

 

Nova Scotia Delivers Balance with a Surplus of Pre-Election Goodies

April 4, 2013
Province House - Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's 2013 Budget was delivered today by Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald, her first as the head of the treasury, and what is expected to be the NDP government's final spending plan before heading into a possible fall election.

Several departments will bear the brunt of spending cuts worth roughly $86 million in this year's budget.  At the same time, the Province has achieved a surplus of $16.4 million in a budget that contained a basket of modes spending increases in select areas and publicly appealing election goodies.

For Seniors:

  • $4.5 million more will be spent on the seniors Pharmacare program.
  • This year's budget contains a $2 million increase in seniors home care program funding.
  • The Finance Minister announced that Nova Scotia will partner with other provinces to reduce the price of six common generic drugs, and provide wheelchairs to low-income seniors, and total investment valued at $1.4 million for eligible seniors aged 65 and older.
  • As of January 1, 2014, the number of low-income seniors who will no longer pay provincial income taxes will increase to 25,000 Nova Scotia seniors.
  • In addition, the government will increase the maximum property tax rebate available to seniors by $200, a measure aimed at benefitting about 4,000 seniors to remain in their own homes and communities.
For Families and Vulnerable Nova Scotians:

For those familiar with March of Dimes' Inclusive Emergency Preparedness initiative, a new program aimed at emergencies and natural disasters was announced.  Beginning this year, the province will provide $3 million per year to work with vulnerable communities to better understand flooding and reduce the risk of damage.  "This represents a new beginning in the partnership between the province, municipalities, first responders, and emergency relief agencies," explains Minister MacDonald.

Mention of the possibility of such an initiative was first revealed through the pilot programs throughout the province that extended from the Disabled Persons Commission's "Are You Prepared" materials and the EnRich consortium based at the University of Ottawa.  More details to come on this.

As was announced in the Throne Speech last week, this budget breathes life into the province's first ever Housing Strategy.  Related to this are the enhancements to the affordable living and poverty reduction measures.  The Affordable Living and Poverty Reduction Tax rebates will provide $74 million in relief to low-income families and individuals.  According to Departmental officials, since July 2010, the Affordable Living Tax Credit has put $178 million back in the pockets of families, and 14,000 Nova Scotians most in need have received up to $250 each year through the Poverty Reduction Credit.

While many have criticized this government for increasing the provincial tax rate since having been elected nearly four years ago, this budget announces that the HST will now be reduced, first by 1% in 2014 and another percentage point in 2015, bringing the rate down to 13%.

Official budget documents for Nova Scotia's 2013-2014 Provincial Budget may be found at:  http://novascotia.ca/budget/.



Past Budgets

 

Nova Scotia Budget 2011 Focuses on Healthcare, seeks Efficiencies in Public Management

Province House - Halifax
Tuesday April 5, 2011

 

With total program spending topping $8.3 billion, the 2011-2012 fiscal year in Nova Scotia’s government will be characterized by a focus on efficiencies, particularly in healthcare.

Finance Minister, Graham Steele, delivered the Province’s budget address at Province House this afternoon. The new governing session kicked off last Thursday, March 31, with the Speech from the Throne.

While spending measures were announced in education and job infrastructure, the following outlines the primary areas of relevance for March of Dimes and our consumer base throughout Nova Scotia.

As outlined in last week’s Speech, this Budget seeks to enhance the Province’s emergency system by investing $3 million in the emergency protection fund for emergency rooms and to support for Collaborative Emergency Centres. The emphasis is to reduce wait times by sending fewer patients to emergency rooms. Part of this initiative will entail more nurse practitioners and expanding the role of paramedics by allowing them to administer life-saving drugs and care. Emergency room standards will be increased and enhanced through a total investment of $1.5 million.

The Caregiver Benefit Program is expanded by $1.8 million this fiscal year.

JobsHere receives a total of $200 million, of which $1.8 million is directed to strategic cooperative education incentives for students. African Nova Scotians are the focus of a $3.5 million labour market skills development initiative.

Nova Scotia’s new 2-1-1 system, in partnership with the United Way, is supported by an investment of $585,000 to make information about social services more accessible and available.

For those receiving income support, a total of $4.2 million will be invested to increase the personal allowance available.

Capital investments, such as healthcare facilities, housing, schools and roads, receive $560 million.

The government will spend $3.7 million annually to support people on income assistance, including those with disabilities, to enter and stay in the workforce.

New measures will also allow income assistance recipients to keep $150 per month more of employment income.

The flat-rate income exemption for Nova Scotians with disabilities is doubled to $300.

As outlined in last week’s Speech, the government will introduce fair drug pricing legislation, and in this Budget will invest $3 million more in Pharmacare funding.

Both the Affordable Living and Poverty Reduction tax credits will now be indexed. And the following non-refundable tax credits will increase by $250: pension income, disability, caregiver, age, and infirm dependents 18 or older.

Seniors should be pleased when they receive a full refund in personal income tax paid on the Guaranteed Income Supplement in 2010. Approximately 18,000 seniors will receive cheques, for a total expenditure of $9.2 million.

One item that was announced, but requires clarity (which is expected to come from the Premier later this week), is an $11 million investment in “Make Life Easier”. Interestingly, that same amount of $11 million is the same amount of the overall tax reduction for Nova Scotia’s (eg. Changes to basic exemption).

Watch for further analysis as a result of our detailed read of the larger budget documents and specific Estimates. We will continue to monitor the details of these spending measures as they unfold in the coming days and are tabled in the House of Assembly. As well, we will keep abreast of the many references, both in today’s Budget and last week’s Speech, to finding new and/or better ways of delivering services and spending money.

Complete budget documents are available online at the Government of Nova Scotia’s Department of Finance:
www.gov.ns.ca/finance/en/home/budget/budgetdocuments/2011_2013.aspx

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