The Rankin government tabled its first budget yesterday, tallying $11.8 billion in spending and a $584.9-million deficit. The pandemic has shaped the government’s priorities, which include increased spending on long-term care, public health, mental health, and the environment. The government says the budget is part of a strategy for the province to stop running deficits in four years.

Labi Kousoulis. Photo: CNS

“As we embark upon our recovery, we have an opportunity to strengthen our economy and work toward creating a fair and prosperous future for Nova Scotia,” finance minister Labi Kousoulis says in a press release. “Budget 2021–22 is government’s first step in this new direction, balancing much-needed supports for Nova Scotians, investments to help business grow, and a commitment to sound financial management.”

The government is earmarking $336.5 million for mental health, which includes new programming and a new Office of Mental Health and Addictions.

COVID-19 spending includes $64.2 million for personal protective equipment, $24.2 million to distribute vaccines, a $11.3 million increase to support nurses and cover additional cleaning, and a $5.7 million increase to strengthen the provincial public health system. There is also money to train more doctors and nurses, create new dialysis units, and perform more hip and knee surgeries.

Most of Nova Scotia’s 66 COVID-19 deaths happened in long-term care homes. Rankin’s government is spending $1.02 billion on the long-term care system, including a plan to replace or renovate seven nursing homes and add 230 beds to the province by 2025.

The budget also includes the largest boost in income assistance in Nova Scotia history, increasing the standard household rate by $100 a month per adult. There’s also $29.1 million for affordable housing, $46.7 million more for programs for people with disabilities, and a $2.3-million increase in spending on therapy supports for survivors.

Although confronting the climate crisis was a key plank in Rankin’s leadership platform, the environment is a relatively small part of his budget. Green spending includes $26 million for climate-change programs, $16.4 million for infrastructure projects, and $7.6 million for active transportation and transit.

Other highlights include:

  • $1.1 million to continue the digital content marketing program for tourism operators and $1.2 million to expand the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation discount for the hospitality industry to include canned and bottled beer, cider, and ready-to-drink products
  • $1.3 million for the first year of a Nova Scotia Quality Wine Strategy and $1.5 million for the first year of an Aquaculture Expansion Strategy
  • Reducing business regulation
  • Capital projects totalling $1.17 billion that will reach every region, creating jobs and improving roads, hospitals, schools and other critical infrastructure
Dr. Strang. Photo: CNS

Avoid Edmundston area—Strang
New Brunswick announced 30 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, including 24 in Edmundston, leading Nova Scotia health officials to caution people not travel to the area.

Many of New Brunswick’s new cases are the more-contagious U.K. variant.

“It is concerning to see the rise in cases in New Brunswick but at this time it is concentrated only in the northwestern area of the province,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says in a press release. “It is important that Nova Scotians avoid travel to that area unless absolutely necessary.”

The provincial border remains open.

COVID in Millwood High School
In Nova Scotia, health officials reported three new cases of COVID-19 yesterday (two in the Central Zone, one in the Eastern), plus a case at Millwood High School in Middle Sackville. The school is closed for cleaning, testing, and contact tracing. Administrators plan to reopen on March 31.

Nova Scotia has 25 known active cases of COVID-19. Nationwide, the federal government is reporting 38,922 cases.

Nova Scotian labs did 2,851 tests on March 24 and 286,976 since the second wave of the pandemic began in October.

As of March 24, provincial health-care workers have doled out 77,431 doses of COVID-19 vaccine; 22,917 Nova Scotians have gotten the second shot that completes their immunization.

COVID-19 has killed 66 Nova Scotians, and 22,790 people across Canada.

Strang and Rankin are scheduled to webcast an update today at 1 p.m.

Doukhobor immigrants en route to Halifax in 1899.

Halifax’s Immigration History: the Doukhobors
Today, Canada is home to 20,000 to 40,000 people of Doukhobor heritage, and it all began with 2,000 people who arrived in Halifax in 1899.

Protestant pacifists who lived communally and rejected materialism, the Doukhobors ran afoul of both church and state in their native Russia. When persecution peaked in imperial Russia’s dying days, they migrated en masse to Canada.

When they arrived, inspection officials discovered one little girl was dying of smallpox. Everyone on board had potentially been exposed to the fatal disease, so government ordered them into quarantine on Lawlor Island.

Dorothy Grant explores their ordeal, and how Haligonians helped them, in this new Halifax Magazine historical report.

Cpl. Robert Frizzell

Queens County cop lauded for bravery
Cpl. Robert Frizzell of the Queens District RCMP has earned the Commanding Officer’s Commendation for Bravery for his rescue of a woman who crashed her car into the Mersey River on the morning of May 10, 2020.

“An occupant of the vehicle was able to get out of the car but was floating downstream and unable to make it to shore,” says an RCMP description of the incident. “Cpl. Frizzell … grabbed a PFD and a paddleboard, then tied a rope around himself harness style, with another member and volunteer firefighter remaining on shore to hold the other end of the rope. He swam into the river, grabbed hold of the woman, and … the on-shore member and firefighter pulled them to safety.”

Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.

A step forward for Pictou sidewalks
The long fight for sidewalks in Pictou’s Blue Acres neighbourhood is getting results, as the municipal government recently approved a request for proposals to start the project. And residents believe it’s long overdue.

“People shouldn’t have to work this hard for access to sidewalks,” says Brittany Currie. “People are going to get hurt here; people have gotten hurt here.”

Raissa Tetanish reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Rodney MacDonald

New Gaelic College campus planned for Mabou
The Rankin government recently announced plans to spend $1.92 million to turn the old St. Joseph’s Convent into the new Mabou campus of the Gaelic College.

The new campus “will ensure that Gaelic culture, history, language, and music is a central focus in its programming,” says college president and former Nova Scotia premier Rodney MacDonald. “It will provide an opportunity for our students in their own local region. It will provide an opportunity for our Gaelic heritage, language, and culture to be showcased.”

Drake Lowthers has details for The Reporter.

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Halifax Magazine