Fight against Nova Scotia's deficit will need co-operation of labour: premier

Stephen McNeil

Nova Scotia's premier says public-sector workers will have to dampen their wage expectations in the coming years as the province grapples with a projected $853-million deficit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After five consecutive balanced budgets, Stephen McNeil says he hasn't changed his view of deficits and work will begin immediately to tackle the new fiscal situation facing his government.

McNeil isn't offering specifics on next steps, including any potential layoffs, at this point, but he told reporters following cabinet today that if labour decides it wants more there would have to be "fewer people.''

The premier says he believes "everyone can stay working'' but it will have to be under a growth plan the province can afford.

McNeil says the most urgent need is to get the economy moving while managing government departments and continuing to deliver key programs.

He says how long it will take to dig out of the province's fiscal hole will depend on how quickly the economy can recover from the effects of the COVID-19 virus, although he says it won't take a decade to recover.