Nova Scotia Budget 2011

Nova Scotia may have one of the highest combined provincial and federal sales tax rates in the country (15%) but they ought to be very proud to be one of the few Canadian provinces that recognizes the great economic, moral and emotional contribution of informal caregivers.

The Caregiver Allowance program was a great idea launched in 2008 but it initially only had limited non-renewable funding. During last year’s Throne Speech, the government renewed its commitment to expanding options for caregivers but fell short of actually providing specific funding measures that would fulfil the task. In this year’s budget, the Nova Scotia government will be helping older Canadians by expanding the caregiver tax credit. They have allocated $1.8 million dollars to this end. More is needed but it is a fantastic start. It will mean hundreds of families will be able to benefit from the allowance for at least another year until funding is renewed. Demand for the allowance is very high and administrators are forced to observe extremely stringent criteria and make some very difficult decisions. There is no indication that Nova Scotia has expanded the narrow criteria required to qualify for the credit. The credit is expected to benefit hundreds of families. To find out more about the program read CARP’s report on the NS caregiver benefit here

We know that the program could be expanded to help more families who are also deserving but do not currently qualify. That being said, the program provides something that is urgently required but not currently available in other provinces: decent monthly financial assistance for low-income caregivers providing much needed care to people with a high level of impairment. What is needed now is more funding for this program as well as copycat programs in all Canadian provinces.

Through investments made in this budget, the Government of Nova Scotia claims it will provide better care for seniors by hiring new nurse practitioners for nursing homes, recruit additional nurse practitioners and other health-care providers to work in primary care settings and collaborative practices, including Collaborative Emergency Centres, at a cost of $1.5 million and add 169 new and 593 replacement nursing home beds, at a cost of $21 million.
Nova Scotia will also introduce fair drug pricing legislation to help reduce drug costs and provide an additional $3 million in pharmacies funding.

They also have a fairly comprehensive strategy targeted towards helping low-income persons and people currently receiving assistance. The 2011 Budget announced an increase of $250 to the basic personal amount for 2011, i.e., Nova Scotians can now earn up to $8,481 tax free (up from from $8,231).

Other non-refundable credits that will be increased by the same proportion are the credits for spouse or common-law partner, dependent, pension income, disability, caregiver, age, and infirm/dependents age 18 or older.

In April 2011, Nova Scotia introduced the Bill 27 Financial Measures Act which provides a low income tax deduction to a widowed person for that person’s spouse if the person died during the taxation year. Detailed calculations will become available when the CRA publishes the 2011 Nova Scotia General Income Tax Forms. Check back here for details.