Universities in Nova Scotia may get an extra shot of funding this year from the province’s expected windfall from the so-called Crown share offshore payment.
Although spending plans rolled out Monday indicated 70 per cent of the money will go to paying down the debt, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced the rest would go towards university infrastructure, protected lands, and the offshore energy sector, CP reported. The debt currently stands at $24 billion.
MacDonald said the spending would be carried out responsibly, not unlike what a Nova Scotia family would do if it received a large amount of money. “Most Nova Scotians would pay down their mortgage, they’d invest in their kids’ education and they’d make investments in things that are important to them and important to their families,” said MacDonald.
But universities shouldn’t get too excited yet. The spending plan was released weeks before a decision is reached by a three-person arbitration panel about the final amount to be paid. The panel has been working since January to come up with a binding recommendation, but was granted an extension past the original March 15 deadline in order to deal with the amount of information brought forward.
The province has maintained it stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars from the settlement of a dispute that dates back to 1986, when Ottawa promised Nova Scotia compensation for giving up its ownership interest in offshore resources – a payment the province has never received.
Finance Minister Michael Baker said creating the trusts would enable the province to include the expenditures on the 2007-08 books, something it couldn’t do if it waited until the panel’s decision, which will come after the fiscal year, ending March 31.
The trusts announced by MacDonald and Baker were in addition to another brought forward by Education Minister Karen Casey earlier in the day. Baker revealed the $66 million for a fund to help cut the cost of tuition for students would also go on the 2007-08 books.