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The province has closed the books on the 2019-20 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

The major takeaways:

• Expenses exceeded revenues by $105,700 ($11,486,100 compared to $11,380,400), but the budget is considered “balanced” thanks to $108,000 in “Consolidation Adjustments” — which as I understand it, relate mostly to prior year adjustments for project budgets, and in particular the Boat Harbour remediation project. In any event, the 2019-20 surplus is $2.3 million.

• The provincial debt increased by $249.4 million from March 31, 2019, bringing the total provincial debt to $15.24 billion, the first time it has passed the $15 billion mark. The cost of debt servicing last year was $818.2 million, and debt as a percentage of the province’s GDP has declined from 33.8% to 33.1%.

• About $120 million was incurred in COVID-19-related expenses, the bulk of which is $100 million allocated to Dalhousie University to administer. $50 million has already been transferred to the university, and the second $50 million will be moved over soon, but all of it is accounted for in the 2019/20 budget. The exact expenditures from that fund will depend on the applications for relief submitted by businesses. See the entire allocation of the $120 million here. A much larger fiscal hit related to COVID will occur in the current fiscal year, at a cost now estimated to exceed $800 million.

• The total costs of the Boat Harbour remediation project is now projected to be $291.9 million, and about $31.9 million has already been spent on it, leaving a balance of $260 million.

• Even though Northern Pulp Mill is now seeking creditor protection in bankruptcy court, finance staff said the status of the outstanding $85 million in loans to Northern Pulp has not changed.

• Bay Ferries was paid $22,028,828 in 2019-20. That amount covers both the management fee collected by the company for (not) operating the ferry, and the costs of upgrading the Bar Harbor ferry terminal, but neither of those costs are detailed. Making public the amount of the management fee is the subject of a court action initiated by the Progressive Conservative party.

• Events East, the crown corporation that operates the Halifax Convention Centre, reported an annual deficit of $5,472,968, to be split between the city and province.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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