Many Nova Scotians agree government should take a cautious approach when returning the finances back to balance, said a summary report released today, March 30, by Finance Minister Graham Steele. The report summarizes the ideas put forth by 1,495 Nova Scotians during public sessions held in more than 20 communities from January to March. When asked how quickly government should balance the budget, 56 per cent of participants indicated three to five years as a realistic time frame. “The report indicates groups were clear from the start that the gap would be very difficult to close in a short time frame without creating hardship for many Nova Scotians or damaging the economy,” said Mr. Steele. “I am really happy with the response to our Back to Balance initiative,” said Mr. Steele. “Based on these consultations and everything we have heard in the past two months, we are ready to take on the hard work and make the tough decisions necessary to get our finances back to balance.” The purpose of the public sessions was to discuss Nova Scotia’s financial challenge and give citizens an opportunity to define the values and priorities they want to see reflected in the province’s multi-year plan to return to a sustainable financial path. The report, prepared by facilitator Fourth Wave Strategies Inc., outlines the process, the questions addressed, and the broad themes of responses. “This was never just a pre-budget consultation, although the April 6 budget will be the first time people see tangible results from the process,” said Mr. Steele. “That is why I encourage everyone to listen to or read the budget speech. This year, we’re providing more options to hear or see the budget than ever before.” Nova Scotians can watch the minister deliver the budget address live on Legislative Television, EastLink TV or via webcast at www.gov.ns.ca . The budget documents will be available at the same address, along with a video summary. Nova Scotians can also, for the first time, follow the budget address on Twitter(nsgov). Back to Balance sessions were held in Whitney Pier, Port Hawkesbury, Antigonish, Stellarton, Amherst, Truro, Wolfville, Kentville, Digby, Yarmouth, Liverpool, Bridgewater, Tantallon, Lower Sackville, Halifax, Dartmouth, Eastern Passage, and Sheet Harbour. Another public session was held in French, linking Acadian communities by video-conference. In addition to the public Back to Balance sessions, Mr. Steele held about a dozen other sessions with business and union leaders, chambers of commerce, and aboriginal leaders. The complete Back to Balance summary report is available online at www.gov.ns.ca/finance.