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Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls for review of Nova Scotia's paving program

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

HALIFAX - The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for an independent review of Nova Scotia's government-run paving program after obtaining documents through access-to-information that say labour costs are over budget.

The federation, which released the documents on Monday, says they counter government claims that the program saves money. The documents show that the province has spent more than double what it budgeted in salaries, benefits and overtime for each kilometre of road paved.

"The government has said before that this saves taxpayers money, yet the mounting evidence proves otherwise," said Kevin Lacey, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Atlantic spokesman.

The documents say that Nova Scotia finished 227 kilometres of planned chip seal and asphalt paving, about half of the 456 kilometres it was aiming to complete during the 2012 season.

"That's the real staggering part of this," Lacey said. "They were way over budget on their costs yet they completed just 50 per cent of the work.

"If the government thinks this is such a great program, then put it to a review and have someone determine whether this program should go on in the future."

But the government said Monday it has no plans to launch such a review.

"When you start up any project, you're going to have growing pains," said Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Maurice Smith.

"This is a new venture for us but we're quite pleased with how it's going."

Though less than one per cent of the $281 million the province spent on capital road work in 2012 is being done by government crews, Smith said they have already made a big difference, with bids for work coming in $20 million lower than the government had anticipated so far this year.

"This is the kind of thing that happens when you have better competition," he said.

Smith said those savings will allow the government to proceed with nine paving projects that hadn't been scheduled to go ahead until next year.

The Opposition Liberals said the documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are proof that the government-funded asphalt operation is an "absolute failure."

"The NDP's misguided creation has done very little except waste tax dollars and take away jobs from the private sector," said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil in a news release.

Nova Scotia's $3.6-million mobile asphalt plant went into operation in August 2012. The program was introduced after an 18-year hiatus from the paving business.

At the time, the government said it wanted to address unfair pricing and a lack of competition for project tenders in some rural areas of the province.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130729/canadian-taxpayers-federation-calls-review-nova-scotias-pavi