By Kristen Lipscombe

Every Nova Scotian is on the hook for thousands of dollars and the province’s financial forecast is the worst in the region, says a new Atlantic Institute for Market Studies report. The province received a lowly C minus this year in the think-tank’s third annual review of the region’s budget performance, dropping from last year’s mark of C plus.

The region received an overall grade of C, according to Could Do Better 3: Grading Atlantic Canada’s 2006-2007 Provincial Finances, by David Murrell and Ian Munro.

“There were some improvements last year in certain areas for the region overall, but tighter fiscal discipline, especially in terms of controlling spending and avoiding budget deficits, is essential if we are to head down the road to prosperity,” Mr. Murrell, a University of New Brunswick economics professor, said in a news release Thursday. Nova Scotia, in particular, is in a troublesome financial position.

The release said per-capita spending and government size are lower than the rest of the country “but interest payments on the province’s debt continue to rise as it is spending at too high a rate. The problem is compounded by the inability to accurately forecast budget balances.”

This province owes $11.6 billion, the release said, which means every Nova Scotian is responsible for $12,344 in provincial debt.

The report gave New Brunswick the highest grade with a C plus, while Newfoundland and Labrador jumped from last year’s D to a C/C plus and Prince Edward Island also improved from a D plus/C minus to a C.

The review is based on budgets of the Atlantic provinces for the 2006-07 fiscal year.