COMMENT: Brian Gallant's First Budget: The Wrong Direction for New Brunswick



Brian Gallant has failed to live up to the Liberal commitment to move New Brunswick forward, yet again saying one thing but doing another.  This budget moves New Brunswick in the wrong direction - backward.


New Brunswickers deserve lower taxes, smaller government and more efficient delivery of core services - but that is not what we are getting with this budget.  Instead, we are spending more and getting less.


The government's main priority is supposed to be job creation, but there are few references to economic development in the budget.  Alarmingly, the only jobs referenced in the budget are jobs to be taken out of the civil service.


There are some good things in this budget.  For example, we are glad to see that the government remains committed to finding efficiencies through continuing the work we started on shared internal government services, and that they will continue to promote Lean Six Sigma process improvement projects.  The expansion of the Small Business Investor Tax Credit, which our government implemented, is a welcome improvement.  The absence of any mention of pension reform suggests the government also has no intention of making any changes to these plans we helped stabilize and secure, which is an encouraging move.  And the establishment of a registry of daycare spaces will help New Brunswickers access existing daycare vacancies.


Despite these positive moves, the budget includes no information on how government will find the savings needed to ensure it remains able to provide the services New Brunswickers need.  It remains to be seen what budget details individual departments will release in the Legislature in the coming weeks, and we will certainly have questions about how any changes will be implemented.


But it is obvious the Liberals' first budget attacks fiscal responsibility, attacks seniors, attacks quality of education and attacks rural New Brunswick.  This moves New Brunswick in the wrong direction - all while the government promises that next year's budget will bring further pain that ultimately is made necessary only through the Liberal Party's lack of vision for jobs and their extravagant spending promises from the last election.


Be sure to tune in to the proceedings of the New Brunswick Legislature this Thursday, April 2, at 11:00 a.m., to hear Finance critic Blaine Higgs deliver the the Official Opposition's Reply to the Budget.  Legislature proceedings are telecast on Rogers channel 70 and webcast through the Legislative Assembly's website:


Brian Gallant is Attacking Fiscal Responsibility


  *   The budget reverses the trends in the right direction set by the former government.  The Liberals are going back to poor fiscal management, risking our ability to pay our bills and mortgaging our children's futures.

  *   The deficit is increasing, not decreasing.  It will be $476 million this year, compared to the last budget of the former government which was budgeted at $391 million but that is now forecasted to be only $255 million.

  *   The debt will grow more quickly - borrowing more money than we can afford.  By the end of the year, the debt will be over $12.5 billion.

  *   The Liberals' $150 million contingency fund is fiscally reckless and irresponsible - it is not a decision that aligns with the need to reduce spending and correct the fiscal imbalance.  At best, it will falsely paint the government as performing better than it budgeted if they don't use it.  At worst, it gives the government a cushion in case it fails to find the savings New Brunswickers elected them to find.


Brian Gallant is Attacking Seniors


  *   The budget removes the cap on the cost of nursing home care, making it more expensive for seniors who need specialized care to live out their lives in dignity.

  *   On top of this, the government will assess seniors' ability to pay for nursing home care based on calculations that now include their liquid assets.  The hard earned savings of seniors are again being attacked.

  *   Premiums for the Seniors Prescription Drug Program are increasing.

  *   Ambulance fees will be reinstated.


Brian Gallant is Attacking Quality of Education


  *   249 teachers will be eliminated from the system.

  *   District Education Councils will be mandated to examine closing schools in communities - with the government passing all blame and criticism onto the local councils.

  *   All of this will happen while the government continues to plan its 10-year education plan, putting the cart before the horse.

  *   With no vision and no management, these changes put the quality of education and our students' performance at risk.


Brian Gallant is Attacking Rural New Brunswick


  *   Transportation costs for rural New Brunswickers are on the rise with an increase in fuel taxes.

  *   Six Service New Brunswick locations in rural communities are closing, and centres in Miramichi region are being consolidated.  This moves services further away from ordinary New Brunswickers in rural communities.

  *   Three rural court houses are closing, reducing access to justice for rural New Brunswickers.

  *   Ambulance fees will be reinstated.

  *   Cuts to education will likely impact rural New Brunswickers more than they impact urban communities. 

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