Higgs begins pre-budget meetings with taxpayers

New Brunswick's finance minister is beginning a series of pre-budget meetings with citizens and groups Monday night in Saint John.

New Brunswick's deficit could soon hit nearly $550 million

New Brunswick's finance minister is beginning a series of pre-budget meetings Monday night in Saint John.

Blaine Higgs is meeting with citizens and groups in 10 communities across the province during the next week and a half.

Saint John residents say they are hoping what they have to say won't fall on deaf ears. Some say they are skeptical about the meetings.

"That's just a front, to show the people, 'OK, you've got a say in it.' We don't have a say in it. Stop wasting our time and do your job," said Jeannine Dionne, who lives in the city.

Dionne said she hopes the province is listening.

"The people are not that crazy. Politicians are there, and they have the reins, but people are not that crazy. A lot of people know what they're talking about."

Deficit struggle

The province is struggling to get its finances under control in the face of a deficit that could soon hit almost $550 million.

Higgs has warned New Brunswickers they need to distinguish between wants and needs.

There have already been cuts to school district budgets, government agencies and rural health care.

Although most government departments reined in overspending in the second quarter, revenues from income tax, lotteries and liquor sales fell short of projections.

Higgs has warned that there will be more tough decisions made this year.

Brian Martin, also a Saint John resident, said the minister should listen to what people need.

"Well, he almost has to give in to what's going on in the rest of the world. Everybody's got to get their finances in line and we're no different," he said.

Last month, the province launched a website where people could submit their thoughts on how tax dollars should be spent.

A full list of times and locations for the meetings can be found on the government's website.