Liberals, PCs ignoring N.B. debt: professor
New Brunswick's two main political parties are avoiding talking about the province's growing debt, which should be one of the main issues in the Sept. 27 election, according to a political scientist.
The province's first campaign under the new fixed election date law starts on Thursday but the parties have been revving up their political machines for weeks, including many promises that include additional spending.
Donald Wright, a political science professor at the University of New Brunswick, said politicians, particularly from the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, are sidestepping the growing debt in the days leading up to the campaign.
"No party wants to be the party of tax increases and spending cuts," Wright said.
Premier Shawn Graham made another campaign-style speech on Monday in Bathurst where he reiterated his promise to create more jobs if his party is re-elected.
But he also had a very direct message about how he does not plan to fix the province's financial situation.
"One approach is to cut services, but that's not ours. Another approach is raising taxes, but that's not ours either," Graham said.
"The third option, and this is ours, is to create new and better jobs."
Graham has promised to create 20,000 new jobs but he has not said exactly how that will happen.
Meanwhile, the New Brunswick government is forecasting a $749-million budget deficit in 2010-11 and the debt stands at $8.35 billion and is forecast to hit $9.5 billion in 2011 and $10.2 billion in 2012.
Moody's Investors Services announced on Monday that New Brunswick would maintain its credit rating as Aa2. The bond rating agency detailed the rise in the province's debt but concluded that it was still manageable.
Wright said the Liberals have given the Tories ample ammunition to attack them on the growing debt in the last four years.
But the political scientist said the Progressive Conservatives have done nothing to outline plans to address the debt in recent weeks.
"They've proposed nothing as far as I can see, nothing, to counter that. They're talking about low taxes and they're not talking about spending cuts," Wright said.
Wright said it's a touchy subject for politicians during an election campaign. Programs must be cut or taxes raised in order to deal with the debt but he said neither option will be popular with voters.