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New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs is sworn in on Oct. 13. Higgs says each department must cut its overall budget by two per cent. ((CBC))

New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says each government department must cut its spending by at least two per cent to eliminate waste, despite a campaign promise to increase health spending.

"It's a universal program, so there aren't any departments that are exempt from looking at where we can minimize wasteful spending," Higgs told CBC News on Thursday.

During the fall provincial election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives promised that the Health Department would get a three per cent increase every year for four years.

Given there's waste to be cut, reducing each department's overall budget by two per cent should not affect service to the public, Higgs said.

"Obviously, if we can make better decisions, we'll meet that target and maybe we'll go beyond that target," he said.

"It won't be impacting any one service. It will just be doing a better job."

This year's health budget is $2.46 billion; the department would have to cut $49.2 million to meet the two per cent target.

Last year, the department went over its budget by more than that amount because of the H1N1 immunization program and pay raises for doctors.

Meanwhile, in another effort to deal with New Brunswick's $749-million deficit, Premier David Alward is asking the province's civil servants to send him their ideas for cutbacks.

"You know better than anyone how our government works and where we can save," Alward said on a video recorded for an internal government website obtained by CBC News on Thursday.

"New Brunswick's fiscal situation is dire. We face a structural deficit that must be eliminated to put our province back on a sustainable track for the future.

"The situation requires immediate and sustained discipline."

The premier goes on to say that cutting two per cent of government spending would save $100 million each year.