The New Brunswick government is trying to dramatically reduce the amount it spends on out-of-province travel, starting with staff in the Department of Education.
Education Minister Jody Carr is the first minister to impose travel restrictions — an election promise set out by the Progressive Conservatives during their campaign this fall.
"We've put some guidelines in place for out-of-province travel to make sure that it's essential travel, that it's necessary travel and that we're able to review the priorities of the new government in light of the fiscal challenges facing our province," Carr told CBC News.
Effective immediately, government-paid travel outside the province is suspended for all civil servants in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Travel by teachers and superintendents is also suspended, with several exceptions.
Trips can go ahead if they are paid for by an outside party, other than the provincial government. Also allowed are previously approved trips or travel for which expenses have been paid for and can't be refunded.
Travelling with school teams or clubs and other school excursions will not be affected by the suspension, and teachers with expertise — for example, travelling to make a presentation or to receive an award — are also exempt.
"I understand there is a need for interprovincial travel, and I also understand there are times when it's questionable," Carr said.
The government's goal is to reduce out-of-province travel by 50 per cent. Carr said the ministry's travel and associated costs total hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
David McTimoney, superintendent for School District 17, said no one would send a staff member on a trip for the sake of a trip. "There would need to be a specific reason why this professional development opportunity — whether it's inside the province or outside the province — is important," he said Tuesday.
McTimoney said he understands the desire for the government to find savings, and he doesn't think the cutbacks will have a large impact in the near term. "If a travel freeze went on forever, then over time we'd certainly see some diminished opportunities for teachers to continue with their learning," he added.