N.B. voters concerned by debt, deficit levels
New Brunswick voters are very concerned about the debt and the deficit levels being accumulated by the provincial government but they don't want to sacrifice services to help pay it off, according to a new Corporate Research Associates poll.
The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have been making expensive promises throughout the campaign from putting computers in classrooms to freezing property tax assessments for seniors.
That constant stream of promises has come under fire by the New Democratic Party and public policy experts, such as Donald Savoie, the Canada research chair in public administration and governance at the University of Moncton.
In a new poll by Corporate Research Associates commissioned by CBC News and L'Acadie Nouvelle, 81 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about the province's $8.3-billion debt.
The debt is projected to hit roughly $11 billion by 2015, according to the Office of the Auditor General.
But only four per cent of respondents brought up the debt or the provincial government's $749-million deficit as the public's top concern during the election.
Instead, issues such as health care and education ranked as much more important in the poll.
When they were asked about different ways to lower the deficit and the debt most New Brunswickers told the polling company they didn't want to see measures that would hurt them directly.
The Liberals have promised to balance the budget within four years by holding the line on spending to one per cent but Shawn Graham said he would go through with his planned personal and corporate income tax cuts and would not slash spending.
PC Leader David Alward has also promised to balance the budget in four years. The Tories have committed to cutting the civil service, mainly through buy-out packages, and cutting some internal waste.
Alward has promised to push through some of the Liberals' tax cuts but halt the planned reductions to the highest income bracket, which starts at $118,000.
Only 25 per cent of respondents were willing to pay more income tax or sales tax and only one-third were willing to see the provincial government cut services and programs.
However, two-thirds of them supported ideas such as firing or freezing the pay of civil servants.
The survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates between Sept. 15 and 18 with 1,005 New Brunswick voters. The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.