PCs will reveal deficit elimination plan

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is promising to deliver a plan this week to tackle the province's growing debt.

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is promising to deliver a plan this week to tackle the province's significant deficit and mounting growing debt.

Alward said in a Tuesday morning interview he is days away from presenting an economic strategy that will address the province's financial future.

Alward said the Liberals have racked up too much debt in the last four years. He also said the Liberals have essentially abandoned their self-sufficiency plan.

"This is a premier and a government that have increased the net debt of the province, by the time their mandate's over, by 50 per cent," Alward said.

"They will have grown the debt of the province from $6.5 billion to $9.5 billion. And for anyone who travels in political circles, self-sufficiency has been off the rails for a long time."

The provincial government is forecasting a $749-million deficit in 2010-11.

Meanwhile, the debt stands at $8.35 billion compared to $6.7 billion in 2006.

In 2007-08, the province's net debt went up by $407 million because of the completion of the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway between Woodstock and Grand Falls. The project started under the previous Progressive Conservative government and would have been applied to the debt regardless of what party was in power.

Pre-campaign promises

Premier Shawn Graham is committing to bring the deficit back into balance within four years and not raise taxes or cut services. Graham was in Saint John on Tuesday and reiterated his pledge not to raise taxes, cut spending but to grow the economy through creating new jobs.

The premier has not indicated how the Liberal government would create the 20,000 promised jobs in the next four years.

Alward said on Tuesday that he will erase the deficit within four years and he was also "ruling out increases in taxes."

The Tory leader said he plans to cut into the deficit by cutting an undetermined amount of consultants.

"This government has allowed a shadow bureaucracy to grow of consultants," Alward said.

"This government has hired tens and tens of millions of dollars is being spent on shadow consultants. That will change."

Alward did not say what consultants would be terminated and he also did commit to no longer hiring consultants in the future.

"It doesn't mean you can completely eliminate the need for consultants. But what is taking place is hideous," he said.

The Tory leader also promised he would refocus Business New Brunswick, the department that is responsible for economic development.

The former Bernard Lord government created Business New Brunswick but Alward said it has been too unfocused in recent years.