Changes to provincial pension plans that will help address the plans' deficits and ensure their sustainability are coming soon, says the finance minister.

The provincial task force on protecting pensions is expected to report to the government during this session, Blaine Higgs said Tuesday as part of his budget speech.

The task force will recommend how to put the appropriate rules and regulations in place for the long-term sustainability of existing pension plans, both public and private, he said.

"Our goal is to ensure that employee benefits that have been earned to date will not be negatively affected by future changes while we separate pension reform from the collective bargaining process," he said.

The provincial government will seek ways to expand the coverage of affordable, sustainable pension plans in New Brunswick to residents who currently do not have adequate pension plan coverage, said Higgs.

The changes will be fair to both employees and taxpayers, he said.

"Our government’s vision is that New Brunswickers should have the opportunity for a safe and secure retirement," the finance minister said.

"We must also provide assurance to pension contributors that the long-term integrity, due diligence and rigour necessary in the business and financial operations of the system are maintained at a high level."

The Alward government launched a review of public sector plans in September. It is expected to include consultation with the public, including employees, contributing employers, union representatives and pensioners.

The same task force is also reviewing private sector plans.

Higgs said pension plans are facing deficits because people are living longer after retirement than previously predicted and market values have been lower than expected.

"Those are the issues we're trying to address because if we don't, it will be a problem," he told reporters. "We will fix it...We have a program that will do just that."