Premier says N.B. will work to balance budget

Premier David Alward said his government will work hard to get rid of a $514 milllion deficit and balance the province's budget.
Premier David Alward said his government will balance the budget. (CBC)
Premier David Alward said his government will work hard to get rid of a $514 milllion deficit and balance the province's budget.

"We know where we have challenges, as an example, the department of health, as an example, social development, and with the pensions," Alward said Tuesday.

"We are focused to bring forward a balanced budget, and ultimately being able to deliver on the balanced budget or the deficit projection that we came forward with this past spring."

The province's deficit is now projected to grow by an additional $65.5 million this fiscal year to a total of $514 million, according to a quarterly fiscal report issued late Friday afternoon.

Alward said his government was not trying to downplay bad results by releasing the update only on its website just before the Thanksgiving long weekend.

He said that under previous governments that information would not even have been available this early in the year.

His government is trying to be transparent, he said, and that's why the update has been released to the public.

St. Thomas University professor Tom Bateman says the New Brunswick government will need to make some hard choices to balance the budget. ((CBC))
St. Thomas University political science professor Tom Bateman is not optimistic the government will achieve its deficit target — let alone make any progress bringing down the debt.

Bateman said the kind of cuts needed to make that happen would be very difficult to stomach.

"Probably pay more in taxes, receive less in services, cut schools in depopulating regions of the province and really bite hard and until then nothing's going to happen. I think the consensus has to form among New Brunswickers," he said.

"We do need somebody whom New Brunswickers can trust to say that, 'This is what these numbers mean for the future and right now we're living quite literally on borrowed time and this cannot continue.'"  

Alward would not comment on why the numbers are worse than expected.

But he said  this is just the first quarterly report and there's still time to make changes, including bringing in new accountability measures for some departments.

"Things like bringing accountability mechanisms into place, performance measurement tools that have never been in existence before with departments. That's work that will allow to get to where we need to be," he said.

Alward suggested there would be further money saving measures this winter after a "government renewal" exercise is complete.

 Liberal MLA Roger Melanson said the government is shortsighted in its approach.

"This government doesn' t seem to be focusing on job creation, only on cutting, and look at the results. They can't even meet those targets now," he said.