New Brunswick

Opposition calls new provincial budget a 'smoke screen'

Opposition parties see the New Brunswick budget delivered Tuesday as a smoke screen for a spending habit and little in the way of job creation to show for it.

PC finance critic Bruce Fitch says Liberal government is wired to spend and incapable of saving

Progressive Conservative finance critic Bruce Fitch challenged the government's claim that New Brunswick's economy is growing. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Opposition parties see the New Brunswick budget delivered Tuesday as a smoke screen for a bad spending habit and little in the way of job creation to show for it.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Bruce Fitch said the Liberal government talks about creating jobs and cutting the deficit, but the talk is deceptive.

The budget projected a deficit of $192 million and a net debt of $14.4 billion by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers maintained the government is on track to eliminate the deficit in 2020-21 and will have a small surplus of $21 million that year.

She also said the government will spend more on education, health care and jobs, although New Brunswickers, who go to the polls in a provincial election next year, will see no new tax increases or spending cuts.

Fitch said the Liberal government is wired to spend and is incapable of saving any revenue.

​"We've seen this government tax and spend over the last two years, and they are continuing the spending now."

Fitch said the Opposition will present its official reply to the new provincial budget on Thursday and promised there would be some "digging down into the numbers."

NDP criticized job losses

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers delivered a budget Tuesday that promised increased spending on health, education, tourism and job creation and no increases in taxes. (James West/Canadian Press)

Rosaire L'Italien, the NDP interim leader, also criticized the Liberal government for priding itself on job creation in the province in 2016, when New Brunswick lost 2,300 full-time positions last year.

"On top of everything else, we are losing 280 full-time, good-paying jobs in health care because of the Gallant government," L'Italien said in a news release.

He was referring to plans by the government to privatize the management of hospital food and cleaning services, which  and CUPE has predicted will result in the loss of 280 jobs.

L'Italien added that the cost of living is going up but the economy is not following.

"It's a magic budget, it's a smoke budget," he said.

Government must address fiscal challenges

The People's Alliance party meanwhile called on the government to address fiscal challenges such as the debt.

In a news release, party leader Kris Austin said the size of the debt is alarming and puts families at risk.

"Until governments get serious about ending corporate welfare, and eliminating duality, the road to balanced books will never be travelled," said Austin.

With files from Jacques Poitras

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