New Brunswick

Opposition slams use of contingency fund as 'fiscal joke'

The Gallant's government's decision to take $20 million out of its $100-million contingency fund just three months into the fiscal year is being ridiculed by their political opponents.

PCs, NDP and Greens are critical of Liberal government's decision to dip into contingency fund for $20M

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy called the decision to use the province’s contingency fund a “fiscal joke.” (CBC)

The Gallant's government's decision to take $20 million out of its $100-million contingency fund just three months into the fiscal year is being ridiculed by their political opponents.

Treasury Board President Roger Melanson made the announcement on Tuesday when he released the province's fiscal update for the first quarter, now estimating the deficit to be between $262.4 million and $342.4 million at the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy called the decision to use the province's contingency fund a "fiscal joke."

"The contingency fund is an accounting trick," said Cardy.

"It's depressing … it shows we are not getting the province's finances under control."

Green Party Leader David Coon said in an email to CBC that the contingency fund is just a way of building a buffer into the government's budgeted deficit.

Green Party Leader David Coon said in an email to CBC that the contingency fund is just a way of building a buffer into the government's budgeted deficit. (CBC)
"Given this is the first quarterly report the significance of going $20 million into the buffer is impossible to evaluate," said Coon.

Melanson said the contingency fund is "a prudent financial management fund."

Progressive Conservative MLA Blaine Higgs, the Opposition's finance critic, said the government's inability to give specific projections is an embarrassment.

"We have an $8.5-billion enterprise here in the province of New Brunswick, and we're not sure what the numbers are?" said Higgs.

"We're seeing smoke and mirror reports, we're seeing trying to cover up the reality of our spending spree that is out of control, and we see our deficit situation getting worse."

Missing Cathy Rogers

The province's NDP leader questions why Finance Minister Cathy Rogers did not deliver the fiscal update on Tuesday. (CBC)

The province's NDP leader also had another problem with Tuesday's announcement.

Cardy questioned why the treasury board president was delivering the fiscal update and not Finance Minister Cathy Rogers.

"If [Brian] Gallant is going to claim credit for having the first female finance minister he can't have Roger Melanson up there delivering the update," Cardy said.

Rogers was named finance minister and Melanson moved into the Treasury Board role in a cabinet shuffle since Melanson delivered the budget earlier this year.

At the time of her appointment, Rogers described herself as a "budget nerd."

But there were immediate questions raised about the division of powers between herself and Melanson, who had served in the finance portfolio since the Liberals formed government in 2014.

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