New Brunswick

Provincial debt rising faster than projected, closing in on $14.5B

New budget numbers show the province's debt is now forecast to grow by $385.4 million this year.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers outlines first-quarter budget results

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers discusses first-quarter budget numbers during a news conference Monday in Fredericton. (CBC)

New Brunswick's debt is rising faster than budgeted — partly because of record flooding this year — and is likely to settle just below $14.5 billion by the end of next March, the province reported in a mixed budget update Monday.

The new budgets numbers, which have been adjusted following three months of actual results, show the province's debt is now forecast to grow by $385.4 million this year, $13 million more than Finance Minister Cathy Rogers outlined in January in her budget address to the legislature. 

However, in a morning news conference Rogers focused on a portion of the growing debt that showed some improvement during the first quarter — the deficit — to say that finances were getting better, not worsening.

"We have improved our forecast and we expect to improve further as the year goes on," she said, speaking exclusively about the budget deficit, which is now forecast to be $187.4 million this year, $1.3 million lower than originally forecast.

Annual changes in the province's debt are a combination of the budget deficit and changes in the value of major capital structures.

Flood expenses

The updated numbers showed the province is generating more revenue than expected this year but most of that was washed away by expenses generated by record spring flooding.

The Department of Justice and Public Safety, which includes the Emergency Measures Organization, is running $51.9 million over budget, which Rogers blamed mostly on devastating flood damage along the lower St. John River in late April and May after a rapid spring melt.

The devastating spring flood wiped out the province's additional revenue. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"The damages caused by the flood have impacted our expenditures," she said.

First-quarter budget updates have been delivered in New Brunswick for several years but have been a relatively poor predictor of final results.   

Deficit projections alone following the first quarter have been off between $60 million and $270 million four times in the past five attempts where final audited numbers are available.

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