New Brunswick business community surprised by Higgs's deficit-free promise
Economic council CEO welcomes the PC government's commitment to tackling the province's deficit
The province's business community was stunned to learn this week, that New Brunswick's PC government wiped away a projected $131-million deficit in the current 2018-19 fiscal year.
Premier Blaine Higgs made the announcement Thursday evening during his first State of the Province speech at a dinner hosted by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
"It's challenging for any new government as they come in," said Krista Ross, the chief executive officer of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
But Ross said they support initiatives government is focusing on to help build business.
"Whether it be, you know, natural resource development, or changes to taxation — just an environment in which business can grow and prosper," she said.
With only two months remaining in the fiscal year, Higgs also noted in his speech that the upcoming 2019-20 budget will be balanced.
But the latest state of the province address didn't sit as well with New Brunswick's Liberal party.
"This is basically our budget that is being balanced, and he's [Higgs] balancing on cutbacks," said Liberal MLA Guy Arseneault following the speech.
"He's cutting back on hospitals, he's cutting back on healthcare, he's cutting back on infrastructure and we [Liberals] invested in those three and declared a surplus."
Deficit wiped out sooner than expected
During last year's election campaign, Higgs said his government would deliver a balanced budget by 2020-2021.
He said the books could be balanced earlier than expected because the deficit was inflated under the previous Liberal government.
"The government chose to dump expenses into the year of the election, inflate it so they can make it look like it's coming down later," Higgs told reporters after his speech.
"We're just not out spending it — we're saying can we balance this year? And the department is telling me we can do it, and I believe in their ability to do it."
Thomas Raffy, president and chief executive officer of the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc., said there's hope in what the premier promised in his speech, but he said details are yet to be seen.
"At this stage it's good to see that the government is tackling the debt and trying to balance the budget," he said.
Raffy said he's waiting to see how Higgs's plans will be laid out during next month's budget.
"We have to wait until March 19 to see how it will be balanced," he said.