Victor Boudreau pushing to save $600M in program review
Taxpayers warned that New Brunswick is 'on the edge of a fiscal crisis'
The Liberal government is looking to save upwards of $600 million by cutting programs and raising revenues, according to a new government document.
Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the strategic program review, released a six-page discussion document that detailed the provincial government’s financial woes.
He also announced a 14-community tour where he will seek public input on potential areas to cut or how to raise additional government revenue.
Boudreau said in the report that significant changes will need to be made in order to reach the government’s financial targets.
“A cultural shift in New Brunswick is required. We can’t keep doing things the way we have been doing them and expect different results,” Boudreau said.
“We are on the edge of a fiscal crisis and unless there is a genuine transformation, things will not improve. The role of government in society must be realigned to ensure that the focus is on priorities.”
Boudreau reiterated statements that both he and Premier Brian Gallant have made when talking about budget decisions, by saying it was time to “rethink how government works.”
Earlier this week, Boudreau announced that Michael Horgan, a retired federal finance official, would lead the strategic program review’s advisory council. Horton was involved in earlier strategic program reviews with the federal government.
He said on Tuesday that cutting five per cent of the provincial budget would be both tough, but doable.
In the discussion document, the provincial government is asking citizens to come prepared to discuss three questions:
- What does a thriving New Brunswick look like to you 10 years from now?
- Thinking of all of the things government spends money on to provide the residents of New Brunswick with services, what are three things that you think government could stop doing to save money?
- With all of the financial challenges facing our province, what three things do you think government could do to raise money?
The Liberals promised the program review during the election campaign. The initial estimate would be to find $250 million starting in the 2016-17 budget.
Boudreau said on Tuesday that the structural deficit facing the provincial government was $400 million. Now, the target is between $500 million and $600 million.
In November, Finance Minister Roger Melanson released the first quarterly update under the Liberal government. That financial statement projected a deficit of $377.2 million for 2014-15.
The string of deficits has contributed to the soaring provincial debt, which will stand at roughly $12.2 billion by March 31. Each New Brunswicker's share of the net debt is now $16,121, up 78 per cent from the $9,071 in 2006-07.
The 14 public consultation meetings, which will be held as a part of the strategic program review, will be on:
- Jan. 26: Pont-Landry
- Jan. 27: Balmoral
- Jan. 29: Saint-Léonard
- Jan. 31: Miramichi
- Feb. 2: Moncton
- Feb. 4: Minto
- Feb. 7: Rexton
- Feb. 9: Bathurst
- Feb. 10: Fredericton
- Feb. 12: Saint John
- Feb. 14: Sackville
- Feb. 16: St. Andrews
- Feb. 18: Florenceville-Bristol
- Feb. 21: Norton