Waiting for the live steam from the New Brunswick legislature to begin. Thanks for the patience.
The New Brunswick government tables an $8.2-billion
budget with a $183-million deficit forecast for 2012-13 and a
provincial debt expected to hit $10.8 billion by the end of March
(The Canadian Press)
Highlights of the New Brunswick spring budget
- A deficit of $182.9 million is projected in an $8.2 billion
- Net debt expected to reach $10.8 billion by March 2013, an
increase of $738.9 million.
- The public service will be reduced by 4,500 jobs through
attrition over the next three years for an estimated savings of more
than $86 million.
- The government will sell Crown assets valued at about $10
million this year, and will look at selling the government airplane
and review policies for government vehicles.
- The biggest slice of the budget goes to the Health Department
at almost $2.6 billion, an increase of $41 million.
(The Canadian Press)
The New Brunswick government is continuing to slash
spending in an effort to return to balanced budgets in time for the
next election in 2014.
The $8.2-billion budget for 2012-13 includes a $183 million
deficit, down from the $449 million shortfall recorded for the
budget year ending March 31.
But the budget is forecasting the net debt to hit $10.8 billion
by the end of March 2013.
The government will reduce the number of public sector jobs by
1,500 by attrition for each of the next three years, saving about
$86 million annually by 2014-15.
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says the government will spend an
extra $6.4 million this year in salaries to address pay equity.
There's no change in personal income taxes, but the tax on buying
a home doubles to 0.5 per cent on June 1, which is expected to
generate another $7 million a year.
The government is planning to sell $10 million in government
assets this year, and will look at selling the government airplane.
Higgs says the government will also bring in a new royalty
structure to ensure it receives its fair share of profits from the
development of natural resources, such as natural gas.
(The Canadian Press)
N.B. Finance Minister Blaine Higgs: This government believes that responsible management of the province’s finances is paramount.
But within this context, we must provide the environment for sustainably growing the economy to create and maintain high-quality jobs across the province.
We must also strive to instill a culture of healthy, growing communities and an enhanced quality of life for all New Brunswickers. These are our priorities as a government
It is critical that we strategically plan revenues and spending not only for 2012-2013, but over a multi-year horizon.
As our actions clearly demonstrate, we are putting the future of the province
and an enhanced quality of life for New Brunswickers and their families first, while living within our means.
Government will introduce new priority commitment investments of approximately $105 million
in 2012-2013. These strategic investments include:
$10.3 million for affordable housing;
$10 million for Invest NB to foster economic growth;
$9.8 million for nursing home renovation and replacements;
$6.4 million for pay equity;
$5 million in primary health care investments;
$3.6 million for Early Learning and Childcare to increase the number of childcare spaces,
enhance childcare affordability for low income families and enhance the childcare
subsidies for New Brunswick families;
$3 million for special care homes;
7$2.5 million for inclusive education;
$2.5 million for immigrant funding;
$2.5 million for Elementary Literacy;
$2 million to foster innovation;
$1.2 million toward 231 new seats at the New Brunswick Community College and the
Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick;
$1 million for the coordination and strategic development of downtowns and business
$1 million for the Digital Media Development Program;
$808,000 for the enhancement of the Wellness Strategy; and
$668,000 for the NB Sports Plan.
Taken together, the combination of diligence in spending decisions, priority commitments, cost and efficiency savings through Government Renewal and increased revenue has served to lower the projected deficit for 2012-2013 to $182.9 million.
Mr. Speaker, the process for developing the estimates for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 will be similar. Spending in these budgets will provide for a limited amount of growth in specific areas related to essential services, as well as contribute to new priority initiatives of government. We are confident of higher revenue from economic growth and that Government Renewal will continue to provide efficiency gains, and improved business practices will lessen the potential for any increases in taxes.
Government Renewal is not a one-year process. The continuous improvement road never ends. It is about changing the culture of government to one focused on core services, accountability through performance measures and indicators of success, and instituting effective business practices and continuous performance improvement. The initiatives for 2012-2013 in today's budget that I will outline this afternoon are only part of the process. Over the next several years, we will be examining many other programs and services of government for relevance to the needs of New Brunswickers and to providing more affordable solutions to program delivery. I would like to tell you about some of the initiatives we are planning to examine in the near future.
In the area of duplication of services, we have determined that there are benefits to further consolidating enforcement and inspection services across the government, and the departments most heavily involved in these services are developing a reasonable implementation plan for moving towards more consolidation over the next couple of years.
The Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Local Government are cooperating on a realignment of duties in relation to the regulation of drinking water 8management so that there is less duplication of effort and less confusion to system owners while still ensuring drinking water safety.
In the education field, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will work with the school districts and our communities to explore the utilization of our schools.
Many of our schools are not full to capacity, and we will explore creative uses of that space, based on community need and capacity.
The Department has also identified other areas where efficiencies can be found, such as innovative approaches to student transportation, ways to effectively manage absenteeism, and innovative approaches to professional development that deliver training on-line or reduce significantly the time teachers have to leave their classroom.
For seniors, a "Home First" initiative is looking at what can be done to encourage and assist seniors to stay in their own homes as long as possible instead of moving into a special care or nursing home.
We hope that this initiative will lead to more than $5 million in annual operating savings and reduce the need for spending on new long-term care facilities. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is undergoing Government Renewal initiatives to achieve operational efficiencies and cost savings in district management activities and at the Vehicle Management Agency.
The goal is to streamline and optimize operations, while maintaining or improving the level of service. Mr. Speaker, I am confident as we examine these and other areas for process improvements, we will also find other opportunities to provide better, more affordable and efficient services to New Brunswickers.
Higgs on Economic Growth:
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to provide an update on the New Brunswick economy. While the provincial economy is facing challenges, there are also a number of positive developments.
The Department of Finance estimates the provincial economy grew at a 1.2 per cent rate in 2011, slightly below the projection at budget last year as continued turmoil in international financial markets impacted global economies.
Moderate growth in labour income in spite of a weak performance in employment supported stronger levels of consumer spending in the province.
The province's labour force experienced a difficult year in 2011 as gains in part-time jobs were not enough to offset full-time losses. Overall employment declined 4,100 on an annual basis, but trended upward in the final quarter of the year.
Exports increased 17 per cent in value terms in 2011 based on increased foreign shipments and prices of petroleum products, fertilizers and food products. Public and private investment levels declined in 2011, acting as a drag on economic growth.
Economic growth will continue to be modest in 2012 with the Department of Finance projecting an increase of 1.3 per cent, consistent with estimates from the private sector financial community.
Reduced levels of public sector capital spending along with the absence of any new major projects in the private sector will limit the contribution of capital investment to economic growth. As well, fiscal consolidation at all levels of government will serve to weaken overall economic growth. An improvement in the labour force will support continued consumer spending.
A modest increase in the United States housing activity should bode well for exporters of forest products while demand for energy products should increase foreign shipments of petroleum and natural gas commodities.
The utilities sector should report strong growth in 2012 with the return to production of the Point Lepreau nuclear station in the latter half of the year, reducing the province's need to import replacement power. Looking ahead to 2013, a stronger overall North American economy is expected to lead to economic growth of 2.1 per cent for New Brunswick.