(Fredericton, NB) – Earlier this summer, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce provided each of New Brunswick’s five registered political parties with its seven “Questions That Count” for the 2014 provincial election. Today the chamber is releasing the seventh and final question, which focuses on the province’s crisis-‐level debt and deficit situation and asks the parties about their plans for reducing this burden should they form the next government.
“It’s no secret that the New Brunswick economy has been slumping for several years now and our provincial debt has grown substantially,” said Krista Ross, chamber CEO. “Whichever party forms the next government will be faced with financial circumstances that will hang over every decision they make – not only financially, but also socially. Of course, the business community is keenly aware of the situation as it affects them on a daily basis, but more broadly, citizens of the province must be aware that tough decisions need to be made by government in order to maintain our socioeconomic way of life.”
Related, on September 10, 2014 the chamber is hosting Richard Saillant, author of Over the Cliff? Acting Now to Avoid New Brunswick’s Bankruptcy for a morning presentation. This event is open to both chamber members and the general public. More information is available on our website at www.frederictonchamber.ca.
Questions That Count for the 2014 New Brunswick Election
Given the dire debt and deficit situation New Brunswick is in, what steps will your party take to resolve the financial crisis?
Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
A Progressive Conservative Government lead by David Alward will continue to tackle the provinces finances head-‐on until the books are balanced. We must be realistic about what our needs and wants are as a province and we must take immediate action to grow our economy. The Alward government has tabled a plan to eliminate the deficit and has taken action to ensure the savings found today are still there tomorrow for future generations. Additionally, a Progressive Conservative government realizes that part of our challenge as a province is a revenue problem. To increase revenue the government must find new sources of income. A David Alward government is committed to responsible natural resource development and our energy sector. Both of these key industries could drastically change the provinces financial future and David Alward and the Progressive Conservative Party are committed to that plan.
New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
A Liberal government will make the financial situation a priority. We believe it is essential to get our fiscal house in order. Our overall approach to governing will always look to decrease costs and increase revenues. On the revenue side will look to direct all government departments to work with stakeholders to create jobs and increase exports. We will focus our business attraction efforts on promoting the value of doing business in New Brunswick and focus on high-‐growth sectors, including the ICT sector. We will focus on making New Brunswick more start-‐up friendly to encourage new entrepreneurs. On reducing costs we believe there is great benefit in implementing greater cost-‐sharing initiatives with our neighboring Atlantic provinces. Similarly in province we will look to share costs between departments and eliminate duplication. Technology can also help reduce costs throughout government. We will look to cut political costs by ensuring new hires are on merit alone, reducing the size of cabinet and eliminating things such as special pensions. We will also continue down the path of continuous improvement with the implementation of programs such as lean six sigma.
We have also proposed a comprehensive, strategic program review, similar to what was done in the Government of Canada in the 1990’s. To date, the provincial government has mandated that departments find a certain percentage of savings each year. This is not a productive way to either control spending or manage government resources. No individual business would approach controlling its finances by making even cuts to every aspect of its operations; what makes sense is to do a thorough evaluation of each spending item, reduce some items, cut others entirely, and invest more in areas where there will be significant benefits. That will be our approach to reviewing government finances and finding efficiencies. That will be the best way to control our spending, find efficiencies, and control the spending in our government’s operations. This, combined with strategic, long-‐term planning and investments in our priorities, such as education, training and literacy, is the best way for us to deal with our challenges and to start moving New Brunswick forward.
New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
Fiscal responsibility is a fundamental value for the NDP, and we regard tax dollars, and their sensible use, as a sacred trust. Failing to get our deficit and debt under control only results in more tax dollars going to debt servicing rather than going to what government ought to be focusing on, namely education, healthcare, and infrastructure. In the service of this aim, the NDP has already made several detailed proposals for fighting the deficit and debt.
In response to the 2014-‐15 budget, the NDP proposed $213 million in annual spending cuts that would result from measures such as eliminating corporate welfare and reducing the size of cabinet from 17 to 10. On the debt, the NDP has proposed converting 49% of the annual earnings of NB Liquor into an Income Trust, which would raise $1.1 billion that would be put directly onto the debt. This would reduce our annual debt interest payments by at least $60 million with a revenue neutral impact on our annual revenue stream, while providing a safe and profitable investment opportunity for New Brunswickers. Further details of deficit-‐fighting measures will be introduced with the release of the NDP’s full platform. Details on the two aforementioned policies can be found here:
Green Party of New Brunswick response:
Our structural deficit was precipitated by the individual and corporate tax cuts initiated by the former Liberal government. We have a serious revenue problem, so the Green Party would take steps to address the province's revenues. Our inquiry into New Brunswick's tax system would generate recommendations to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes. However, we would end the policy of tax competition with other jurisdictions and ensure our corporate taxes are equivalent to those charged in the rest of the Maritimes. The Green Party would renegotiate the HST agreement with Ottawa to provide the flexibility to reduce the HST on essentials and raise it on other products and services. We would toll the highways for trucks at the borders of New Brunswick
Our policies to be released with our platform concerning health, education and social development will produce tremendous cost savings by helping to create a healthier, more educated and secure population. For too long, governments have engaged in the false economy of avoiding strategic investments in health, education and social well-‐being, while accepting the increased health care, social assistance, law enforcement and correction costs that are reaped by this neglect.
People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
- Spurring economic growth through small-‐mid size business and innovation;
- Getting more from our natural resources, encourage value added in NB;
- Eliminate costly duality wherever possible;
- Reduce the civil service through attrition;
- Get more from our crown corporations, such as NB Liquor by completely privatizing the retail side;
- Shrink the size of government, by merging areas that make sense. Examples being Invest NB into Economic development, Efficiency NB into NB Power.
With more than 900 members, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest chambers of commerce. A dynamic business organization, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is actively engaged in policy development that affects the competitiveness of our members and of the Canadian business environment.
Krista Ross, CEO, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce – (506) 458-‐8006