FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government tabled a $10.2-billion budget Tuesday that projects a $129.3 million reduction in the province’s net debt.
Finance Minister Ernie Steeves presented the fiscal plan as the Opposition Liberals promised to vote against it in a bid to topple the minority Progressive Conservative government.
The leaders of the Green and People’s Alliance parties have said they want to see the budget details before deciding how they’ll vote.
The current standings in the provincial legislature are 20 Tories, 20 Liberals, three Greens, three People’s Alliance members, one Independent and two vacancies.
Steeves said it’s a good budget that lowers debt and puts money back in the pockets of New Brunswickers.
“This budget is designed to continue on our path to save New Brunswick, not to save government,” Steeves said.
“By maintaining fiscal discipline, we can improve and deliver high-quality public services, reduce our debt and return some hard-earned dollars to New Brunswickers where it rightly belongs,” he said.
The net debt is expected to drop to $13.7 billion by the end of March 2021 — or about $17,611 for every man, woman and child in the province.
Servicing the debt is the sixth largest budget item.
Among the budget’s highlights, health spending will increase to a record $2.9 billion, which includes new money for hiring nurse practitioners for emergency rooms and clinics across the province.
Steeves said $1.5 million will be added to the province’s vaccination program, which will allow all New Brunswickers to have access to free flu shots. An immunization registry will also be launched.
Gas taxes are set to decrease by 4.63 cents per litre, effective April 1, as part of the New Brunswick carbon plan. The plan is contingent on legislation passing in the legislature prior to April 1.
Social assistance rates will increase for the first time since 2014. The rate for a single adult will increase to $564 per month from $537. The rate will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index.
There will be no increase to the so-called sin tax on alcohol.
Taxes on commercial and residential rental properties will be reduced, but not until the 2021 tax year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.
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