Brian Gallant ponders tough choices as New Brunswick budget nears
The New Brunswick government has released another list of tough decisions facing leader Brian Gallant and the Liberal Party as next month’s budget looms.
Premier Brian Gallant was in Saint John on Monday to participate in a summit aimed at reducing poverty.
The latest targets for cuts Gallant might consider in the budget are education and health care.
The ongoing Strategic Program Review has produced suggestions ranging from reducing the number of teachers and educational assistants to closing as many as 10 hospitals or converting them to community health centres.
The Charlotte County Hospital is often named as one of the possible locations facing the change. A citizens group from the area is suggesting that cuts to education and health care aren’t the way to fix the province’s finances — the easier fix, it says, is to look within.
“We have the highest number of bureaucrats in the country,” said Trudy Higgins of Concerned Citizens of Charlotte County. “The statistics across Canada are 17 per cent and in New Brunswick it’s 31 per cent of people employed with government.”
Rightsizing government is one area the province is examining as it attempts to cut into a large deficit with its Feb. 2 budget. Other possible measures include introducing highway tolls and raising the harmonized sales tax.
Gallant took time to address the Strategic Program Review on Monday and hinted at an area he’s not looking to cut.
“I can tell you unless I hear something completely different than what I’ve been hearing over the last few weeks and months, your government will be protecting health care and education in our next budget,” he said.
Although some feel an increase to the HST is all but a certainty, Gallant did not commit to it outright.
“There’s five or six large choices in which we have to make two or three of them,” he said. “Now we, as a government, want to protect health care and education meaning there’s no doubt that we have to look at some of the other choices that are in that report.”
The final group of public dialogue sessions before the budget is announced gets underway this week, with the final session being held in Bathurst on Jan. 21.
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