N.B. government to unveil final pre-election budget Tuesday

FREDERICTON – David Alward’s government will unveil its upcoming budget Tuesday, but New Brunswickers are not expecting much spending despite a looming provincial election.

New Brunswick’s projected deficit for 2013-14 is $538 million, adding to a net debt of more than $11 billion.

The numbers are high, despite Alward freezing the province’s health care budget last year, which broke a promise he made for the 2010 election.

The Conversative government had originally committed a minimum annual increase of three per cent for health care before the freeze. The union representing workers in the industry is hoping history won’t repeat itself tomorrow.

“I guess our biggest concern now is that they’ve cut back to the very minimum and we’re concerned now that we’re going to see closures of ER rooms, operating rooms or even community health centers,” said Ralph McBride, the provincial co-ordinator for CUPE local 1252.

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McBride says about 1,000 health care jobs have been cut in the past two years. He’d like to see the health care budget increase by the three per cent in order to “stabilize” the system.

But the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation says the government has to make some dramatic cutbacks in order to get its spiraling debt under control.

Kevin Lacey, the group’s Atlantic Canadian director, says he will be looking for the province to only spend what money it can collect.

“If you’re look at the last five years, spending has gone up by a billion dollars, yet I’m unable to find anyone who believes we’re getting a billion dollars worth of better health care, education or services,” he said.

New Brunswick’s provincial election is scheduled to be held on Sept. 22.