New Brunswick forecasts $391M deficit in final budget before election

FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick government has tabled its final budget before the September election, forecasting a deficit of $391 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The $8.4-billion fiscal plan calls for a three per cent increase in social assistance rates that will take effect in April.

It also projects the debt to rise to $12.2 billion.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs also revealed details of the province’s new catastrophic drug plan, which allocates $27 million to the initiative in the next year.

Higgs says he expects a surplus of $119 million for 2017-18.

Liberal Opposition Leader Brian Gallant says he’s skeptical of the figures.

Gallant says that’s because the government has consistently overestimated revenues and underestimated expenses.

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WATCH: Opposition reaction to the budget. Emily Barron Cadloff reports.

The government also released a $555-million capital budget, but only $35 million of that is set aside for new projects.

Higgs says the government will also introduce fiscal accountability legislation requiring the auditor general to report on the government’s finances 60 days in advance of each fixed election date.

The budget is the government’s last before an election set for Sept. 22.

Budget highlights include:

  • A projected deficit of $391 million in a $8.4-billion spending program.
  • Net debt is expected to increase by $530.7 million to reach $12.2 billion by March 2015 – that’s $16,136 for every man, woman and child in the province.
  • The government is forecasting a balanced budget by 2017-18.
  • $27 million will be spent on the New Brunswick Drug Plan to cover 70,000 families who currently have no drug coverage.
  • $555 million capital budget with only $35 million for new projects and the rest to maintain existing infrastructure.
  • No increases to income, gas or consumption taxes in 2014-15.