Highlights from New Brunswick budget 2017: more spending, more debt

Click to play video: 'Increases to education, healthcare highlights of New Brunswick budget' Increases to education, healthcare highlights of New Brunswick budget
WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick finance minister Cathy Roggers unveiled increases to education and healthcare along with significant investments in tourism and daycare programs as part of the 2017 budget. Global's Adrienne South has the details – Feb 7, 2017

The New Brunswick government is increasing targeted spending, and increasing its debt in the $9.4-billion 2017 budget tabled Tuesday.

READ MORE: New Brunswick budget to provide targeted spending as debt worries grow

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers tabled her first budget, the third for the Liberal government, announcing the total provincial debt is now at $14.4 billion — a sharp increase from $1 billion last year.

There’s also a projected deficit of $192 million added to the total.

Here are some highlights from the 2017 budget:

Education spending

The education budget is growing by $56 million this year, in support of the government’s 10-year plan.

The Department of Early Childhood Education Development’s budget is getting a 4.9 per cent boost, the largest since 2008, the government says.

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Daycare costs for New Brunswickers will also see some relief, as the budget for the daycare assistance program is set to double next January. In addition, $2.4 million is being invested into the preschool autism intervention programs.

Money will be set aside to offer tuition relief for middle class students as part of a $45 million investment in publicly-funded universities in the province.

READ MORE: Literacy levels in New Brunswick middle schools not making the grade

The government also plans to release a comprehensive literacy strategy, aimed at improving literacy in both adults and children, which a $7 million yearly investment will be allocated to.

Healthcare services see increase

Thanks to a deal with the federal government, the Department of Health will see a 3.3 per cent increase in its budget this year, giving the department a total budget of $2.657 billion for the 2017-2018 year.

Rogers said the agreement with the federal government will help secure an estimated $230 million over 10 years to be dedicated to mental healthcare initiatives and homecare support. The minister said legislation will be introduced to de-institutionalize mental healthcare in New Brunswick, and establish community support orders.

READ MORE: New Brunswick health network hears from public on patient experience

The Fredericton Downtown Community Heath Centre will also get an extra $1.3 million in hopes of improving access to healthcare in the region.

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Saint John Regional Hospital, which just received a $90 million investment from the province for its ICU and surgical and oncology units, is getting a $4 million investment for its Heart Centre.

Improvements to nursing homes are also in the works, with $58 million promised over three years.

Provincial business changes

Small businesses will see a slight decrease in their provincial taxes, from 3.5 to three per cent starting in April. The government says it’s committed to bringing the rate down to 2.5 per cent, as was promised in their mandate.

Aimed at growing, establishing and promoting small businesses in the province, the government announced the creation of the Agile Business Services Initiative.

A $50,000 local food and beverage strategy will also be created to boost the bio economy across New Brunswick.

It’s hoped provincial tourism will get a boost, with the creation of a tourism strategy and an increase of 17.6 per cent to the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture budget.

The government has also allocated $2 million to help stop the threat of the spruce budworm, a pest that causes major issues in New Brunswick forests.

WATCH: Lack of detail around 2017 New Brunswick budget raising questions with stakeholders
Click to play video: 'Lack of detail around 2017 New Brunswick budget raising questions with stakeholders' Lack of detail around 2017 New Brunswick budget raising questions with stakeholders
Lack of detail around 2017 New Brunswick budget raising questions with stakeholders – Feb 7, 2017

— With a file from The Canadian Press. 


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