The New Brunswick government is increasing targeted spending, and increasing its debt in the $9.4-billion 2017 budget tabled Tuesday.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The Fredericton Downtown Community Heath Centre will also get an extra $1.3 million in hopes of improving access to healthcare in the region.
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.
— With a file from The Canadian Press.