Despite the province touting a $35 million reduction in the projected deficit, the official New Brunswick opposition is calling it a failure to address the true issue.
When the budget was released the deficit was estimated at $191 million.
An increase of $10 million in revenue along with $25 million less than projected for expenditures has dropped the figure to $156 million.
Opposition MLA Brian Macdonald says a lower deficit is still a deficit and doesn’t tackle the true problem facing the province.
“They haven’t paid down the debt one nickel, not a cent,” he said. “They’re adding to the debt.”
But the government disagrees.
“What this shows us is that our plan is working and we have no intention of moving away from this plan,” said finance minister Cathy Rogers.
“This is good news.”
Miscellaneous revenue climbed to $16.7 million with recoveries related to the harmonized sales tax being cited as a main contributor.
The province increased taxes by two per cent as of July 1, 2016.
Still, Rogers is quick to point to a variety of avenues for the gains.
“We’re seeing economic growth, we’re seeing retail sales up, we’re seeing employment up,” she explained.
The official opposition doesn’t think a celebration is in order just yet.
The provincial net debt — the total amount owed by the province — is expected to reach $14.3 billion by March 31, 2018, after increasing by a newly projected $325.6 million.
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Macdonald questions the need for spending beyond revenue when the province is already in arrears to the tune of billions.
“They’re both taxing which means there’s less money in the pockets of New Brunswickers and they’re adding to the debt which means the same New Brunswickers that just got taxed are going to have to pay for that debt later,” he said. “If they were taking that money and putting it on the debt I might feel differently.”
Rogers maintains her government is sticking to a plan they’ve had in place since taking office which will balance the budget by 2020-2021, and that after eliminating the deficit, the debt will follow.
“The best way to begin attacking our net debt is to get to a balanced budget and we’re very focused on doing this,” she explained. “Once we get to a balanced budget, I look forward as well with the rest of New Brunswickers in attacking the net debt.”