The New Brunswick government is reporting a massive reduction in the 2016-2017 deficit thanks to over $100 million in added revenue and nearly $24 million in expense reduction.
Finance Minister Cathy Rogers announced the province’s year-end financials in Fredericton on Thursday morning.
The report shows the deficit for the year ending March 31 was $119 million, a drop of $127 million from the budgeted deficit of $246 million.
“We have said from day one that we have a fiscal plan laid out: we wanted to take a balanced approach,” Rogers said. “And we have been very good at meeting or exceeding our targets.”
“If we can, we will exceed these targets, we said this all along,” she said.
Although the deficit has been reduced, the net debt continued to grow in the fiscal year. It ended the period at $13.8 billion, an increase of $167 million.
Though the number is rising, Rogers maintains it’s moving in a positive direction, also beating its projection by $209 million.
“It’s going up… to a way lower degree than we had forecast,” she said. “So it’s costing us less to service the debt and that’s the good news.”
“It’s not increasing as fast as we had budgeted but we know, as long as we have a deficit, we will have increases in the debt.”
“I don’t think you’ll see a lot of people lining up and cheering this particular announcement,” said Bruce Fitch, finance critic for the Official Opposition.
“I think when some of the New Brunswickers look in their pockets and see this government has taken about $170 million more out of their pockets, they’re not going to be too happy.”
Fitch says the province is reporting positive results but the numbers aren’t the result of wise planning but rather good timing.
“A couple of the other revenue streams are coming from the feds on some transfer payments such as disaster relief,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to pat yourself on the back and say, ‘look how well we’re doing’ when again, some of this money is coming from the feds.”
Rogers indicated she will soon begin pre-budget consultations throughout the province in advance of drafting the next budget which will be released early 2018.