December 6, 2018 11:44 am

New Brunswick’s new finance minister takes aim at reducing province’s net debt

New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA Ernie Steeves, right, is sworn in as Minister of Finance, and President of the Treasury Board at the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

The Canadian Press/James West
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New Brunswick’s new finance minister says that while the province’s finances are improving, there needs to be a change in focus to start reducing the net debt.

Ernie Steeves released the second quarter financial results for 2018-2019 on Thursday – his first since the Tory minority government took power last month.

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He said the projected debt of $14.3 billion has almost doubled in the past decade, and warned that the province’s credit rating is at risk of being downgraded unless spending decisions change.

“The spending decisions we make now will impact our children and our grandchildren. They deserve a legacy of financial security,” Steeves said.

The Dominion Bond Rating Service downgraded the province’s outlook from a stable to negative trend in February, while maintaining the rating of A (high).

Steeves said the previous Liberal government was overspending, but that will change starting with the capital budget to be released next week.

He said rather than a shopping list of promises, the capital budget will focus on maintaining the infrastructure now in place.

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Steeves said all departments have been asked to look for efficiencies as the government begins to prepare next year’s main budget.

“We’ve got to really focus on what’s important and what’s going to deliver value for New Brunswickers,” Steeves said.

The Tories have vowed to present a balanced budget by 2020, but Steeves said he’s hoping to be able to do it next year.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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