Stakeholders offer mixed reviews of New Brunswick’s budget

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick budget reaction' New Brunswick budget reaction
WATCH: In the wake of New Brunswick’s budget announcement, reaction is coming in from across the province. Who is happy with the numbers? Who is feeling left out? Travis Fortnum takes a look. – Mar 23, 2022

When New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves teased the province’s 2022-23 budget, he said it would have “something for every New Brunswicker”.

Stakeholders say, while that may be true, there are gaps.

“Touching on everybody is one thing, but actually having robust planning and actionable items? I think that’s what’s missing,” says New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) president Paula Doucet.

Doucet says, despite this budget offering up the biggest increase in health-care spending the province has seen in over a decade, the NBNU can’t give it a passing grade.

The budget allocates 6.4 per cent more to the Department of Health — adding about $194 million.

Doucet questions the lack of specifics around needs like recruitment and retention in the field — something the NBNU has been sounding alarm bells over for a while now.

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“I think there was a few failing grades I could potentially give this budget.”

Read more: New Brunswick tables $11B budget with small surplus and tax relief

Representatives from the nurses union were not thoroughly consulted in the drafting of the 2022-23 budget, Doucet tells Global News, though they have been in the past.

Typically, stakeholders are invited to go over the budget the morning of its release and ask questions.

Doucet says the nurses union didn’t get that invite until the last minute.

“I’m a stakeholder that represents 9,000 licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners in this province — the bulk of the health-care workers. To get an invitation at 6:45 on the day of was really inappropriate,” says Doucet.

The issue of recruitment and retention was flagged by Doucet, something other stakeholders had hoped to see addressed further as well.

CUPE New Brunswick president Stephen Drost says that doesn’t serve the province well.

“We have a critical issue with recruitment and retention in public services,” he says.

“We haven’t invested enough in public services.”

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Drost says he does give the 2022-23 budget a passing grade, but barely.

He says more focus on bolstering public services would help increase the province’s population — something Steeves identified as a key priority.

Presenting the budget in the Legislative Assembly Tuesday, Steeves highlighted public sector wages going up.

However, Drost points out the sweeping strikes last fall to push the government to do just that.

“They put those workers out on the streets to try and get a reasonable wage,” says Drost.

Read more: New Brunswick stakeholders welcome border changes

One industry overwhelmingly pleased with Tuesday’s numbers was tourism.

The Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB) gives the budget a 9/10.

The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture is seeing its budget boosted 26 per cent, with 47 per cent more tourism-specific spending than last year.

“We were expecting an increase, but not that great of an increase,” says TIANB president and CEO Carol Alderdice.

She says the additional funding will be a saving grace for an industry hit hard through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Overall, the province plans to spend 5.5 per cent more over the next fiscal year.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick budget gets mixed reaction from Opposition parties' New Brunswick budget gets mixed reaction from Opposition parties
New Brunswick budget gets mixed reaction from Opposition parties – Mar 22, 2022

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