The Higgs government recently released the provincial budget for 2022-2023 and it has already come under heavy fire from official opposition.
Liberals criticized transparency and accountability points of the budget, claiming that Higgs is lowballing the expected surplus.
Liberal finance critic, Rob McKee, says the province is under-estimating the expected revenues and over-estimating the projected spend.
Green MLA for Fredericton, David Coon, says that this is because Higgs is obsessed with reducing the deficit.
“They present a budget showing little surplus but actually realize a large surplus.”
Coons says this causes services and other projects to be woefully underfunded. In particular, he feels that the province is majorly lacking in healthcare, affordable housing, and climate change action.
“We have an urgent need to transform these three areas. The Higgs government is pursuing incremental change and this is simply inadequate.” Coon called it, “a budget of small changes.”
Beginning with housing, Coon says the government needs to do more to provide financing for non-profit and cooperative housing. He proposes bringing back the New Brunswick Housing Corporation.
“We need to reactivate this Crown corporation which was originally established to ensure a good supply of affordable housing in the province.”
As for healthcare, Coon says the lack of primary care in New Brunswick is alarming.
Many people in the province lack a family doctor and of those that do, most cannot get to them in a timely manner. For Coon, this needs urgent attention.
Beyond that, the hospital system is seriously lacking in its ability to serve patients efficiently.
“We need to fund nurse practitioners to work alongside physicians in a collaborative team effort to improve the efficiency of the system.”
Coon feels this collaborative effort would improve the efficiency of the system. “The fundamental problem with the hospital system is that it is managed in a centralized, top-down way. People on the front lines are not empowered to act.”
Finally, Coon wants public health funding in an even more proactive approach. “We have a very unhealthy population with chronic illnesses. New Brunswick needs a serious focus on health promotion and prevention. Public Health should be empowered to do this work.”
Coon’s last pillar for the budget comes as no surprise. On climate change, Coon says New Brunswick needs to give people the power to reduce their carbon footprint.
For example, Coon says that New Brunswick should provide 0% financing for someone on a modest income to replace their oil furnace with a central heat pump.
“We know these provide long-term savings, but require a large upfront expenditure. Providing low cost financing would allow someone on a moderate income to make the replacement and repay the loan out of their energy savings each month.”
Coon feels this is a no-brainer and loans like these could be easily provided with the excess surplus money.
Finally, Coon says the carbon tax should be allocated to actually reducing emissions. Currently, only 17% of the carbon tax is utilized in this way. He says carbon taxes are best used to support things that individuals can do on the ground to reduce their carbon footprint.