Wednesday, March 20, 2019

More details needed to assess budget

While the current government has stated it wants to be transparent and provide more details to the public, today’s budget announcement was lacking in those areas.
While some details were given, a lot of time was spent talking about balancing the budget and the modest surplus the government projects to achieve. What isn’t clear is how government will get there.
We know cuts will have to be made in order to achieve what Finance Minister Ernie Steeves and Premier Blaine Higgs want, but what cuts are coming, how deep they will go and the impact they will have on services and workers was not forthcoming.
What we do know is services have already been cut to the bone and the workload is at a dangerously high level for New Brunswickers working in both the public and private sectors.
Whatever cuts are coming will have an impact, it’s just a question of how much.
During his speech, Minister Steeves specifically addressed unions stating, “Mr. Speaker, to the unions who will be entering a new round of collective bargaining, our government wants to work with them. We recognize the rising cost of living in determining a fair and deserving level of compensation. We want to work with them to identify solutions to improve services, to adopt different ways of working, and to find efficiencies to help pay for well-deserved wage gains.”
In this case, actions speak louder than words. The province has gone to the courts several times in the past week to try and curtail the rights of nursing home workers who are looking to improve the level of care in nursing homes as well as receive better compensation.
As for “identifying solutions to improve services,” we have stated to this government and previous ones that our people have ideas for efficiencies and different ways to do things, but, unfortunately, successive governments are more eager to turn to expensive consultants to compile reports than speak with those working on the front lines.
We also recommend practising what you preach. Perhaps, be fiscally responsible in not taking what appears to be partisan political trips on the taxpayer’s tab such as Premier Higgs trip to Western Canada for a rally in which he endorsed the leader of the federal opposition for Prime Minister.
Another aspect is the court challenge to the carbon tax. Instead of the province paying legal fees to do this, why not let the proceedings in Ontario and Saskatchewan play out. The outcomes of those cases would likely have the same effect on New Brunswick with none of the costs.
So to Finance Minister Steeves and Premier Higgs, we’re willing to work with you, but that requires meaningful dialogue and a willingness to compromise not just on our part, but yours as well.