For the second year in a row, the projections of Finance Minister Ernie Steeves were woefully inaccurate. Instead of projected deficits, government coffers are showing surpluses totaling nearly a billion dollars over the past two years.
In a CBC article published on Feb. 16, it states:
The province had a $408 million surplus in the 2020-21 fiscal year and said this week it’s projecting a $487.8 million surplus for this year…..Last year’s final surplus figure represented an improvement of $316 million over the initial budget while this year’s projected surplus would be a $733 million turnaround.
In the media, the Higgs government has spoken about how this surplus could be the catalyst to cut taxes for landlords, but in the CBC article, Steeves makes it clear help for the average New Brunswicker is not on the way:
On Tuesday, Steeves said it was now too late in the fiscal year to use some of the newly enlarged surplus on programs to help New Brunswickers.
He said the government “quite frankly is not nimble enough” to come up with even one-time spending programs just six weeks before the end of the fiscal year.
The problem with the minister’s statement is the changes many groups have been pushing for, including the New Brunswick Union (NBU), are not quick fixes or one-time spending.
We’re advocating for changes to try and make our province a better place to live for all, not just those in the wealthiest tax brackets.
Despite mounting evidence, the changes put in place to help protect tenants from losing their apartments to predatory landlords aren’t working, however, the province will not entertain rent control measures. It will likely put more money in the pockets of those landlords who are gouging New Brunswickers or just hiking their rent to the point it is unaffordable and forcing tenants out.
Despite wanting to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the province has refused to legislate paid sick days for workers across the province. Many people have been forced to choose between staying home with potential symptoms or go to work in order to provide for their families.
We have thousands of vacancies in the health care sector, but no concrete plans for recruitment despite workers reporting high levels of burnout after being on the front lines of the pandemic for two years.
This government has an opportunity to make real change and help the people of New Brunswick without incurring massive debt. No one is asking the province to spend all of the surplus. We’re just asking for policies and changes that consider more than those at the top of the wealth bracket.
Susie Proulx-Daigle is the president of the New Brunswick Union.