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A taxpayer wish list for New Brunswick

November 16, 2018
A taxpayer wish list for New Brunswick

This column was published in the Telegraph-Journal on November 16, 2018.

  1. Join the court battle against Ottawa’s carbon tax

Premier Higgs committed during the election to join the court battle against the carbon tax alongside Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba. Having already hit its 2030 emissions reductions targets, New Brunswick submitted a carbon tax plan to Ottawa, renaming a portion of its existing gas tax. Ottawa rejected New Brunswick’s plan and imposed a carbon tax anyway – but accepted a nearly identical plan from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The carbon tax is unevenly applied and reducing emissions evidently counts for nothing in Ottawa’s incoherent decision-making. The case will be heard this winter, so New Brunswick should join now.

  1. Reduce spending and balance the budget

Public officials are openly commenting on what could happen if New Brunswick defaults on its debt. Credit rating agencies are waving red flags over the hundreds of millions in annual debt interest payments. Higgs acknowledged the problem, but spending cuts are needed to turn this tide.

When former Saskatchewan NDP Premier Roy Romanow took power in 1991, that province was on the verge of bankruptcy. Romanow made what he called “a lot of tough decisions.” He cut program spending by 10 per cent, closed 52 rural hospitals, cut the number of government employees and capped government wages. Take note, Premier Higgs: Romanow was then re-elected. Twice. He delivered seven balanced budgets and paid down billions in provincial debt.

The New Brunswick PC platform promised to “manage the growth in government,” without anyone losing their job. That is simply not realistic if Higgs wants to take the province off life support. Higgs should direct every department to find savings of 10 per cent. That probably means scaling back government employee salaries and bureaucratic positions, but it will make services more sustainable.

The PCs laudably committed to eliminating government waste. They can start with the double bureaucracy for language duplication, and consider selling NB Liquor and NB Cannabis (which will have the added benefit of not spending tax dollars teaching smokers how to roll a joint).

  1. Create an open and competitive economy

The PCs committed to attracting investment without tax dollars and scaling back regulations, red tape and taxes so New Brunswick is more competitive. Bravo.

Premier Higgs can begin by eliminating Opportunities New Brunswick, because real opportunities don’t come from a government corporate welfare agency spending money that’s been taken from mom and pop shops. Once spending is controlled, cut taxes to help
New Brunswickers create jobs in their communities.

  1. Tap into New Brunswick’s natural resources

The effective ban on hydraulic fracturing brought a once-viable industry to a halt. Meanwhile, New Brusnwickers have continued to travel west to work on safe fracking projects generating revenue in other provinces.

By removing the ban completely – not just in some areas – Higgs can bring those New Brunswickers home. He can restore a domestic natural gas supply and let job creators help solve his government’s tremendous debt problem by providing a steady stream of tax revenue.

Premier Higgs will have to make tough decisions. But when young New Brunswickers can move back home to good jobs and sustainable services, taxpayers will thank him.

Paige MacPherson is Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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