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Don’t be fooled by spending promises – New Brunswick can’t pay for that

September 21, 2018
Don’t be fooled by spending promises – New Brunswick can’t pay for that

This column was published in The Telegraph Journal on September 21, 2018.

During elections, politicians throw your money around like drunken sailors. But the reality is that the New Brunswick government – whichever party that may hold power next week – doesn’t have the money to pay for any new spending promises. New spending today means tax hikes tomorrow, at best – and the potential for much darker economic consequences if politicians continue to ignore reality.

While new spending promises like “free” tuition or “free” daycare may sound positive to some students or parents, the province is drowning in debt and New Brunswickers are already paying painfully high taxes.

It’s time for these politicians to get real and think about taxpayers – both those living in New Brunswick and those who’ve left with no plans to come back.

New Brunswick taxpayers deserve respect. They pay for important services like health care and education – and with a rapidly aging population in need of care, retaining gainfully employed taxpayers and job creators is nothing short of critical.

During election season, few political promises involve a blatant tax hike. (But don’t put it past them: there are some, like the Green Party’s new push for a sugary drink tax, which would disproportionately hurt poor New Brunswickers and fail to make people healthier.)

There are plenty of big spending promises, however. And what that means is plenty of future tax hikes that New Brunswickers can’t afford. The government has no problem racking up the taxpayer credit card bill, but they’re not paying it down.

Young taxpayers are leaving the province, but not necessarily because they want to. While New Brunswick’s taxes are among the highest in Canada, services as basic as accessing a family doctor have become out of reach. Meanwhile, about 3,000 more people left the labour force in 2017 than entered it this year.

When you’re hosting a party and people are leaving faster than they’re showing up, you’re doing something wrong.

As budget deficits stacked one after the other, the government has overseen the debt snowballing to alarming levels. They’ve forced taxpayers to shoulder higher debt interest payments – taking money away from health care and other programs – and risking the reality that a spike in interest rates could push New Brunswick off the fiscal cliff and into bankruptcy.

Imagine if you managed your own household finances this way. A recent Auditor General report compared getting a handle on the province’s fiscal problem to “turning the Titanic,” warning that future generations will be on the hook for the government’s excessive spending habits.

New Brunswick politicians aren’t facing the facts. Spending needs to be cut, not increased. Full stop.

If recklessly spending and raising taxes was the ticket to economic growth, New Brunswick would be booming. We’ve already seen from the government’s tax hike on high income earners that it simply didn’t work.

Politicians know that there’s urgency to the fiscal crisis. Both the Liberals and PCs have campaigned on strengthening the economy and bringing New Brunswick ex-pats home. There’s been some good suggestions, like the PC rejection of the carbon tax and proposed review of corporate welfare, and the Liberal proposal to liberalize beer and liquor sales.

But balancing the budget isn’t a genuine priority and most of the spending promises made in this election are not costed or cannot be backed up without increased debt. The politicians have no plan to pay for them – or they’re not telling you what it is. Green Party leader David Coon has rightly pointed this out.

The spending promises are running hot but the fact that the next government can’t pay for them will leave taxpayers out in the cold – waiting for the next bus out of town. New Brunswick taxpayers deserve honesty. It’s time to get real.

Paige MacPherson is Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a citizens’ advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.

 

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