Building a New Brunswick Advantage

Author: Jay Goldberg 2024/04/23

Lower taxes. Less debt. Balanced budgets. 

That’s Premier Blaine Higgs’ secret sauce in crafting the New Brunswick Advantage.

Back in the days of Ralph Klein, Alberta was the envy of Canada as its government built the so-called Alberta Advantage.

The province had no debt, the lowest income taxes in Canada and no sales tax.

Alberta no longer has the lowest income tax rates in the country and its debt has ballooned.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick has charted a better course for taxpayers.

This new approach is separating New Brunswick out from the Atlantic pack, with a lower tax burden, six consecutive balanced budgets and a declining provincial debt.

Thanks to Higgs’ wide-ranging income tax cuts, introduced last year, New Brunswickers pay the lowest income tax bills in Atlantic Canada.

A New Brunswicker earning $60,000 will be on the hook for $4,600 in provincial income taxes this year. That contrasts with $4,982 in Newfoundland and Labrador, $5,377 in Prince Edward Island and $5,908 in Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick is also leading the way on reducing government debt. The Higgs government is the only government in Canada to table six consecutive balanced budgets, including every year throughout the pandemic. And New Brunswick’s debt is down by $2 billion since Higgs took office and the province’s finances continue to trend in the right direction.

The fiscal job is well underway, but far from finished. Because many of Higgs’ predecessors racked up massive bills on the taxpayer credit card, New Brunswickers still owe more debt per capita than people in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There’s still a lot of work left to pay down debt and reduce the interest charges that come with it.

There will be a temptation to spend big this year. The province’s budget is currently balanced on a knife’s edge and politicians have a penchant to ramp up spending during election years. Higgs needs to resist the temptation of a pre-election spending bonanza and protect the important progress he has made over the past six years.

New Brunswick is clearly moving in the right direction and has emerged as one of the most fiscally responsible provinces in the nation. It has the longest streak of consecutive balanced budgets in Canada. New Brunswick’s income tax burden is lower than all other Atlantic provinces, as well as Manitoba and Quebec. And its debt reduction is historic.

The fiscal work is far from finished, but what has been done so far is ushering in a new era of a New Brunswick Advantage.

Now, Higgs needs to inspire New Brunswickers to ensure the province keeps moving in the right direction. Higgs mused recently about an overhaul of the province’s property tax system to lessen the burden for hardworking families. Property tax relief is a great way to keep the momentum going.

There’s an old saying in politics: a record isn’t something to stand on, it’s something to build on. As Higgs crafts his 2024 election platform, he should lay out a plan to further entrench the New Brunswick Advantage in the years ahead.

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