Trudeau could learn from Higgs

Author: Jay Goldberg 2023/03/23

The New Brunswick budget was a prudent plan for the future rather than a mad dash to spend money for the sake of spending it.

Building on the sweeping income tax cuts his government introduced last fall, Premier Blaine Higgs chose to target new spending in key sectors while leaving more money in New Brunswickers’ wallets.

Budget 2023 focused on more spending on health, education, and social assistance. It also held the line on taxes, which was to be expected given the scale of the income tax cuts announced in November. 

When Finance Minister Ernie Steeves presented his budget in the New Brunswick Legislature, he reminded New Brunswickers about how far the province has come.

“Our approach has meant that we have delivered consistent surpluses and have reduced net debt by more than $2 billion,” said Steeves.

Given that the Higgs government came to power in the fall of 2018 and led the province throughout the pandemic, the fact that the government can boast of lowering the debt by $2 billion shows the seriousness with which the government has taken its financial responsibilities. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford came to power in the same year as Higgs. Ontario’s debt has grown by nearly 20 per cent since then, while New Brunswick’s has seen an historic decrease. 

Higgs’ government was the only government in Canada to balance the books every year during the pandemic. And the government has no intention of ending its surplus streak any time soon. Budget 2023 projects that the province will run a surplus in each of the next three years.

New Brunswick is also the only province in Canada that can say that it has a lower debt load than it did five years ago.  

While there was no new tax relief announced in budget 2023, Steeves reminded New Brunswickers in his budget speech that tax relief has amounted to $350 million under Higgs’ watch. 

Higgs’ recent income tax cuts are saving families real money. A taxpayer earning $75,000 in New Brunswick today pays $664 less in provincial income taxes than that same taxpayer would pay living in Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick now has the most competitive income tax regime in Atlantic Canada. That new competitiveness is thanks to the tax cuts announced last November. 

Although it was announced a few years ago, the Higgs government’s work on gas tax relief also shouldn’t be forgotten. 

Thanks to a move made by the government in 2020, New Brunswickers continue to save 4.6 cents per litre at the pumps. While provinces like Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have introduced temporary gas tax cuts to help deal with higher gas prices, New Brunswick’s relief is permanent. 

Thanks to the Higgs government’s prudent economic management, New Brunswick will be one of the few provinces that runs a surplus in 2023. Governments across the country, including the Trudeau government in Ottawa, should be taking notes. 

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