FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is considering establishing a dedicated enforcement unit to identify and investigate individuals involved in contraband tobacco activities.

The proposal came forward as part of the Strategic Program Review, under which the government is working with New Brunswickers to help identify $500 million to $600 million in savings and revenue in order to eliminate the deficit.

“The status quo cannot continue,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau, who is also minister responsible for the Strategic Program Review. “The review has helped identify areas where we can improve services, increase revenue and find savings.”

The provincial government loses millions of dollars a year in revenue due to the illegal sale of contraband tobacco products and the smuggling of tobacco from other jurisdictions. The government is considering a dedicated enforcement unit to disrupt and dismantle smuggling networks and recover the tax losses.

“Contraband tobacco is a threat to New Brunswickers, our young people, our communities, our economy and it undermines our public health goals,” said Boudreau. “To make New Brunswick the best place to raise a family, it is vital that we do all we can to keep contraband tobacco off our streets.”

It is estimated that a one per cent interruption in the illicit tobacco trade could increase taxes collected by the province by $1 million a year. A dedicated enforcement strategy would be expected to create a greater interruption which could result in up to $5 million in additional annual taxes.

“This initiative could help recover lost tax revenue and improve the safety of our communities and the health of New Brunswickers,” said Boudreau.

This is one of the initiatives that will be contained in the upcoming Strategic Program Review options report. The report will contain some of the initiatives suggested by New Brunswickers which are being considered for implementation. Decisions will be made in time for implementation in the 2016-17 provincial budget.

The public is encouraged to find out more about the Strategic Program Review online.