FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following op-ed was issued today by Health Minister Victor Boudreau, who is also minister responsible for the Strategic Program Review:

It’s crunch time, New Brunswick!

In one month’s time, we will complete the Strategic Program Review process, a process that will help put New Brunswick back on the road to laying a strong foundation so we can provide New Brunswickers the services and programs they need and allow us to continue to invest in health care and education.

But we still have a lot of work to do during the month of January to complete the entire process.

Over the past year, our government initiated a major comprehensive review process to not only balance our provincial budget; but, also to allow us to have sustainable budgets into the future that will enable us to make investments in health care, education and other social services that New Brunswickers both expect and deserve.

The Strategic Program Review process consisted of several engagement opportunities allowing New Brunswickers to provide input and ideas on how to best right our fiscal ship so we can sail to a better, sustainable future.

Those opportunities included: 14 public dialogue sessions, five regional stakeholder sessions, community groups hosting their own session, Strategic Program Review Forums, and online input through email or by regular mail.

More than 1,200 people attended our public dialogue sessions, more than 100 representatives of stakeholder groups attended our meetings, and more than 9,000 ideas were submitted online, by email or mail.

We have compiled everything together and recently issued Choices to Move New Brunswick Forward, a report that provides choices we can make to help build a smarter and responsive government that is focused on the needs of New Brunswickers now and into the future.

This month, I am asking New Brunswickers to take the time to review this report and provide us final input on the choices being considered as part of the Strategic Program Review process. You can provide your input at our upcoming engagement tour.

We will be conducting 10 public dialogue sessions in 10 communities, starting in Bouctouche and ending in Bathurst with stops in Fredericton, Saint John, Caraquet, Grand Falls, St. Stephen, Dieppe, Miramichi and Campbellton.

As you read the report, I would ask that you pay specific attention to six key areas:

  • rightsizing management in government;
  • health care;
  • education;
  • tolls;
  • corporate taxes; and
  • harmonized sales tax.

In order to succeed we will have to choose several of these key initiatives.

We have come a long way during the past year, undertaking a major comprehensive review process.

But we need you to help us make the choices. I strongly believe we all have a role to play in making the necessary choices to get our great province back on its feet financially.

Your input will be valuable in our final decision-making process as decisions will be announced as part of the upcoming 2016-17 provincial budget.