FREDERICTON (GNB) – The document Choices to Move New Brunswick Forward lays out numerous possibilities to reduce expenditures or increase revenues to prevent New Brunswick from reaching a crisis situation where it can no longer afford to fund critical services like health care and education.

“The choices document includes a number of possible expenditure and revenue initiatives but choosing several of six key major initiatives will be necessary in order to get New Brunswick back on a secure fiscal foundation,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau who is also minister responsible for the Strategic Program Review.

The six key initiatives are:

  • rightsizing senior management in the civil service;
  • reducing spending in health care;
  • reducing spending in education;
  • increasing the rate of the Harmonized Sales Tax;
  • increasing the rate of the Corporate Income Tax; and
  • introducing highway tolls.

"As part of our review of every line of the government's books we have identified hundreds of millions of dollars of potential savings and revenue options," said Boudreau. "Some of these choices are relatively easier than others. Some of these are very difficult and are not the sorts of choices our government wants to make."

“The combined spending on health and related social services, education, and mandatory payments against the provincial debt totals more than 75 per cent of the provincial budget,” said Boudreau. “Therefore the government must choose significant revenue options unless New Brunswickers are prepared to accept cuts in education and health care.”

Some of the choices that would affect education include:

  • Increasing class sizes by four students and reducing the number of school teachers in the system as a result, saving between $50 million and $70 million per year.
  • Reducing or freezing operational grants to universities in recognition of declining student enrollment, saving between $15 million and $45 million per year.
  • Allowing the number of school teachers to gradually decline as the student population declines. This could be accomplished through attrition and retirement without any teacher layoffs and could result in savings between $10 million and $12 million per year.
  • Reducing the number of educational assistants as student enrollment declines, saving between $3 million and $6 million per year.
  • Outsourcing janitorial and custodial services in schools, saving between $5 million and $7 million.

Choices being considered in health care include:

  • Realigning services in major urban hospitals resulting in a reduction of services currently provided in these facilities and moving to single centres of excellence at one location in the province.
  • Developing single, high-quality access points for particular specialized health services modeled on the New Brunswick heart centre in Saint John. While some New Brunswickers would have to travel further for these services, higher-quality care could be delivered at a lower cost.
  • Complete closure of six-to-10 hospitals or converting these facilities into community health centres focused primarily on the specific health needs of each community.

The anticipated range of savings for these health-related initiatives would be $50 to $80 million.

"Some New Brunswickers have told us that they prefer increasing revenue to cutting services; others have said that they do not want to see tax increases under any circumstances," said Boudreau. "In our choices document, we wanted to be clear with New Brunswickers on what these alternatives mean and give them a meaningful opportunity to weigh in before decisions are made."

The government has committed to continue to consult with New Brunswickers and then make decisions on the Strategic Program Review in time for the 2016 budget to be tabled in the legislative assembly on Feb. 2.

The public is encouraged to find out more about the Strategic Program Review online and the choices outlined in the report entitled Choices to move New Brunswick forward.