FREDERICTON (GNB) – During his first state of the province address, Premier Blaine Higgs announced the provincial government will balance the 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets.

“Strengthening our economy and avoiding a credit downgrade are among our governments top priorities,” said Higgs. “It is the best way to ensure we spend less on debt and have more to invest in services like health care, education and our social programs.”

During his address, Higgs spoke of the need to grow the private sector economy and focus on the challenges facing the province, including:

  • Private sector investment in the province is decreasing while public sector investment is increasing.
  • Currently 36 per cent of New Brunswick’s budget comes from federal transfer payments.
  • In 2018-19, net debt in New Brunswick will be $14.2 billion.
  • New Brunswickers pay seven cents from every tax dollar towards interest on the province’s net debt.
  • In the next 10 years, about 120,000 jobs will become available in the province, resulting in more jobs than people who can fill them. About 75,000 of these jobs will require some form of post-secondary education.

Higgs also noted the opportunities that the government is pursuing, including:

  • Building a national coalition of provinces which recognize the importance of a pipeline.
  • Management of rivers and fisheries at the provincial level.
  • Challenging the federal government to develop a funding model that will help maintain infrastructure.
  • Developing the province’s natural resources, such as natural gas.
  • Taking the politics out of procurement, whether it’s choosing building sites, renting offices, or maintaining roads and highways.
  • Doing away with the physician billing number system and working with health-care professionals to better connect people with care.

“We need to make it our common mission to have a government that works, an economy that provides opportunity, and finances we can sustain,” said Higgs. “Together, we will fight for the future of our province and build a bigger and better New Brunswick dream.”

“The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce has been proud to host nine New Brunswick premiers at our annual state of the province address since 1974,” said Krista Ross, CEO of the chamber of commerce. “The address is an opportunity to communicate the government’s plans and aspirations for the upcoming year and beyond and Premier Higgs certainly did that this evening. The business community is prepared to meet the premier’s challenge to grow the province’s economy and get our finances on track.”