Entitled “Your Health, Our Priority,” Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Siobhan Coady delivered the 2023-24 budget address this afternoon in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly. The budget predicts a deficit of $160 million, and expects to return to surplus in 2024-25, two years ahead of schedule. Projected revenues for 2023-24 are $9.7 billion. Projected expenses for 2023-24 are $9.8 billion.
Net debt is expected to be $16.2 billion in the 2023-24 fiscal year – a decrease of $0.9 billion from the Budget 2022-23 forecast of $17.1 billion.
Healthcare is a focal point, with an increase in spending of $300 million compared to 2022-23. Despite the increase in health spending, the overall budget increases spending by only $108 million. Key health announcements include:
More than $21 million for 10 new Family Care Teams across the province. This will provide access to primary care for up to 80,000 people when fully implemented, with more to come.
$15 million for a new health information system.
$9 million to begin to consolidate 60 separate road ambulance services into a single, integrated service with centralized dispatch.
$5 million for a new virtual care program.
More than $23 million for recruitment and retention of health care professionals.
Increasing capacity in Memorial University’s Medicine Programs, which will have a year-over-year multiplier effect and ensure a steady stream of new recruits into the health system.
$4.4 million for Flexible Assertive Community Treatment teams that will better assist individuals with mental health needs.
Addition of 12 new drugs to the provincial drug program.
$3 million for a Cardiovascular and Stroke Institute.
Approximately $1.8 million for travelling orthopaedic teams and same day hip and knee replacement surgeries.
$7.7 million this year and increasing to $9.3 million next year for health care professionals who support self-managed care in the home.
$7.5 million annual increase for community care home professionals.
$6.1 million annual increase for personal care home professionals.
No Tax or Fee Increases in this Budget
There are no tax or fee increases in this budget. The retail sales tax on house insurance is being eliminated, and there is an 8.05% per litre reduction in the price of gas and diesel. Other measures aimed at affordability include:
Doubling of the Physical Activity Tax Credit.
$77.5 million for the Income Supplement, which includes a five per cent increase.
$67.1 million for the Seniors’ Benefit, which includes a five per cent increase.
More than $140 million for housing, including construction of more than 850 rental homes.
Continuing the 50 per cent off the cost of registering passenger vehicles, light trucks, and taxis for another year.
Maintaining the home heating supplement that provides up to $500 to residents who currently rely on furnace or stove oil to heat their home.
$1.3 million to cover the cost of driver medicals for people 75 years of age and older.
Economic development featured prominently as well. Measures include:
Encouraging economic development by increasing the exemption threshold of the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax from $1.3 million to $2 million. This will benefit 1,250 businesses.
More than $1.1 billion for infrastructure projects, including an historic investment in provincial roads and highways.
Expanding the All-Spend Film and Video production Tax Credit to 40 per cent.
Increasing commission discounts to wine, spirit and cider producers in the province.
A Manufacturing and Processing Tax Credit.
A green technology tax credit.
$140 million for workforce development.
$1.5 million to improve air access.
Funding is being increased for the wages of early childhood educators, plus for the teaching services budget. Municipal operating grants will increase by $3 million this year and another $3 million next year.
Information Technology (IT)
Of particular note is the province’s emphasis on modernizing information technology assets. The budget pledges “Through a five-year, $50 million investment we will embark on a renewal and modernization of government’s information technology assets to deliver on that priority. This considerable investment will spur innovation and operational improvements. This complements our four-year, $25 million investment to improve connectivity in the province.”
The budget also notes plans for a new health information system. To quote the budget material, “Enhanced communications across the health care spectrum will be advanced by a new Health Information System. This new system will remove barriers to residents accessing services by improving information sharing between health care providers and facilities, thereby enhancing continuity of care. Furthermore, investments for the Electronic Medical Record system will enable Family Care Teams to share appropriate clinical information with other providers within their patients’ circle of care.”
Wes McLean is a Senior Consultant with the Capital Hill Group, who spent 18 years advising conservative governments in Ottawa, New Brunswick and Manitoba. He most recently served as deputy chief of staff to Premier Blaine Higgs.