Finance Minister Ernie Steeves delivered the 2023-24 budget address today, 18 months ahead of an expected general election. Given the large surpluses in recent quarterly updates, the province was being urged to spend additional funds this year, and spending will increase by 5.2% overall, including 10.6 per cent increase in health spending.
Last year’s surprlus was $777.3 million and is estimated to be a record high $862.2 million in this fiscal year. The predicted surplus for 2023-24 is $40.3 million, and the province forecasts a sales tax revenue decline of $3.3 million. Revenues and expenses are projected to be $12.2 billion. The Department of Finance and Treasury Board projects real GDP growth of 0.8 per cent in 2023, as growth slows from the elevated levels of the last two years. The budget contained no consumption tax increases.
The finance minister’s speech highlighted New Brunswick’s progress but also cautioned of turbulent times ahead. The Minister noted, “While these developments are positive, elevated price inflation is creating challenges for households and businesses alike. Moreover, steps taken by the Bank of Canada have led to a rapid escalation in interest rates. This will lead to a slowdown in economic activity among our trading partners and in New Brunswick.”
Under the theme of “Energizing the Private Sector” the previously announced provincial income tax cuts will cost $70 million. This section also includes increased funding for provincial ferries, tourism marketing, silviculture, and immigration support services.
Housing featured prominently; in addition to $2 million to establish the renewed NB Housing Corporation, funds will be allocated for improving existing social housing stock, the Canada Housing Benefit, and more resources for the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Building on last year’s budget, funds are earmarked for residential and non-residential property tax reductions.
Under the theme of “Safe Communities” an additional $32.6 million is being allocated for additional police and specialized crime units.
In order to serve vulnerable populations, social assistance rates will rise by 7.3 percent, under the Transitional Allowance Program and the Extended Benefits Program, to account for inflationary pressures. $44.9 million is allocated to increase wages for personal support workers in home support and special care homes.
Healthcare received a significant boost in resources for 2023-24. Key investments include:
$29.7 million to help address recruitment and retention challenges.
$10.4 million for primary health-care transformation, including increasing the number of doctors that are working in teams.
$8.5 million to address the increase in volume of services for fee-for-service physicians.
$6.4 million to expand pharmacist assessment and prescribing services, and to continue to leverage eVisitNB.
$2.1 million in funding to expand the insulin pump program and support improved diabetes management, resulting in better health for New Brunswickers.
Regarding education, through the Canada-New Brunswick Canada-Wide Child Care Agreement, the government will provide $37 million in 2023-24, bringing the total investment to $143 million, to improve access to affordable, quality designated child-care spaces throughout the province. An additional $4 million will be allocated to support the creation of additional preschool spaces within the for-profit sector. $33.3 million will be allocated for more classroom teachers, facility requirements, and an increase in instructional materials. $2.4 million will be invested in supports for early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. $30.8 million to fund improvements to New Brunswick’s inclusive education system.
Multi-Year Fiscal Plan
Link to Budget Release
The link to the Government of New Brunswick budget press release can be found here.