The 2024 New Brunswick Budget

The 2024 New Brunswick Budget: In the last budget to be delivered prior to this year’s provincial general election, the Hon. Ernie Steeves, Minister of Finance and Treasury Board noted that this would be the sixth straight budget surplus delivered by this government.

Overview

Real GDP growth for NB is only expected to be 0.7 percent, and the budget surplus is projected to be $41 million. The Minister noted the need to curb the in-year variances between budget projections and actuals, which have occurred frequently in recent years. 

Nearly $3.8 billion is being allotted for healthcare spending this year, up $1 billion since Budget 2018-19. 

Revenues are projected to be $13.3 billion in 2024–2025, an increase of 4.7% over our 2023–2024 third-quarter estimate. Spending is projected to reach $13.3 billion, an increase of 6.4% over the 2023–2024 third-quarter estimate.

Healthcare featured prominently in this budget with the following specific announcements:

  • $10 million to begin the development of a standardized clinical information solution;
  • $6.9 million for NB Health Link and eVisitNB to provide access to timely health care to residents who do not have access to a primary care provider;
  • $2.1 million for the development of electronic Patient Care Records within Ambulance New Brunswick;
  • $2 million to modernize the Electronic Medical Records that are in use at Community Health Centres;
  • $1.4 million for the MyHealthNB app to improve access to personal health information;
  • $545,000 for SeamlessMD, a digital application that improves communication with patients and their families from the time they receive a consultation for surgery to post-operative follow-up.
  • $7 million in increased funding for mental health and addiction services.
  • $562,000 in additional funding for midwifery services.

As part of the government’s effort to support the transition to clean energy, the following investments were noted:

  • $50 million for the Enhanced Energy Savings Program to provide free heat pumps, air sealing and insulation for eligible recipients.
  • $5 million to support energy conservation for people who use non-electric fuel types, First Nations, non-profit organizations, and low-income individuals and families.
  • $12.5 million to navigate a complex regulatory approval process and ensure that clean non-emitting nuclear energy is generated safely.

Affordability remains a top concern of New Brunswickers, and the budget provided the following measures:

  • An increase of 3.6 per cent for social assistance recipients under the Transitional Assistance Program and Extended Benefits Program.
  • $29.7 million to increase wages for personal support workers in home support and special care homes, group homes, community residences, family support and attendant care.
  • $2.2 million to increase the per diems in adult residential facilities.
  • Making amendments to the New Brunswick Income Tax Act to provide additional support to low-income seniors, permanently increasing the base amount of the Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit to $600 from $400, with the value of the benefit indexed to the consumer price index annually.
  • Providing a monthly household supplement for social assistance recipients and youth engagement services recipients that will benefit more than 33,000 residents, including more than 10,000 children.

Housing Costs:

Housing costs and the scarcity of available rental units has also been a contemporary challenge in the province, especially given the rapid population growth in recent years. Specific housing measures are as follows:

  • $22 million for a direct-to-tenant rental benefit for families and seniors who are in core housing need for affordability reasons.
  • $5.5 million through the Canada Housing Benefit to help an additional 1,200 New Brunswick households.
  • $3.5 million through the Canada Housing Benefit to support survivors of gender-based violence.
  • $3 million through the Rent Bank to reduce the risk of eviction due to arrears in rent or utility bills.
  • $11 million in permanent funding to respond to the homelessness crisis.
  • $2.5 million to support the development and repair of rental units.
  • $2.6 million in support of a partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
  • $20 million through the Regional Development Corporation to help small communities build or enhance existing infrastructure.
  • $2.5 million through the Regional Development Corporation to support pre-construction work related to affordable housing.

Conclusion

The province also plans to increase funding to the Canada-New Brunswick Child Care Agreement by $7.4 million, and education-related spending initiatives include additional funding for children with autism spectrum disorder, investments to address challenges from enrolment growth, language training for newcomers entering the school system, and supports for teacher recruitment and retention.

The PC government, led by Premier Blaine Higgs will go to the polls this year, squaring off against Liberal Leader Susan Holt and Green Leader David Coon.

Narrative Research conducted polling toward the end of February which noted the following: “When considering voting intentions, the Liberals maintain a slight lead in terms of support from decided voters. Four in ten would vote for the Liberals (40%, compared with 41% in November 2023) if an election were held today, while slightly fewer would vote for the PCs (34%, compared with 35%). Support for the Green Party is much smaller (15%, compared with 10%) as is support for the NDP (8%, compared with 13%). The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick has the backing of 2% of decided voters (unchanged).” (NB: The Liberals lead in terms of voting intentions. – Narrative Research)

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