Fredericton chamber’s initial review of 2014-15 New Brunswick budget mostly positive

5 February 2014
For Immediate Release

(Fredericton, NB) – The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is pleased that Minister Higgs and the Government of New Brunswick have heeded our call to produce a budget that is restrained in an election year. While discouraging to the business community in the short-term, the projection that the budget will not be balanced until 2017-18 is evidence that the government is taking a long-term view of the provincial economy and a realistic approach to the work that is still left to be done.

The chamber is encouraged that the budget documents and speech include recognition of a number of recommendations contained in our pre-budget brief provided to Minister Higgs earlier this year, including the continuation of workforce expansion programs such as the One-Job Pledge and the continued roll-out of previously announced innovation funds. How initiatives are put into practice will be of keen interest to the chamber in the coming year.

"As we stated to Minister Higgs, maintaining modern transportation infrastructure through strategic investment is critical to economic growth," said Joseph O'Donnell, chamber first vice-president and co-chair of the Provincial Government Affairs Committee. "This year's increased commitment and multi-year plan is a step in the right direction to ensure that we can compete in the national and global marketplaces, but it is an issue that we will continue to monitor and encourage the auditor general to do the same."

The chamber has been advocating for funding for a community health clinic in downtown Fredericton for years.

“For the minister to specifically state that initial funding for Fredericton’s community health clinic, as recommended in the city’s needs assessment is a big win for the chamber and the community,” said Cathy Pugh, chamber board member and the other co-chair of the provincial government affairs committee. “This is exactly the type of strategic investment that will not only benefit the business community and the city of Fredericton as a whole, but will ultimately save the province money in the long run.”

The chamber is particularly encouraged by a number of announcements made by Minister Higgs yesterday that were not strictly financial in nature.

“An independent accounting of the cost of election promises is a positive if it can be done in an efficient and reliable manner and quarterly updates from the auditor general are quite welcomed. The continuation of the smart regulation program and MLAs adopting the shared risk pension model are moves that we have encouraged previously, O’Donnell added.”

Not all of the contents of the budget document were positive from the chamber’s perspective however. The tax burden for small business remains unaddressed.

“Minister Higgs had previously indicated that the government would not meet its 2010 platform promise of lowering the small business tax to 2.5% by the end of their mandate, so we weren’t surprised that it again remained unchanged at 4.5%, the second highest in the country,” said Krista Ross, chamber CEO. “We are interested in the details of the announced Community Economic Development Investment Funds program, which are not yet available. Enhancements to the Small Business Investor Tax Credit program are certainly welcomed, but the program affects so few businesses in the province, it in no way represents a replacement of a tax reduction for all small business.

“New Brunswick’s financial situation is obviously not in great shape, but there are nuggets of good news, such as spending coming in $201.3 million below last year’s budget,” added Ross. “It must also be acknowledged however, that the $391 million estimated operating deficit for 2014-15 is $120 million higher than the projection last year for the same time frame. This of course, is in addition to the $139.6 million capital deficit projected for 2014-15.”

The chamber will continue to be an engaged stakeholder with the province and advocate on behalf of our members. The budget is a first step and a valuable tool to keep the government accountable.

With more than 900 members, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest chambers of commerce. A dynamic business organization, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is actively engaged in policy development that affects the competitiveness of our members and of the Canadian business environment.

Contact: Krista Ross, CEO – (506) 458-8006

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