With the Alward government's second budget under its belt, the People's Alliance of New Brunswick has a difficult time picturing how the provincial PC's will balance the books by 2014.
With almost half their mandate over and the net debt continuing to grow higher, it appears almost miraculous the province's finances will turn into a surplus in time for an election year.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin says if the government has a plan in mind to achieve these goals, it's time to share it with the public.
“It seems to me like they're just picking a number out of the air with no substance to back it up,” Austin said.
Overall, Austin said he expected the budget to be stricter than what was tabled by the Finance Minister.
“This government is continuing to add to the provincial net debt and it's not fair to the taxpayers for the PC's to hide behind the formal Liberal government's agreement on the Route 1 Gateway Project as an excuse,” Austin said. “This is exactly why the People's Alliance continues to call for a full audit of the province's books and all P3 agreements.”
In order for New Brunswick to move forward, the People's Alliance believes the government should focus on common sense spending cuts and increasing revenues through raising natural resource revenues and implementing a fairer taxation system.
Some of these issues include a proposal to raise income taxes to 2010 levels for the two highest income brackets and streamlining civil service positions through attrition but with a focus on upper and middle management positions first with a partial re-investment in front line services.
Austin added there is also a need for greater public awareness on the regional amalgamation model the government is looking at.
“What concerns me is where this will lead taxation levels for rural residents, service costs for municipalities and the fact this will be adding another level of government bureaucracy of which some positions won't even be elected and therefore not responsible to the public,” Austin said.
People's Alliance party president Jason Inness said some of the items he sees coming out of today's budget seem to not only be lacking details, but in some cases don't seem to make a lot of sense.
“I like the idea that the government is looking into the sale of the government plane, but it shouldn't be that difficult of a decision,” Inness said. “We can't afford it. So sell it; don't wait for an election year just because it makes the PC party look better.”
Another issue Inness took issue with is increasing the increase to the Financial Corporation Capital Tax.
“Not too many people are going to have sympathy for the banks and insurance companies that this increase will affect, however, any increases to the bottom line for corporations such as these will just be immediately put onto the backs of the consumer, so in essence it's everyday New Brunswickers that will be paying this in the end,” he said.
Looking at the entire budget picture, the People's Alliance believes it's going to get more difficult before the government can return to surplus budgets and what is more important than anything is for the party in power to be upfront in what they're going to take away from New Brunswickers in order to achieve these financial numbers. They shouldn't have to worry for weeks on end to know the details of the government's plans.