I missed Jeannot Volpé's speech in response to the budget yesterday but the Tory criticism seems to largely focus how it "destroys" the legacy of the Bernard Lord government by undoing their tax cuts. I hate to agree in part to this statement, but as I said in my first budget post, the small business tax cuts were the only legitimate legacy Lord left New Brunswick and it is gone. However, especially having re-did the math, I don't think it is that bad on the personal income tax side or on the big corporate tax side. The problem rests with the small business tax hike which I strong oppose.
Anyway, moving into by budget retrospective, today I will cover departmental spending changes and capital/infrastructure spending.
Departments with spending going up
Agriculture & Aquaculture (+10%)
> Increase almost all in Agriculture programs
> Increases across the board
Efficiency NB (+67%)
> Administrative costs do not increase, but program funding raises by 78%
> Increase across the board
Intergovernmental Affairs (+13%)
> Administrative costs cut by 14% and Trade by 15%, but North American relations budget increased by 48%
> According to the Liberals in the press, it is because some of Lord's staff's salaries were paid by other departments but all are paid by the Premier's Office for transparency. The Tories do not deny this, but say that that accounts for only half of the increase of $500,000. I wonder if the remainer may be Claudette Bradshaw's task force which is called a "premier's task force" and, unlike the Self-Sufficiency Task Force, isn't listed as a budget item under general government.
Departments with spending more or less the same
Attorney General (+1%)
Executive Council (+2%)
Family & Community Services (+8%)
Human Resources (virtually no change)
Justice & Consumer Affairs (+5%)
Local Government (+2%)
Natural Resources (+2%)
Post-secondary Education, Training & Labour (+4%)
Public Safety (+4%)
Supply & Services (+3%)
Tourism & Parks (+2%)
Wellness, Culture & Sport (virtually no change)
Departments with spending going down
Business New Brunswick (-23%)
> Decrease is all in "Business & Industry Development", which is slashed by 45%, while the adminstration of the department and monies for the population growth/immigration secretariat go up.
> Cutting of the Advisory Council on Seniors ($216,000), decreasing the Public Service Internship Program by 38%, cutting Communications New Brunswick by 5%, no one-time expenditures for Harbour Clean-up and Credit Union stabalization,
Legislative Assembly (-24%)
> MLA committe stipends drop by over 7%, less cost for Elections' agencies because non-election year,
Regional Development (-21%)
> Cuts in actual departmental spending are only 1% and it is all focused on adminstration, the rest of the decrease is due to less capital and special spending this year due to the completion of projects.
So we see some unusually high jumps in a number of departments and some unusually high drops in a number of departments. Some are explained away rather easily. Energy is the top priority for the government and that explains the increases for the Energy Department, the Efficiency Agency and perhaps in part the hike for North American relations.
All New Brunswickers who whine about the salaries of MLAs should see they are taking part of the hit by having their committee "top up" payments cut by 7%.
Agriculture and Fisheries increases are inline with the Liberals longtime complaint that services for New Brunswickers in these areas declined improperly when the Tories merged the two departments.
I think that the Premier's Office increase is relatively fairly explained but I will be curious to see where the specific money is being spent when we see main estimates.
The problem comes up in the other priority of the government: job creation. Businss New Brunswick takes a big hit - the biggest in real cuts - of any department. Why? Regional Development, despite appearences, is not really cut but the BNB cuts on their own are unusual. Throw in the cuts to the Trade arm of Intergovernmental Affairs and one is left to wonder what the approach is and how it syncs with "making job creation a priority again".