New Brunswick Budget Offers New Affordable Housing but Home Care Improvements Remain Ellusive

FREDERICTON: On March 27th 2012, the Provincial government of New Brunswick tabled its 2012-13 budget.  The budget reduced the $448 –million deficit (2011-12) by $183 million.  The deficit was cut using mostly a combination of program cuts, small revenue hikes and incremental reductions in the civil service. Finance Minister Blaine Higgs had been warning citizens to prepare for difficult choices in the Progressive Conservative government’s second budget.

The Alward government is also raising a series of taxes.  The Real Property Transfer Tax is being doubled to 0.5 per cent, a move that will raise $7 million in new revenue. The extra tax will start being levied on home buyers on June 1, 2012. The Financial Corporation Capital Tax will be increased to four per cent from three per cent on April 1. The decision will allow the provincial government to reap roughly $5 million in additional revenue. The tax is on the assets of large corporations, such as banks and insurance companies.

The Finance Minister is also counting on the government being able to sell $10 million in Crown-owned assets, including the provincial plane. Critics charge that this has been done in the past and that it turned out to be more expensive to charter flights.

In late January of this year, the provincial health authority was reporting chronic nursing home shortages, special care bed backlogs and severe disrepair in the nursing homes that were up and running.  In December and January alone, the number of patients waiting in a hospital bed for a nursing home or special care beds had increased from 24% to 28%.   Insufficient affordable accessible housing and home care programs for seniors created additional demand on acute-care services.

CARP welcomes the Provincial Government’s commitment to spend another $10.3 million on affordable housing. The $9.8 million to be spent on nursing home renovation and replacements and the $3 million to be spent on special care homes are also welcome.

Additional new spending measures of potential interest to New Brunswick seniors are:

  • $5 million to be spent on primary health-care investments
  • $808, 000 to be spent enhancing the province’s wellness strategy.

At press time, the New Brunswick government had not provided detailed plans for the new program spending but CARP calls on the Government to keep seniors’ health at the top of their priority list when allocating new program spending. CARP also calls on the Government to realize further cost savings by supporting caregivers and increasing home care services.  This will reduce demand on acute-care services, long-term care and nursing home admissions.

Breakdown of Deficit Reduction Initiatives:

●    corporate savings of $123 million by managing human resources more efficiently and through other departmental initiatives;
●    program delivery efficiency savings of $55 million;
●    restructuring of departments and agencies to better align with government priorities will provide estimated savings of $24 million;
●    savings in government administration of $16 million; and
●    savings in other areas across government of $8 million.

Returning to balanced budgets by 2014-15

The provincial government has committed to a deficit reduction plan, including a three-year plan to return to balanced budgets. Higgs said the 2012-13 budget makes major strides in achieving these objectives. The goal is to budget for a $99-million deficit in 2013-14 and for a $6-million surplus in 2014-15.