Fredericton – This Tuesday, New Brunswick’s Minister of Finance Ernie Steeves presented his 2023-2024 provincial budget with weak below-inflation investments and revenue figures that seriously lack credibility and transparency.
“The government is massively underestimating its forecasted revenues to avoid putting money into workers’ wages,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB. Ernie Steeves projects a budget surplus of $40.3 million, which is more than 20 times less than last year’s surplus (recorded at $820 million).
“Ernie Steeves is repeating exactly what he did last year when he predicted a 30 million surplus through lowballed revenue projections from personal income tax, corporate income tax, and HST to avoid criticism of under-investing in public services.
“If it was not for the federal funding coming to childcare, housing, and healthcare, this would be a hard austerity budget,” said Drost. CUPE NB notes that spending in almost all Departments is way below last year’s inflation rate of 7.3%. One very telling example is how NB is spending less than $29 million for recruitment and retention for healthcare staff, while Nova Scotia just announced it would invest ten times more, at approximately $350 million.
CUPE NB notes that little is done to support newcomers and new workers ($1.6 million), but corporate welfare programs were increased (lowered lumber royalty rates, and a $4.5 million allotted for sylviculture planting and tending, which is a subsidy for lumber companies).
The budget includes $44.9 million to increase wages for personal support workers and special care workers, as well as $9.7 million for wage increases for workers in group homes, community residences, family support, and attendant care. “This is the closest thing to “good news” in this budget for our members. However, these wage increases in real terms will be well behind inflation,” said Stephen Drost. The NB Coalition for Pay Equity believes this wage increase will still keep these workers far behind pay equity.
“This budget does nothing to address serious recruitment and retention issues across all sectors. It’s leaving the innocent and most vulnerable members of our society behind,” concluded Drost.