Oral Question: Strategic Program Review – December 2, 2015

The following is the preliminary Hansard transcript of oral questions on December 2, 2015 recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

Mr. Coon: The government has presented a grocery list of options to tackle the deficit. The
minister responsible for this review has spoken at length about the public consultation process that resulted in these options. I have said that was well done. Indeed, New Brunswickers contributed many ideas. However, I cannot help but wonder why some of the top suggestions have been taken off the table. In the What Was Said document that was published during our last sitting, many people said that they wanted this government to eliminate or reduce corporate subsidies. My question to the minister responsible for the Strategic Program Review is this: Why has cutting or reducing corporate subsidies been taken off the table in the options paper?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I would like to thank the member for Fredericton South for the question, and I want to thank him for having participated in what has been a very lengthy process. He is the only member of the opposition to have participated in a really constructive way. As a government, we have choices to make. We have had some pretty extensive consultation around the province. We have gathered feedback from New Brunswickers, stakeholders, and the bureaucracy. The choices that have been put out in the report are the choices that we believe best represent the overall feedback that we have heard and the solutions moving forward. For the next number of months, we want to get feedback from New Brunswickers again on the choices that are in this report. As we have said all along, all the decisions will be made in time for our second budget.


Mr. Coon: Cutting corporate subsidies was on the top of the list for the people who participated in the consultation. It was in the top 10 of the What Was Said report, as were raising royalties on our natural resources and not giving our natural resources away at fire sale prices. In the throne speech this week, there was mention of a new forest strategy and the expansion of our mining sector. If this is to be the case, there would be new opportunities to increase our revenue by charging companies prices that reflect their fair value and a fair return to New Brunswick. Why was increasing royalties on our natural resources taken off the table and out of the options paper?


L’hon. M. Boudreau : Encore une fois, j’aimerais remercier le député d’en face pour sa
question. Comme il le sait très bien, une des priorités — si ce n’est pas la toute première — de ce gouvernement est la création d’emplois et le développement économique. Nous avons déjà mis en place certaines mesures pour vraiment mettre pleinement l’accent sur cette priorité et obtenir le maximum de résultats. Il y a eu la création d’Opportunités Nouveau-Brunswick. Nous avons une façon différente de faire affaires avec les entreprises, car nous leur donnons de l’argent uniquement une fois que les emplois ont été créés, contrairement à ce que, dans le passé, faisait l’ancien gouvernement. Nous pouvons même parler des choix que nous avons indiqués dans le rapport en question. Certains choix auront une incidence sur les entreprises, particulièrement sur les grosses compagnies, en fonction de la direction à suivre qui aura été retenue. Toutefois, c’est pour cela que nous avons publié un rapport sur les choix offerts ; nous voulons connaître l’avis des gens du Nouveau-Brunswick sur les meilleurs choix à prendre pour faire avancer notre province.
Mr. Coon: The minister has said that he actually wants feedback from New Brunswickers on the options that his government is presenting to them for tackling the deficit. My question for the minister is this: Will he bring a motion to the floor of this House to request that the report on the options for tackling the deficit be sent to the Standing Committee on Estimates and Fiscal Policy? Will public hearings on the options presented be held so that the committee can report back to this House about what it heard from New Brunswickers?


Hon. Mr. Boudreau: As soon as we finish question period today, I will be tabling the report in the Legislature, which is the normal practice. Then we will have the next number of weeks to debate the options in the report, to debate the choices that we, as New Brunswickers, need to make. All of this is going to lead up to our second budget, which will be tabled by my colleague the Minister of Finance in the new year. We are going to have ample opportunity. We are asking New Brunswickers to read the report and to provide feedback on the report. They can do that online, in person with their MLAs, or in writing. There are going to be other mechanisms made available to make sure that New Brunswickers have their say on the various choices. However, we need to be clear. There are tough choices to be made. If there are certain ones New Brunswickers do not want to make, they are going to have to tell us which ones they are prepared to make