FREDERICTON – Auditor General Kim MacPherson says while she is encouraged by the province’s surplus budget, more work needs to be done to improve New Brunswick’s financial situation.
The province saw a small surplus of $73-million in 2019, an improvement over the budgeted deficit of $189-million.
However, the net debt increased by $33-million, to an all-time high of $14-billion. Servicing that debt has cost the province $648-million,
Over the last 10 years, the net debt has increased by $5.5-million. Net debt also makes up 37.4 percent of the province’s GDP.
MacPherson now wants to see the government set multi-year net debt reduction targets to get those numbers down.
Other financial concerns MacPherson has is the debt for NB Power, and for local governments.
NB Power currently has $4.6-billion of debt accumulated, while local government debt has grown to $950 million.
Of New Brunswick’s cities, MacPherson notes the City of Saint John has the highest level of debt at $230 million, while Edmundston has the highest debt per capita at $4,066 per person.
Ultimately the province would be on the hook for both debts should NB Power or a local government default on their loans.
The AG also found a number of concerns in her audit of the province’s financial statements, including a lack of a formal fraud prevention policy, and weaknesses in the I.T. system.
She would also like to see increased transparency in MLA expenses.
A full copy of MacPherson’s financial concerns can be found online.