FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s provincial budget passed in the legislature Friday by a vote of 24-0.
The Progressive Conservatives, People’s Alliance and Green leader David Coon voted in favour of the budget.
The remaining Green MLAs, as well as the Liberals and independent Robert Gauvin abstained.
The vote was not expected until next Friday, but MLAs voted unanimously in favour of a motion to speed up the process.
Ahead of the vote, Coon said while this is not a budget a Green government would present, it will make a positive difference for New Brunswickers.
“To vote against this budget is to deny much-needed help for income assistance recipients, it is to deny help for young adults carrying crushing debt loads, it is to cancel pay raises for home support and group home workers,” said Coon during his budget reply Friday.
Coon criticized the Progressive Conservative government for placing such an emphasis on paying down the province’s debt.
He said the needs throughout New Brunswick are great, but we cannot afford the pace at which the government is lowering the provincial debt.
Coon said a Green government would have used the projected $92-million surplus for several other things, like increasing social assistance rates even more.
“Instead of a $27 increase for those receiving $537 a month, it should be $89. For those with disabilities receiving $663 a month, the increase should be $55, not $33,” he said.
Coon said his party would also have eliminated interest rates on student loans, boosted wages for nursing home workers, increases hours of care for nursing home residents, and increase funding for Legal Aid even more.
The Green leader also spoke about the controversial health-care reforms announced in February, calling on the premier to replace the current CEOs and presidents of the two health authorities and to decentralize the health-care system.
Coon also said his party will oppose plans to reduce property taxes on non-owner-occupied and non-residential properties, which he said would cost the province $100 million in revenue.
“In the 2020 Report on Fiscal Sustainability by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, he found that New Brunswick has no fiscal room to reduce taxes at this time,” he said.
Brad Perry is the news director for Country 94/97.3 The Wave, a Huddle content partner.