News / Canada

New Brunswick's auditor general issues warning about deficits, debt growth

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's auditor general says the provincial government's pace of annual deficits and net debt growth is not sustainable.

Kim MacPherson says the government can't continue to put ever-increasing demands on the province's finances.

In her annual report released Tuesday, MacPherson said for the year that ended March 31, 2016 the province incurred a deficit of $260 million.

"It was lower than the projected deficit of $327 million and it was also lower than the previous year of $361 million, however it was the eighth consecutive deficit. There is a trend that is very concerning," MacPherson told members of the legislature. 

She said additional deficits are forecast through 2020.

MacPherson said the province's net debt climbed to almost $14 billion in 2016, or about $18,000 for every New Brunswicker.

She says that could impact the province's ability to meet its financial obligations in the future.

"We cannot continue to place ever-increasing demands on our future revenue streams to pay for past expenses," she said.

Opposition member Dorothy Shephard of the Progressive Conservatives said the Liberal government could have balanced the books in 2015-2016 but chose not to do it.

"They chose to expand on spending and continue spending, and so we continue to have the net debt that we have. I would like to see them take it a bit more seriously and hopefully we'll see some improvement," she said.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau said the government does take the debt seriously, but has to get annual spending under control first.

"We're confident that we're on the right track and we really need to make sure that we balance the books and get the deficit under control before you can start focusing on the debt," he said.