New Brunswick Tribune

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Higgs government has been accused of faking the October fiscal update

Key takeaways:

  • While negotiating wages with the CUPE unions in October, the New Brunswick government was significantly better financially than it had claimed. 

According to documents revealed by the Department of Finance this week, the New Brunswick government was in far better financial health than it stated in October while it conducted pay negotiations with CUPE unions.

As of Sept. 30, provincial tax receipts ran $304.3 million above budget forecasts, according to figures released Tuesday in the province’s second-quarter financial update.

Using that amount, the province now expects its tax and other self-generated revenues to exceed $382.7 million by the end of the fiscal year in March 2022, exceeding its initial budget projections.

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Finance Minister Ernie Steeves remarked, “We are witnessing tax revenue rises reflecting greater-than-anticipated 2020 outcomes and a stronger economy.”

However, the “higher than expected revenues” are so high that they cast doubt on the company’s first-quarter update, which was only provided last month. By the end of the fiscal year, it predicted substantially lower self-generated revenue growth of $145.3 million.

Even though the two projections were produced just 34 days apart and both had the benefit of being developed after Sept. 30, when revenues were already shown to be surging, the difference in provincially generated income predictions in the two forecasts is $237.4 million.

Higgs government accused of manipulating October fiscal update | CBC News

‘Way too much of a coincidence,’ according to an economist.

Given how much-unexpected cash had arrived by Sept. 30, New Brunswick economist Richard Saillant believes the provincial government could not have been uninformed of how its fortunes were trending when it presented its first year-end prediction on Oct. 13.

He believes the government withheld the news from them and the public because of salary discussions with various public-sector unions.

In an interview, Saillant observed, “This is way too much of a coincidence.”

“They’d better have a darn good reason why, in five weeks, they’re comfortable raising their (revenue predictions) by about a quarter of a billion dollars.”

Premier Blaine Higgs’ government has hailed quarterly financial reporting as a crucial instrument for “ensuring comprehensive fiscal openness” for the public.

As part of a vow to make thorough and trustworthy financial information readily available, it began providing both “year-to-date” budget data alongside “full-year” budget predictions in 2019.

“This change in fiscal reporting illustrates our commitment to improving openness and responsible financial management,” Steeves said after the new reports were unveiled.

Source:  CBC News

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