Tuesday’s Federal and Provincial Budgets delivered very different news for New Brunswick’s municipalities: one balanced the books but delayed major promises, while the other provides a big short-term boost for local infrastructure.
NB Finance Minister Ernie Steeves presented a balanced 2019-2020 Provincial Budget, which will decrease the province’s net debt for the first time in over a decade. That’s good news for the fiscal health of the province. However, the Budget leaves municipalities waiting for key commitments and much-needed tools to meet their own growing costs and help the province’s recovery.
The Provincial Budget includes $8.25 M in predicted revenues from the cannabis duty, but does not include a share of revenues for municipalities. UMNB has called for 1/3 of total cannabis excise tax revenues to be shared with municipalities, who are tasked with the responsibility and cost of enforcing new rules. The Budget also does not make up for an infrastructure funding freeze and designated highway funding cuts in December’s Capital Budget.
“We agree with Minister Steeves: we all need to work together to help get our province’s finances in order. We know strong, sustainable municipalities are the key to getting there,” said UMNB President Wayne Sturgeon. “We look forward to discussing how we can help the province deliver on its commitments.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Budget doubles the amount that will be delivered directly to municipalities for critical infrastructure projects through the Gas Tax Fund, with a one-time transfer of $2.2 billion. That’s big news for municipalities with critical, short term infrastructure deficits, including for roads, water mains, rec centres, and more. The Federal Budget also establishes a new $1.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund for rural, remote and northern communities that still don’t have access to reliable high-speed internet, an essential service in 2019.
“The Gas Tax fund has been vital for New Brunswick’s municipalities, and this one-time boost is huge news for communities with critical, short-term infrastructure needs,” said Sturgeon. “As a councillor on Grand Manan, I also know what a lack of reliable high-speed internet means for local businesses, tourism, and even our kids trying to do their homework. This funding will be a boost for our economy and quality of life.”
“The context for these Budgets is very different, and we support getting New Brunswick’s financial house in order. This one-time Federal investment in infrastructure will help municipalities do our part,” said Sturgeon. “This funding means communities can invest in infrastructure we need to grow our economy and population, meet immediate challenges and start building tomorrow’s communities. We know healthy, prosperous municipalities are exactly what our province needs, and we look forward to working with both levels of government to make that a reality.”
The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick is a bilingual association of 60 member municipalities of all sizes, representing over one third of New Brunswick’s population.
For more information, please contact:
Margot Cragg, UMNB Executive Director, (506) 476-5641, firstname.lastname@example.org