Tony Huntjens gave the closing speech to theCanadian Social Welfare Policy Conference which was held in Fredericton recently. In the speech, I think, Mr. Huntjens was delicately hinting that in the future, the amount of money available for social programs would be limited because of the marked increase in need (seniors programs, health funding, etc.).
I also think that Mr. Huntjens gave us a glimpse of the economic development policy of the NB government. He states:
Good fiscal management today will allow us to embrace the future with optimism, thanks to a thriving economy which can create more job opportunities and more wealth for our province, in order to remain socially compassionate through more investments in our social programs.
Now, I realize this speech was probably written by one of the outlawed and reinstated spin doctors, but really, what does this mean? Good fiscal management? Will it lead to a thriving economy? Has it?
That statement is a little bit like the guy who has massive credit card debt, rapidly increasing bills, and who knows his salary will be rolled back each year until retirment and he thinks that just making the minimum monthly payment on the credit card will ultimately fix everything.
Good fiscal management is only one piece of the puzzle. In fact, I think it can be a crutch. I, for one, would run up a little debt to get good highway infrastructure to the north. To attract significant business investments. To create an environment that is attractive for investment and skilled immigration.
New Brunswick has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in Atlantic Canada but what does that matter? Alberta has no debt at all. We need to be a little less focused on all this tinkering (marginal tax cuts, shaving departmental budgets, etc.) and make some bold steps to achieve strong economic growth.