I already received an email this morning complaining about call for tax increases this morning in the TJ. They seemed to have skipped right over the other ideas in the column. Look folks, New Brunswickers pay less income tax, sales tax and gas tax than our neighbours in Nova Scotia. Take a look – plug in your salary – at every level NBers pay less than NSers, PEIers, Manitobans, Saskers and Quebecker. Ceteris paribus I would say great but not with a billion dollar deficit.
If you read the column I think my three main points are valid – if you spread the pain – everyone hurts a little – that seems a more fair way to look at it. I struggle with education funding – I really do. We (the province) spends the least per capita on post-secondary funding among the ten provinces in Canada and fourth highest for primary and secondary. I haven’t run these numbers on a per student basis but based on what I know of the demographics we would still be last for post-secondary funding and likely closer to the top for primary and secondary education funding (we have less population between the ages of 5 and 18 so per capita funding is not the best measure).
Take Moncton for example. In the fast growing Moncton there are at least a half dozen elementary schools that are well below capacity but people are clamouring for more schools to be built in their neighbourhoods and they are getting them. The idea of bussing kids 10 minutes from one area of the area (the three communities) to another is outrageous to some so many schools sit half empty. My point is that even with education funding there needs to be spending discipline. We need to look at the spending patterns in other jurisdictions – particularly best practice areas – and find ways to adopt them here.
I think we don’t need to spend anymore dollars in the aggregate on economic development and there even may be areas where we can cut. It’s not the amount – it’s more about efficiencies and where the money is being spent. On economic development, I think we should be looking at a wider range of non-cash tools such as tax breaks.
I do think the province should significantly ramp up R&D funding – it should be directly tied to growth sectors of the economy and meant to leverage significant private sector dollars. If we don’t have the private sector capacity for R&D here (as I have been told by certain industry folks) then go get it. Google is doing R&D on energy efficiencies – let’s bring them in to partner on Bay of Fundy water as an energy source.