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2019 – 2020 Green Budget Priorities

by David

Budget 2019-2020: Submission to Minister of Finance, Ernie Steeves from Green Party Leader, David Coon

  1. Restoring Sustainability to Finances

The budget will not be fiscally sustainable if it continues to accept unjust tax policies.  We don’t have the money we need to provide home care, mental health care, nursing home care or care for the disabled because heavy industry is not required to pay its fair share of property taxes and wealthy corporations are allowed to avoid paying their fair share of income tax.  The property tax system must be reformed to ensure industry is paying its fair share, and more needs to be done, in partnership with the federal government, to plug the leaks which permit profitable corporations to avoid paying their taxes.

Nor will the budget be fiscally responsible if it fails to consider the ecological and social balance sheets.  We are not getting ahead, if the budget undermines community life, degrades the living world, fosters alienation, or perpetuates our carbon footprint.  The ecological and social debts that have been amassed by successive governments must be reduced.  This will require targeted increases in spending in some areas.

2. Private Sector Development

New Brunswick’s economy has lacked diversity for too long, remaining too dependent on natural resource commodities whose value is dependent on international prices and the volatility of export markets. 

The future lies in building a greener economy that is more localized.  Too much wealth is being diverted from, New Brunswick to other provinces and other countries through the purchase imported goods and services.   We will create community wealth, by encouraging the development of more locally-owned small and medium sized enterprises to provide goods and services that meet our needs, without undermining the environment.  New Brunswick businesses supply only 59% of the goods and services we require, while Nova Scotia supplies 70% of its own requirements.

According to the Centre for Local Prosperity, if we in New Brunswick consumed 10% more locally-produced goods and services: there would be 14,502 more jobs, $908 million in new wages, a $1.8 billion increase in GDP, and $85 million increase in new revenue.

Becoming more self-sufficient means growing the energy efficiency sector to reduce our energy needs.  This reduces our costs, putting more money in the pockets of households and businesses, while creating jobs and shrinking our carbon footprint.

Dunsky Energy Consulting estimates that by improving energy efficiency, New Brunswick would see an average annual increase in employment of 1,849 jobs, with a net increase in jobs of 25,879 by 2030. 

Becoming more self-sufficient means substituting locally harvested renewable energy for fossil fuels.  Supporting the development of enterprises which help us eliminate energy waste and benefit from renewable energy use will invigorate our society, energize our economy, and enlist our youth in making the change.

3. Health Care

We need to improve access to Primary Health Care.

Funds are needed to establish more community health centres, staffed by collaborative health care teams that will reduce the need to recruit as many new physicians. 

Medicare needs to fund health care services that can be provided by pharmacists and nurse practitioners.  A major initiative is required to stamp out abuse of the Medicare system by some physicians to free up funds for this purpose.

Major new investments are required to bring New Brunswick’s mental health care system into the 21st century, which includes an expansion of effective addictions programs.

An increase in wages is required to ensure the care sector can recruit and retain the personal support workers needed to provide home care and nursing home care, with an increase in funded time for the care of nursing home residents.

4. Poverty

Poverty, is one of the most significant causes of spending in the budget.   Fighting poverty must become a pre-occupation. 

The majority of people on income assistance are incapable of attaching to the workforce, and should not be punished because of mental, physical, emotional, or developmental deficits. Income assistance must be raised by 13% for individuals and 5% for other recipients, and indexed to inflation. 

The provincial government must take on the responsibility for ensuring the availability of public transportation so that transportation is not a barrier for people to taking a job.  The provincial budget must allocate resources to improve city transit, inter-city transit, and support rural transportation.  

An increase in affordable housing is essential.  There needs to be greater collaboration with non-profit organizations, service clubs and faith communities to provide these services. 

To address homelessness, the Housing First strategies developed in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John need to be fully funded to include wrap-around services when people are housed.

A steady increase in the minimum wage of one dollar per year is essential to assist the working poor.  In Saint John, a living wage has been calculated to be $18.18, far from the current minimum wage.