The Opposition Liberal Finance Critic is urging government to release a new fiscal update and economic outlook in the near future to help guide government and the legislature in the coming months.
Roger Melanson, the MLA for Dieppe, says those numbers are important to the decision-making process and setting priorities in helping New Brunswickers deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
“The priority of government right now is the health and safety of New Brunswickers, as it should be,” Melanson said. “But we’ve now started the process of slowly reopening New Brunswick, and when it’s safe to do so we’ll see the resumption of business at the legislature in some measure. A new economic outlook and fiscal update will be critically important information for MLAs when we examine things like the budget.”
Melanson acknowledged this will be a year like no other in terms of the province’s finances.
“We fully acknowledge the books will be severely impacted but the question remains how much of an impact are we expecting. We are starting to get a picture now of how many businesses and jobs may be lost because of COVID-19 crisis. How will that impact revenues for the provincial government, and are there measures the province should be considering so we can help save those businesses including the jobs and see those revenues return as soon as possible?”
While the budget has received approval of the legislature to allow the business of government to continue during the current shutdown, Melanson noted a commitment was made to go ahead with the budget estimates legislative process where each department’s spending plans are analyzed in detail by the legislature.
“I think this year that exercise becomes even more important than ever so the public has a full understanding of where we are. Obviously health and safety is the primary concern and we’ll take our direction from Dr. Russell and her team on when we can safely resume some activities at the legislature. But it’s important that we do bring these discussions out from behind closed doors and to the floor of the legislature.”
Melanson expects the legislature will look and sounds a bit different when things do resume.
“New Brunswickers appreciate that political parties and leaders have come together to address this public health crisis. I think we’re going to see a more respectful tone when things resume at the legislature, hopefully from all sides.”
“We are still going to have our differences and the role of MLAs is to speak on behalf of the people they represent. That means we will have different ideas on how we rebuild the economy, how things are delivered such as health care and education. But perhaps now more than ever we need to have a respectful, public discussion about these very important issues.”