POLITICS

New Brunswick government cuts jobs and ferry runs to tackle spending

04/11/2013 03:35 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government is cutting staff and programs at Efficiency New Brunswick and reducing ferry crossings to Grand Manan in an effort to cut costs.

Environment Minister Bruce Fitch says six jobs and two programs will be cut in an effort to keep Efficiency New Brunswick, a Crown corporation that encourages energy conservation, within its $11-million budget.

"There have been no departments, right across government, that haven't been asked to reduce the money that's being spent," Fitch said Thursday. "This is the result of that request."

He said two permanent positions and four casual jobs are being eliminated, along with programs that provided assistance to large industrial and small commercial properties.

Green party Leader David Coon said it doesn't make sense to make cuts to an agency that has been successful in helping reduce greenhouse gases, bring down heating costs and create jobs.

"This government is just turning back the clock on anything that is sustainable and just looking to pipelines, shale gas and big open pit mines," Coon said.

"It's beyond understanding that they would do something so dumb."

Liberal energy critic Chris Collins said the first cut at the agency should have been the job of president Margaret-Ann Blaney, who was appointed to the position after quitting the Progressive Conservative government.

Blaney was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Transportation Minister Claude Williams said the Grand Manan ferry service is only operating at 40 per cent capacity, so his department plans to eliminate one run per day in order to save $1.5 million.

"This is all about being more efficient and it's about saving money for taxpayers," Williams said.

But Rick Doucet, the Liberal transportation critic, said all the runs are necessary for residents, trucking and the promotion of tourism.

During the 2010 provincial election campaign, Premier David Alward promised to remove the ferry tolls to travel between the island and the mainland.

Williams wouldn't say Thursday when that would happen, adding that there are still 18 months left in the government's mandate.

New Brunswick's recent budget projects a deficit of $479 million for 2013-14.