NEWS
08/22/2014 10:26 EDT | Updated 10/22/2014 05:59 EDT

NDP in New Brunswick would balance budget in its first term of office: leader

FREDERICTON - Two of New Brunswick's major party leaders spent the second day of the provincial election focusing on financial issues on Friday, while the Liberals promised better access to health care.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy, whose party has no seats in the legislature, said the government's books would be balanced in his first mandate, barring an international financial disaster.

As he laid out a plan for the first 12 months of an NDP government, Cardy also took aim at the province's political culture, saying he would shrink the size of cabinet and pass a law on political patronage.

An NDP cabinet would shrink to 10 ministers, down seven from the Progressive Conservatives' current 17 members. The party says it would pass legislation as well that would prevent legislature members from directly involving themselves in public tenders.

The deficit is forecast at $387.3 million for this fiscal year, but Cardy said it would be eliminated in the first four years as long as a financial crisis similar to the one in 2008 doesn't happen again.

"You will see a comprehensive spending plan ... that will guarantee balanced budgets going forward," he said in Fredericton.

The governing Conservatives continued to focus on how they'll promote the resource industry in the province as Premier David Alward outlined plans in Saint John to spend royalties earned from the development of shale gas in the province.

A special fund would be set up by the Tories that would see half of the royalty funds spent on job creation and other initiatives. The other half would be used to lower the provincial debt, reduce tuition fees and invest in research and development.

"The Resource Future Fund is a key foundation of our plan to choose New Brunswick’s future together," Alward said in a statement.

The premier has been promoting the idea of allowing hydraulic fracturing in the province, while Liberal Leader Brian Gallant has cautioned that further study is needed before proceeding with the extraction technique.

Gallant started laying out his plans Friday for changes to the province's health-care system at a campaign stop in Rexton.

He promised all New Brunswick residents would have access to a family doctor by 2018.

The Liberals would also create more community health centres to provide people with access to health professionals in non-emergency situations.

Before the election began this week, the Progressive Conservatives had 41 members in the legislature, the Liberals 13 and there was one Independent. This election is being fought on a new electoral map that cuts the number of seats in the legislature to 49 from 55.

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