POLITICS

New Brunswick government hires former federal deputy minister to fix finances

01/13/2015 11:05 EST | Updated 03/15/2015 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government has hired a former deputy finance minister in the federal government to help find ways to eliminate the provincial deficit.

Michael Horgan will be the chairman of the province's new strategic program review advisory committee.

"Obviously if we want to have the means to invest in job creation and make life affordable for families, which are two of our three priorities as a government, we need to deal with the third priority which is to right our fiscal ship," Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the review, said Tuesday.

"We have a major structural deficit here in the province of New Brunswick which is in the magnitude of $400 million. To achieve that I think we're going to have to aim even higher."

Horgan said privatization is an option to be considered, but he added that he realizes New Brunswickers are against the idea of privatizing NB Power.

"There are other things that can be looked at, such as roads, and other provinces have looked at liquor operations, so New Brunswick Liquor is one thing that could be taken a look at," Horgan said.

A failed effort to sell NB Power to Hydro-Quebec is seen as one of the main factors that led to the defeat of the Liberal government of former premier Shawn Graham in 2010.

Boudreau said he hopes the review will be complete by early next year, in time for the Liberal government's second budget. He said civil servants, New Brunswickers and others will be asked for their input.

Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Bruce Fitch said he's concerned the government won't act on expenditure and revenue initiatives started by the previous government, and too much time will pass before the 2016-17 budget.