11/13/2012 18:15 EST | Updated 01/13/2013 05:12 EST

Flaherty breathes hope to vulnerable transfer program

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a glimmer of hope for a jeopardized program that has delivered millions of dollars to New Brunswick during his fall economic statement Tuesday.

He said plans to slash a transfer program that has delivered hundreds of millions of dollars to the province -- may be put on hold.

In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Fredericton, Flaherty said no province would see a reduction in transfer payments in 2013, big news for New Brunswick, which was scheduled to lose $100 million in federal government transfer payments.

New Brunswick receives $2.4 billion out of its $7.5 billion budget in federal transfer payments. Equalization payments account for $1.6 billion of those federal transfers, followed by $605 million in health transfers and $251 million in transfers for other social programs.

New Brunswick faced deep cuts this year, but was saved by a temporary program that guarantees federal funding won't change from one year to the next.

It's been critical in preventing an even bigger deficit, but it expires this March. Flaherty didn't mention the transfer protection program specifically in his speech, but he told reporters he is talking to New Brunswick and other have-not provinces about extending it.

Eye on development projects

But the minister said New Brunswick should also look to other provinces for development projects to boost its economy.

“It's important that we try to move western oil to New Brunswick and through the great port of Saint John, which as you know, is a deep water port and can take ships that cannot be taken in Quebec City or Montreal. That's an incredible opportunity for New Brunswick going forward. There's ship building that's going to happen in Nova Scotia, which is going to have a value for jobs in New Brunswick as well,” he said.

Flaherty said he met with New Brunswick's premier and Finance minister to discuss transfer payments and potential infrastructure projects with federal funding.