08/19/2014 08:02 EDT | Updated 10/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Brian Gallant: N.B. Liberal Government Would Find $250 Million In Savings


FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal leader is promising a review of government spending to find at least $250 million in savings, a commitment dismissed as vague by the Progressive Conservative government.

Brian Gallant announced Tuesday that he would aim to save the equivalent of about three per cent of government expenditures in his second budget should he win the Sept. 22 election.

Gallant said every government department will be examined.

"It's important to take the right amount of time and engage with the right people, fully understand which programs were created for which purposes, and which ones are actually filling those roles and objectives," he said.

"We have to tell ourselves that everything is on the table, but obviously we want investments that are creating jobs and growing the economy to stay, and some of them could be increased."

Gallant enlisted the help of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who voiced his support for Gallant's promise in a conference call with the news media.

During his time as finance minister in the 1990s, Martin made cuts to the public service, but on Tuesday he said that approach may not be needed in New Brunswick.

"You certainly don't start with looking at public sector jobs," he said. "Public servants make a great contribution to their country and that has to be recognized.

"What you have to start with is a line-by-line examination of government spending."

Provincial Tory Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said the Liberal promise rings hollow because it lacks details on where cuts will be made.

"It's kind of smoke and mirrors to throw out a number to reduce by $250 million with no meat around it," Higgs said.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said his party has identified $300 million in cuts, the details of which he said would be released during the campaign that begins Thursday.

The Tories were elected in September 2010 committing to balance the books, a promise yet to be realized. The government has now revised its goal of balancing the budget to 2017-18.

The government is banking on the creation of a shale gas industry to generate jobs, a plan that has sparked protests. Gallant has called for a moratorium on shale gas exploration until more scientific studies are completed.

Martin said he supports natural resource development but only if there is public consultation and environmental studies that prove it is safe.

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