01/15/2015 10:56 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT

New Brunswick Government Needs To Find $600M In Savings

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal government says it needs to find $500 million to $600 million in annual savings in order to meet its financial challenges.

During last year's provincial election, the Liberals said they would need to find long-term savings of at least $250 million in their second budget.

Now, the minister responsible for the government's strategic program review, says the province has a structural deficit of about $400 million per year.

But Victor Boudreau says they have to find greater savings.

"Obviously to get to $400 million you've got to aim a little higher," Boudreau said Thursday.

"Plus, we have our own platform commitments that we feel are important to act on. It's the basis on which Premier Gallant got elected, so we need to make sure that we keep those commitments."

The government has released a discussion paper and a schedule for 14 public meetings where they will seek input.

Boudreau said they want to hear suggestions for three government services that could be cut and three things the government could do to raise money.

"This is not a popularity contest. This is not going to be an easy task, but it needs to be done," he said.

Boudreau said those public meetings will also serve as the 2015-16 pre-budget consultations.

On Tuesday, the government announced it had 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.

He said the government will consider all options, including the possible privatization of government services.

The review is expected to be complete by early next year.

Also on HuffPost

Photo gallery Provinces In Most Financial Trouble - 2013 Numbers See Gallery