01/28/2015 07:30 EST | Updated 03/30/2015 05:59 EDT

New Brunswick premier uses annual speech to stress need for tough decisions

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant used an annual televised address Wednesday night to stress the need for tough decisions to fix the province's fiscal problems.

Gallant said high unemployment, the deficit and a stagnant economy have been talked about for too long and it's time to resolve those issues.

"To move forward, away from the status quo, we need to make some tough decisions," he told a business audience in Fredericton.

"I think New Brunswickers are ready for tough choices."

His Liberal government is holding a series of public meetings seeking ideas to help find up to $600 million in annual savings. The government is running a structural deficit of about $400 million.

The province has been in the red for the last six years and has a net debt expected to top $12 billion in March.

"When we have our finances in order we can focus on the kind of things we need to do to help make our province the best place to raise a family," Gallant said.

Gallant said the government is not seeking consensus and not everyone will agree with its decisions as it tries to improve the province's fiscal record.