Fredericton — The provincial government revealed this week that New Brunswick citizens were once again duped by the Finance department’s favourite prank.
On Jan. 26, the government announced that its yearly overspending of the money it collects as taxes and transfers from Ottawa was tracking lower than expected.
In fact, it appeared for a moment that the government actually was over a year ahead of hitting its “balanced budget” target. Hitting that target means that the government will only spend as much money as it receives each year, and the provincial debt will no longer grow larger.
However, just four days later, Finance Minister Cathy Rogers announced that instead of a year ahead of schedule it actually will be an additional year before the budget is balanced. The bait and switch prank had the minister doubled over in laughter in the foyer of the legislature on Wednesday.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! We got you sooooo good!” she roared. “You should have seen your faces. We were like ‘Hey, we think we finally got a handle on this,’ and then… bazinga! Sorry suckers! I can’t believe that you guys fell for it again!”
The promising of balanced budgets and instead delivering huge deficits is a favourite practical joke of New Brunswick finance ministers:
- In 2009, Graham’s finance minister Victor Boudreau promised a balanced budget by 2012-13.
- In 2013 David Alward’s finance minister Blaine Higgs said that a balanced budget was possible by 2015-16.
- In 2014, Higgs said that the budget would be balanced by 2017-18.
- The Gallant Liberals had a balanced budget goal of 2020-21, but announced on Tuesday that now it will be 2021-22.
“It will definitely — definitely — be balanced by 2022… I promise,” Rogers smirked — visibly suppressing a giggle.