By Mary Moszynski
Appeared on page A10


New Brunswickers reaching for a cold beer could directly help fund millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects necessary for the province to reach self-sustained prosperity, say the co-chairmen of the self-sufficiency task force.

The task force’s third report, released yesterday, is recommending government create a $1-billion fund to pay for roads, wireless technologies, tourism and energy projects needed to reach the Liberals’ goal of the province reaching economic self-sufficiency by 2026.

“We believe that the government of New Brunswick must move quickly, with the emphasis on the word quickly, to invest significant amounts of money in strategic infrastructure,” said Francis McGuire, co-chairman of the taskforce.

The report proposes the province ask Ottawa for half of the money – $500 million. The province should issue long-term bonds, financed by NB Liquor, to collect the rest of the money, McGuire suggests.

The liquor corporation returned about $125 million to government coffers last year, meaning the bonds would be a very secure investment, he added.

“I think most people know that New Brunswickers may drink a little more or drink a little less, but they’re not going to stop drinking so it is a very secure investment.”

Most provincial long-term bonds have a value of at least $1,000 and reach maturity after at least 20 years. Investors who buy a bond would receive a set amount of interest, paid by the revenues of NB Liquor, either annually or semi-annually, until it reaches maturity and the government pays back the value of the bond.

“Nobody in Canada has looked at this model but I can give you my personal guarantee that the investment bankers in Toronto or New York City would jump on a plane in a second,” said McGuire.

Richard Roik, spokesman for Greg Thompson, the federal minister for New Brunswick, said the minister has received the report. Thompson will review the report and wait to see if the province makes a formal request for funding, Roik said.

Opposition leader Jeannot Volpé said he’s ready to help the Liberals secure federal funding for the province. However he cautioned government against rushing to spend a large lump of money immediately and saddling future generations with the debt. Bonds may be a quick way to raise money but the province is still responsible for paying that money back to the buyers, said Volpe.

“Until I see the plan I’m not ready to say mortgage the province, start spending all kinds of money and push it back to our kids. I’m not ready to accept that.”

The task force is recommending the province also use bonds to fund a not-for-profit corporation to oversee the creation and development of an e-health system. The system would cost up to $400 million and save the province about $80 million annually, states the report.

As well, the province would be able to sell its system and expertise to other provinces looking to adapt an e-health system, McGuire added. An e-health system electronically links patient records, hospitals and pharmacists. Selling bonds also transfers some of the risk – should the project fail – to the holders of the bonds, he said.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, said it makes sense for the province to explore issuing bonds. However he’s dismayed by McGuire’s comments that tax cuts for businesses must be earned and not given away.

“I think the report should be subtitled something along the lines of ‘the road to self-sufficiency is paved with other people’s money,'” he said. “This is a remarkable stretch here.”


“The task force is sending contradicting messages by attempting to market the province as an attractive destination for businesses but at the same time talking about raising taxes and forcing businesses to pay higher wages,” Cirtwill said.

“Quite honestly, I feel like I’ve gone into a time warp reading most this,” he said.