FREDERICTON – New Brunswick needs the extra $105 million it will receive this year in equalization payments to move closer to its goal of self-sufficiency, the province’s finance minister says.

Finance Minister Victor Boudreau insisted Tuesday the initial stage of the 20-year self-sufficiency strategy actually depends on the premise that the province needs more than the $1.69 billion in equalization payments the province will collect next year, not less.

“This is a little more but it’s still not what we need or what we’ve been looking for and we’re going to continue with our self-sufficiency discussions with the new federal government,” said Boudreau.

Boudreau said the province needs more now in order to need less in the future, and he said the province is still negotiating for more federal money to help set itself on course for financial independence from equalization payments.

Conservative leader David Alward said the Liberal government’s self-sufficiency agenda is being revealed as nothing more than a public relations strategy.

“The self-sufficiency plan had problems on day one, there wasn’t a plan, no accountability mechanism, no targets, and this announcement as far as equalization shows the reality of New Brunswick,” said Alward.

“As New Brunswickers we need to face that reality and work together to continue to build our society, to build our economy, and to do that we need access to the same types of programs and services that other provinces have at a similar level of taxation.

“That program certainly is important to us.”

Alward said the Liberal government’s self-sufficiency mantra needs to be stored away to allow the province to face the immediate economic and demographic needs facing the province.

“The self sufficiency plan has been derailed for months and months and months, and we don’t hear this government talking about it at all.”

Boudreau said the Liberal government is still steering New Brunswick toward self-sufficiency, which Premier Shawn Graham has also defined as a sharply increased population, but it needs help from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Negotiations have included a request for a $500 million injection of federal cash for infrastructure projects.

“Unfortunately people have short memories, but since day one of our self-sufficiency agenda we have said all along that the federal government is going to have to invest more in the province,” said Boudreau.

Rather than being worried that New Brunswick’s share of the equalization program is growing, Boudreau said he is more concerned that Ottawa has decided to place a cap on the growth of the program by linking it with the growth of the country’s economy.

The program had been growing by as much as 15 per cent in recent years.

“We are getting a little more than we thought we would get, but what’s a little more concerning “¦ is what impact the cap, that has been put on the program, is going to have on New Brunswick.”

Charles Cirtwill, of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said the province’s extra equalization windfall should be used to cut taxes.

“Given the economic challenges that New Brunswick faces, given that this is the opportune time to be daring and bold, why not take that $100 million and translate that into tax cuts for New Brunswickers,” said Cirtwill.

Cirtwill said the Liberal government should implement its tax reforms, which it has asked a legislative committee to evaluate, as quickly as it can in order to stimulate the economy, but he warned against implementing a carbon tax.

Boudreau said the government plans to accelerate the elaboration of its tax plans once it receives the committee’s report.

“Initially we had said we would like to give a clear direction of where we were going when we table our budget in the spring,” said Boudreau.

“But I know that with everything that has gone on in the last couple of months, we are certainly working to try to move that up to be able to announce what government intends to do on taxation reform earlier rather than later.”

The tax reform discussion paper that the committee used to consult with taxpayers and tax experts includes a carbon tax, a two per cent HST increase, and cuts to personal and corporate income taxes.

Boudreau said the proposed reforms follow what the top economic minds believe can help the province emerge from the crisis.

“Our tax reform package did have the ultimate goal of reducing personal and corporate income taxes and leaving more money in the pockets of New Brunswickers,” said Boudreau.

“That’s exactly what every economist will tell you you need to do to weather these tough financial times.”

The equalization program was created over 50 years ago to ensure similar services are available across Canadian provinces for a similar level of taxation.

Next year, Nova Scotia will receive $1.7 billion Quebec will receive $8.35 billion, Manitoba will receive $2.1 billion, and P.E.I. will receive $340 million.