FREDERICTON, N.B. — Legislative changes in New Brunswick will make for dramatically safer highways, according to the province’s transport boss.
The Transportation Department was one of the heaviest-hit ministries in last year’s restructuring of the provincial bureaucracy. However, Transportation Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney tells the legislature that her department will use $2 million of its administrative savings to increase its road-maintenance budget.
“This budget will allow us to be strategic in our investment decisions — not just for today but also for tomorrow,” Blaney explains. “For this government, that means building only what we need and ensuring we can adequately maintain what we already have.”
The change in spending will increase the province’s road-maintenance budget to $56 million for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, providing more funding to fill potholes and repair winter damage to the province’s 18,000 km of roads and its 2,700 bridges.
But that didn’t satisfy the opposition transportation critic, who questioned the decisions that led to the administrative cuts.
“You can’t claim that these savings are successful without saying where they are,” says Charlotte MLA Sheldon Lee, the province’s long-time Transportation minister. “Some of these decisions were good, but others were not so good. I can’t see what sense it makes to take a man out of an office in Woodstock and move him down to Fredericton. That doesn’t sound smart to me.”
Blaney defended the administrative cuts, saying that last year’s restructuring will cut spending by $3.4 million a year. Those savings, plus an injection of $3.8 million in new money for ongoing projects, will increase the Transportation Department’s budget by $461,000 over last year.