Grits charge Tories are squirreling away cash

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FREDERICTON, N.B. — Opposition Leader Bernard Richard suggests Premier Bernard Lord has been putting millions of dollars away for an election spending spree on roadwork in the province.

Richard says the province has slashed its capital spending on roads year over year from $96 million in 1999 to $28 million in 2000-01.

He says he learned yesterday, at the legislature’s public accounts committee meeting, that the province is reserving close to $40 million federal dollars for highway spending up 2003.

Transportation Department deputy minister David Johnstone confirmed that capital spending on roads dipped to under $30 million during the last fiscal year, the first time in nearly 20 years.

“This government has been saying we need to build highways for economic development, for safety, yet, they’ve slashed this capital budget year over year,” Richard says. “It’s a dramatic cut.”

Richard says under his government transportation spending was high and consistent so road builders could can on consistent levels of work year-over-year.

Johnstone says it was a government decision not to expend all remaining federal monies until 2003-04 when spending is estimated to shoot up to $75 million annually.

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