Governing Tories blame Liberals for drop in New Brunswick's credit rating

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s Opposition Liberals say the governing Conservatives need to stop shifting responsibility for a dip in the province’s credit rating.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs was quick to point a finger at the previous government Friday, saying he’s disappointed but not surprised that Standard and Poor’s Rating Services is downgrading the province’s credit rating from AA-minus to A-plus.

“When you run up the sort of debt the previous government did, you don’t just turn that around overnight and you can’t just pay that off overnight,” Higgs told the legislature.

“Today we see that years of overspending are continuing to hurt New Brunswickers’ future.”

Opposition finance critic Donald Arseneault said Higgs can’t continue to blame the previous government.

“Very clearly, in Standard and Poor’s comments … things happening today are continuing to cause concerns as well,” Arseneault said.

The report blames the rising cost of managing the province’s $10-billion debt for the downgrade.

However, it also points out some strengths, including New Brunswick’s “relatively resilient economic performance” in the face of worldwide economic woes.

The rating agency said it expects the debt burden to begin to fall if the government achieves its goal of balanced budgets by 2014.

Higgs said the government could be more aggressive on cutting costs, but is trying to take a sustainable and balanced approach.

He said it’s too early to say if the lower rating will increase the cost of borrowing for the province.

“I’m not looking for it to have an impact, but we’ll have to see how the markets react to it.”