‘It’s kind of a tsunami effect here’: Higgs talks about the cost of living in New Brunswick

New Brunswick is in the unenviable position of having the second highest inflation rate in Canada.

At 7.6% in April, the inflation rate hurt many New Brunswickers, impacting gas and food prices.

Premier Blaine Higgs spoke with CBC’s Rosemary Barton about Rosemary Barton live to navigate the province in uncertain times.

At 7.6% in April, the inflation rate hurt New Brunswickers, impacting gas and food prices. (Marta Lavandier/Associated Press)

The discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: New Brunswick has the title of the second highest inflation rate in the country at 7.6% for April. What explains the high inflation in your province?

A: It’s kind of a tsunami effect here. We have seen a significant migration of people into our province. We had unprecedented bidding wars on houses. It’s a mixed feeling because we have an economy that is growing faster than ever.

Q: What are you hearing from people in the province about the cost of living?

A: We have very important situations. We are taking steps to really change the way people can handle this bubble.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the dueling motions that your (Progressive Conservative) party and the Liberals have put forward to try to address some of these challenges. Both were blocked. Is there room for some sort of compromise here in the legislature on how to approach this?

A: You must have a longer term bridge in this case. What do we see for tax-based income? We want to give that rate back to the people who need it most, a targeted benefit to those hardest hit by inflation.

Q: Would that be a bit like what Prince Edward Island is doing? They provide direct support to citizens.

A: In a way, it would. I think we really want to make sure it’s targeted. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s a solution for those who need it most.

Higgs says he’s looking for targeted fixes. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Q: I know you would like Ottawa to suspend the carbon tax for the summer. What advantage would you see in suspending the carbon tax?

A: In our case, the carbon tax is worth about $0.11 per litre. It would have an impact. When I look at the carbon tax, my point is simple: we have actually reached a higher cost of energy than the carbon tax was ever intended to do. We already have a deterrent for people using energy products, so can we have an adjustment?

Q: One of the things you discussed is the high gas price rebates. Is it still on the table?

A: If we see that we actually have more tax revenue. This is the part I’m trying to solve next week.

Q: When the crisis around inflation started, we had the feeling that it was going to be transitory. It seems to be much more than that now. How long is this going to last and how prepared are you to introduce some sort of policy that would cover that period?

A: We cannot do this provincially. It is unfeasible to think that every province could put in place a policy to mitigate the energy costs that we are seeing soaring.

Q: Have you had conversations with other provinces or engaged with Ottawa?

A: We have a first ministers meeting, but it’s in July. I asked for a national call on this so we can really rethink.

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