The first whopper of the New Brunswick election campaign

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, seen above at the 2014 Liberal Party of Canada convention in Montreal, announce his party’s healthcare proposals on Friday.

Just as Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne tried to use Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a bogeyman early in her successful election campaign earlier this summer, so too is New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant quickly introducing Harper as a character in the just-launched New Brunswick election campaign. Gallant is way ahead in the polls and is trying to unseat incumbent Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward.

On Saturday, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will campaign with Gallant and one would assume both Alward will be thrashed with whatever sins Liberals are accusing Harper of committing these days.

But let’s focus on what Gallant said on the campaign trail Friday, day two of the campaign. There’s this quote:

“Alward’s focus on cuts has hurt our economy which, in turn, has hampered our ability to invest properly in services like healthcare,” Gallant said Friday as he unveiled plans to improve healthcare delivery if he wins. (Many of his health care plans, coincidentally, also sound like they came out Wynne’s playbook.)  “To make matters worse, the Alward Government failed to challenge Stephen Harper on cuts to federal health transfers that will hurt New Brunswick more than other provinces.”

But there’s a whopper in the middle of that quote.

Alward could not possibly have challenged Harper over cuts to federal health transfers because there have been no cuts to New Brunswick’s health care transfers.

This is from page 8 of the 2014 Public Accounts of New Brunswick:

Unconditional Grants are up $15.4 million from budget largely related to an increase for the Canada Health Transfer related to new population data.

This is from page 9 of the 2012 Public Accounts of New Brunswick:

Unconditional Grants are up $32.2 million mainly due to the legislated growth in the federal cash funding  for the Canada Health Transfer and the Canada Social Transfer

This is from the federal department of Finance:

“As announced in December 2011, total [Canada Health Transfer] cash levels are set in legislation to grow at 6 per cent until 2016-17. Starting in 2017-18, total CHT cash will grow in line with a three-year moving average of nominal Gross Domestic Product, with funding guaranteed to increase by at least 3 per cent per year.” Moreover, “no province or territory will receive less than its 2013-14 CHT cash allocation in future years as a result of the move to equal per capita cash.”

What does that mean for New Brunswick? It will never get less than it did in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2014. That’s a big deal for a province like New Brunswick where the population growth is shrinking. Statistics Canada reported that, as of June 30 this year, there were 754,524 people in the province. Twelve months earlier there were 756,457. So let’s say the federal transfer to New Brunswick on March 31, 2014 was $100 and that there were 100 people living in the province. Now let’s say 25 people leave the province. Ottawa will still send New Brunswick no less than $100. Which means the per capita transfer to New Brunswick will have actually increased because there’s fewer people to split that health care pie.

Not only that, but the feds will increase funding next year by 6%. So if New Brunswick got $100, it’s now going to get $106 even if its population shrinks or stays the same. I can just about guarantee that New Brunswick’s population is certainly not going to grow by 6% over the next year. Which means so per capita transfers to New Brunswick will have effectively grown.

All of which means New Brunswick likely stands to do better than many provinces, not worse as Gallant claims, because of the federal funding formula. A province like Alberta or B.C. which is seeing strong and rapid population growth might have some grousing to do — although they too will benefit from increasing per capita transfers.

So what was Alward supposed to “stand up” against?

Also: Gallant doesn’t explicitly say that Alward has cut health care though in saying “Alward’s focus on cuts”, a reader might get the impression he is accusing Alward of cutting healthcare spending. So, for those readers who might be confused, let’s take a look at the facts.

According to the Public Accounts of New Brunswick for the year ended March 30, 2014, the Alward government spent $2.790 billion on health care last year. That was up 3.8 per cent compared to the prior year when $2.786 billion was spent on health care. So year-over-year spending went up by 3.8 per cent even though the population declined by about 750 people.

In fact, the Alward government increased health spending in 2012 over 2011, and increased spending in 2013 over 2012 levels. So any which you slice it: Alward has been increasing spending on health care and the Harper government has been and will continue to give New Brunswick more money for health care.


6 thoughts on “The first whopper of the New Brunswick election campaign”

  1. Medical Society of New Brunswick ,please read ,and stick to your profession, do a good job for all NB’s .Do you have the answers to solve the problem .If yes run and get elected ( good salary for you .)

  2. So, essentially, this proves New Brunswick provincial leader Brian Gallant is already lying.

    The more I hear about him, the less I feel I can trust him.

    He’s waffling on fracking and now he’s lying. Not great qualities in a leader.

  3. Once again, you have demonstrated why you are one of a handful of journalists that I can trust. I may not always agree with you when you advance an opinion or draw a conclusion — especially if it reflects badly on the party I support — but it’s difficult to disagree with facts, which you often offer for your readers’ consideration. Well done.

  4. The province of New Brunswick has a job problem, there are not enough jobs in the province for the people that are employable that live in the province! And by the way you took the “Alward’s focus on cuts” to be merely about health care spending and that is not the case. Alward like most Conservative Premier’s is focused on cuts to Government Spending. And yes in a province in need of supporting Health Care, Social Services (for those who are unemployed, help i.e. counseling, employment readiness etc is of great importance. But agency’s that supply those services cannot do so effectively if their budgets are always being slashed willy nilly without consultation. And Conservatives do not consult before they make their drastic cuts. Conservatives have a history in Canada of slashing Social Service Agencies budgets dramatically without care or concern for the harm that it does to those who rely on those Agencies to help them cope with their day to day lives!

    1. Plenty of jobs in NB, problem is the official language act. Its hurting NB, its being enforced with little to no help to anglophones who are not fluent in 2 languages. Take our paramedics now, anglophone paramedics coming out saying they can’t take extra shifts or apply for full time work because they aren’t bilingual. I would really love for Sunnews to do a story on this, NB is now hiring from Quebec and French schools in Ont. Now the Liberals just released a new policy for francophones increasing services, funding more money.

  5. Healthcare spending increases per year, according to public records. The Author needs to do some more research apparently.

    2008 – 2009 – 162 million dollar increase
    2009 – 2010 – 140 million dollar increase
    2010 – 2011 – 102 million dollar increase
    2011 – 2012 – 46 million dollar increase
    2012 – 2013 – 52 million dollar increase
    2013 – 2014 – 4 million dollar increase

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