N.B. economic growth expected to be worst of 10 provinces in 2018

An average of private sector economic forecasts for 2018 places New Brunswick in last place, among provinces in expected growth — not tied for ninth with Newfoundland and Labrador as a Department of Finance chart released with the provincial budget suggests.

Budget numbers depicting a tie with Newfoundland for 9th were inflated by the Finance Department

New Brunswick's Finance Department suggested it was tied for ninth place in the country's expected economic growth rate, when it's actually alone in 10th place. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

An average of private sector economic forecasts for 2018 places New Brunswick in last place, among provinces in expected growth — not tied for ninth with Newfoundland and Labrador as a Department of Finance chart released with the provincial budget suggests.

New Brunswick's last place ranking has been obscured since the budget's release because the department rounded up the province's score into a tie with Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Sarah Bustard, a spokesperson with the department, said this type of practice is common.

"The Department of Finance goes to one decimal point when reporting on GDP growth," Bustard wrote in an email to CBC News.

"This is a consistent approach used across the country."

Atlantic Canada lagging behind

As part of the budget, New Brunswick's Department of Finance compiles eight private sector forecasts of economic growth among provinces for the coming year. It then breaks them down into an average for each province.   

The projections are done by Canada's six largest banks, the Conference Board of Canada and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.  

This year provinces in Atlantic Canada fared poorly in the rankings:

  • Prince Edward Island finished seventh with an average growth for 2018 projected to be 1.5375 per cent.
  • Nova Scotia finished eighth at 1.075 per cent.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador was ninth at 1.000 per cent. 
  • New Brunswick finished last at 0.9625 per cent.
New Brunswick's government released a chart showing it tied for last in the country in expected growth for 2018, when it is in fact expecting the lowest growth across the country. (N.B. Department of Finance)

But after New Brunswick's Finance Department rounded growth rates off to one decimal place, it pushed the province into a tie with Newfoundland and Labrador — a subtle change in ranking, further muddied by a chart the Finance Department produced to visually display the results.

The chart displays the adjusted economic growth projections for New Brunswick and Newfoundland as being numerically equal, but visually places them in the wrong order.

On the chart, New Brunswick is in the ninth spot ahead of Newfoundland and Labrador, the opposite of their real positions.

Meanwhile, the Finance Department did not respond to a question on how the chart was constructed and why the two provinces ended up in reverse order of their true ranking.

Government not correcting position

New Brunswick's struggling economy has been an issue of significant political debate since the budget was released at the end of January.

A misunderstanding of exactly where the province's economic prospects rank — 10th rather than ninth among provinces — has been common.

Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs, PC finance critic Bruce Fitch and Opposition health critic Brian Macdonald have all made reference to New Brunswick being "tied with Newfoundland" in growth projections.

This has been an error no one in government has been correcting.

"When it says in your budget that we're tied with Newfoundland for the lowest growth in Canada, what do you think that indicates?" Macdonald asked Finance Minister Cathy Rogers during last week's CBC political panel.

Rogers ignored the error in Macdonald's depiction of where New Brunswick actually ranks.

"Of course we don't like being on the low end of other provinces," she said.

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