The Gallant government will not be honouring two of its largest platform commitments to New Brunswick families this year, despite campaign assurances by the Liberal Party both would be funded by now and a pledge election promises it made would not be broken, CBC News has confirmed.
"We're going to keep our promises by making promises we can keep," said Brian Gallant as he unveiled the party's platform last September.
As part of that platform New Brunswick Liberals had promised to spend $30 million this year on two of its major "Family Plan" election promises, including a $14.9-million tax credit for people looking after seniors and special needs dependents at home, and $15.5-million in new daycare subsidies for low and lower middle income families.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Serge Rousselle is responsible for the daycare subsidy but seemed unaware the party had committed to fully fund it this year
"Can you read me that part please," he asked when told the Liberal platform had promised the full $15.5-million daycare subsidy to voters this year
'We do have this commitment and I can assure you that we intend to respect it in the upcoming years.' - Education Minister Serge Rousselle
The two promises made up nearly one-third of a "new program" package that Liberals proposed to spend $99.1 million on in their first year and which they openly detailed in their platform's six-year fiscal plan.
In addition, each promise had its funding this year individually confirmed in writing in an "election commitment disclosure statement" filed by the Liberal Party with Elections New Brunswick as required by the province's Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Act.
In the case of the daycare subsidy, the Liberal Party declared its intention to spend $62 million over the next four years on its proposal to expand the current program beginning with $15.5 million in new money this year.
Currently, daycare subsidies are limited to parents with household incomes of $41,000 or less and the party said its plan was to offer subsidies to families with higher incomes.
But Rousselle, who delivered his department's budget estimates on Wednesday, said new funding for the daycare subsidy will not be included this year.
He also would not commit to funding the promise next year, although he said eventually the money will be made available.
"We do have this commitment and I can assure you that we intend to respect it in the upcoming years," said Rousselle.
Blame finances left by Alward government
The education minister blamed financial problems left by Progressive Conservatives for the Gallant government's decision not to fund the promised daycare subsidies this year.
"It's much easier to prepare a budget when we have the true numbers," Rousselle told the legislature on Wednesday. "We couldn't know the [education department] deficit was so big when we came to power."
Rousselle said he was shocked to discover after being appointed minister last October that he had inherited a number of half-finished projects from the previous government that would require $37 million to complete.
He said that made funding $15.5 million in daycare subsidies Liberals had promised this year impossible.
Rousselle was responding to questions by Oromocto Progressive Conservative Jody Carr, who said he found the explanation "quite weak."
Overall, the Gallant government actually inherited a much smaller budget deficit than was believed to exist during the 2014 election campaign as it began its mandate. The Progressive Conservatives' final budget had projected a deficit of $391 million, but eventually came in $136 million below that.
'Not part of the 2015-16 budget'
Veronique Taylor, a spokeswoman with the Department of Finance, says there are also no immediate plans to fund the promised "care giver" tax credit.
"Providing tax breaks to help individuals who assist a family member in their own home is a government commitment, however was not part of the 2015-16 budget," said Taylor in an email to CBC News
Gallant made the "care giver" promise personally last August one week into the provincial election campaign.
He said it would pay $1,275 to those "who care for a dependent with special needs or a senior family member at home."
Liberals said up to three dependents could be claimed by one caregiver under the proposal for a maximum tax credit of $3,825.
A disclosure statement about the promise filed with Elections New Brunswick showed it was to cost $14.9 million and, like the daycare subsidy, was to be included in the Gallant government's first budget.
It was expected to help with the home care of nearly 12,000 people.
"When we consider all that our seniors have done for us, these costs are well worth the value they will provide for seniors and their families," said Gallant as he made the commitment.
"I am proud to be prioritizing investments to help keep our seniors independent and give them the respect and dignity they deserve."
Gallant was adamant during the election the Liberal platform was affordable and trustworthy and he made a point of contrasting himself with former Progressive Conservative leader David Alward largely because of campaign promises Alward had broken during his first term.
"David Alward has proved he can't be trusted. We can't be sure what promises he'll break if he's given another chance," said Gallant.