Government ministers and MLAs say there is no connection between a summer wave of funding announcements and their looming campaign for re-election, which gets underway in mid-August.
Progressive Conservative politicians have been posing for photographs in museums, on highways, and next to hospital equipment and ferries in cities and towns across the province in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams led a tour of the Route 8 Marysville bypass, a $120-million, 32-kilometre road that will open in August.
During the tour, Williams posed for several photographs with fellow MLAs Pam Lynch and Kirk MacDonald and two federal Conservative MPs, Keith Ashfield and Mike Allen.
“The opposition will certainly say, `This is all about an election, about politics.' Certainly not,” Williams told CBC News.
“When you look at these projects, they were all in the making.”
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says every announcement and photo-op this summer has involved money already allocated and accounted for in his February budget.
“We haven’t approved one single new budget item,” he said.
“I know there have been a lot of announcements made and I’ve checked on them all in relation to the budget, and thus far these announcements are all part of this year’s budget.”
The latest quarterly budget update shows government spending on track to be $2.1 million over budget, mostly because of emergency flooding funds and winter road maintenance costs.
Still, if the summer blitz amounts to a wave of re-announcements, there have been plenty of them, including:
- $300,000 for the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John
- $1.1 million for a school gymnasium in Shippagan
- $100,000 for the Provincial Archives in Fredericton
- $11,000 for the YMCA in Moncton
- $2 million for the Saint John-Digby ferry.
- $85,000 for the Saint John Historical Society to restore Loyalist House.
At the same time, there have been tours of nursing homes and highway construction sites, and photo opportunities with newly purchased hospital equipment.
Some PC MLAs have posted photos of themselves on social media handing out cheques to community groups.
Southwest Miramichi MLA Jake Stewart has promoted his cheque presentations to the Greater Blackville Resource Centre, the Renous Community Centre and at the Doak House site in Doaktown.
His Saint John colleagues Dorothy Shepherd and Carl Killen posted a photo of their cheque presentation to the Seniors’ Resource Centre, while Trevor Holder tweeted about presenting cheques to local music festivals.
Williams says in cases such as the Route 8 bypass announcement — a two-hour event that involved several stops along the new road — it wasn’t possible to organize the tour when the budget was released in February.
“This is a good time to come see a road,” he said.
“I don't think in April or March would have been a good time. This is almost the completion, so this is perfect.”
Four years ago, when the PCs were in opposition, David Alward condemned the Liberal government of Shawn Graham for a similar wave of announcements.
Alward pounced after Graham made an offhand comment in a summer TV interview that he was no longer the premier but a candidate campaigning for election.
“That is completely appalling,” Alward said at the time.
“The premier has a responsibility first to govern New Brunswick and to put his party politics aside. What’s unfortunate is that today I understand he’s making four spending announcements. That tells you where his priorities are.”