New Brunswick

Budget breaks health care pledge

The Alward government is on track to keep a campaign promise to eliminate the deficit in one term, but has broken a health care promise in the process.

Increases health spending by 1.6% instead of 3%

The Alward government is on track to keep a campaign promise to eliminate the deficit in one term, but has broken a health care promise in the process.

The 2012-13 provincial budget, released Tuesday, limits the Department of Health to a 1.6 per cent increase over what it's spending this year, including just one per cent more for hospitals.

That’s well below the minimum three per cent increase promised during the election.

The government has allocated $2.583 billion to health, about $35 million less than what had been pledged for this year alone.

During the 2010 election, Premier David Alward made more than 80 spending promises, including a number of commitments to health care.

"New Brunswickers are always concerned about our health care system," he had said during the debates.

The Liberals "will cut health care funding to one per cent and we have committed to a minimum three per cent increase each year," Alward had said.

And his platform clearly stated: "A new Progressive Conservative government led by David Alward will guarantee that the annual budget for the Department of Health will increase each and every year of a four-year mandate by a minimum of three per cent."

During the debates, Alward pledged to keep all of his promises. "When you run on a platform, you run on your word," he said. "My word is my contract to the people of New Brunswick," he had said.

But Finance Minister Blaine Higgs didn't seem to realize the three per cent-promise was specifically for the Health Department.

"It doesn't have to be directly in the health budget is my point," Higgs told reporters Tuesday during the pre-budget lockup.

"We've moved it into other departments or health strategies," he said.

The budget does get the Tories one step closer to another promise – eliminating the provincial deficit in one term.

"It's government's intention to return to balance in 2014-15 as originally stated," Higgs said.

The budget, Higgs’ second, cuts the deficit in half to $183 million, using mostly a combination of program cuts, small revenue hikes and incremental reductions in the civil service.

Program 2011-12 Revised 2012-13 Estimate
Corporate and other health services $275.651M $290.850M
Medicare $585.899M $601.372M
Prescription drug program $195.757M $192.024M
Regional health authorities $1.484.376B $1.498.562B
Total - ordinary $2.541.683B $2.582.808B
Designated revenue $1.007M $1.007M
Total - gross ordinary $2.542.690B $2.583.815B