Liberals, PCs continue fight over changes to nursing home fees

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are refusing to back down from their entrenched positions on changes to how much seniors are billed for nursing home care even as more information is coming out about the decision.

Nursing home fee changes will save $7.8M

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are refusing to back down from their entrenched positions on changes to how much seniors are billed for nursing home care even as more information is coming out about the decision.

The raising of the cap on the daily charge for nursing home care will save the province $6.2 million, while including seniors' bank accounts when assessing what they can pay will save another $1.6 million.

The total saving of the contentious decision is $7.8 million.

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch says the savings from the nursing home policy changes are a tiny amount given how much alarm it has caused among seniors.

"Will the premier, now that he knows that it's only $7.8 million, reduce the contingency fund by $7.8 million, and leave the seniors alone?" Fitch said.

The Liberals say they're glad Fitch called it "only $7.8 million" because it contradicts a month's worth of rhetoric about how terrible the decision was for seniors.

Now that the Opposition Tories have called the savings small, Premier Brian Gallant says they should admit they were wrong for the last several weeks.

"If it isn't that much, will [Fitch] apologize for fear-mongering with the seniors of our province, trying to make them feel that more was going to be taken from them in reality than will be in reality?" Gallant said.

The Liberals have said all along only seniors who can afford to pay more will pay more.

Finance Minister Roger Melanson introduced the measure in the first Liberal budget, which had other belt-tightening measures.

Melanson's March 31 budget projected a deficit of $476.8 million, which pushed the total net debt to $12.6 billion by March 31, 2016.

New Brunswick has not posted a budget surplus since 2007.

Liberal cabinet minister Victor Boudreau said the province is facing a structural deficit and his strategic program review is looking to find $600 million in program cuts and finding new revenue.

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