Vague 2014 promise helps Liberals claim job-creation success, despite little growth
Party says government created 15,000 jobs in 4 years, although economy only added 1,500
"Over the last four years government contributed to the creation of 15,000 jobs," it says in campaign material promoting the achievement.
So how do New Brunswick Liberals take credit for keeping a big 2014 promise by creating 15,000 jobs when the New Brunswick economy has only produced one-tenth of that number over the last four years?
It's a campaign oddity grounded in uncertainty over exactly what the Liberal Party promised voters in 2014, when they gave the 10,000 job guarantee — an uncertainly fuelled by two key events that preceded and then two that followed the 2014 election.
Liberals criticize Alward job record
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant heavily and relentlessly criticized then Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward throughout the 2014 election campaign for the "net" loss of jobs to New Brunswick's economy that occurred during Alward's four-year term in office. This statement, made during the launch of the Liberal Party's full platform in September 2014 was typical of the attack:
"We've seen under the Alward Conservatives a failed mandate when it comes to creating jobs and growing the economy. For the first time since we've been taking the record of governments' job creation numbers, we have seen a government that was unable to have a net gain in jobs throughout their mandate."
Because of the steady criticism that Alward's central failure as premier was that the provincial economy had added no net jobs during his term, there was an assumption when Liberals' promised to create 10,000 jobs, they were pledging to increase the province's net job total by that amount.
Liberals would later dispute that.
Sept. 8, 2014: The 5,000 / 10,000 job creation guarantee
During the same platform event at which Alward was criticized for a net loss of jobs in the New Brunswick economy, and as an antidote to Alward's failures, Gallant unveiled his plan to create 5,000 jobs in the first year of his government and at least 10,000 jobs during his entire four year term.
"A Liberal government if given the chance to govern by the people of New Brunswick would make job creation and growing the economy the priority. …Our plan is very clear. Our plan is focused on creating jobs. In the first year of a Liberal government we would create 5,000 jobs with our plan and within four years — the mandate of a Liberal government we would create over 10,000 jobs for New Brunswick. And that's the basement. That's the guarantee."
The Liberal plan had several elements, including a mix of direct government expenditures on job creating projects like new infrastructure, as well as policy changes to generate employment, such as small business tax reductions.
Dec. 4, 2014: The 10,000 job guarantee clarification
The early job counts done in New Brunswick by Statistics Canada after government changed in October 2014 showed further job losses in the province, and in his first question period Gallant was asked how he planned to keep the promise to add 5,000 jobs in his first year after such a poor start.
Gallant said opposition members had misunderstood what kind of job creation he had promised in the election. There was no specific pledge to achieve a sustained increase in provincial job numbers he claimed, only to spend money on specific projects that each had individual job-creation targets.
"It's very important for the leader of the opposition to remember what we promised and what we discussed during the campaign and we'll be very upfront about our promises," Gallant said in the legislature. "We promised that job creation would be our number one priority. Number two we said that we have a platform and a plan that's going to create jobs.
"An independent analysis of an economist told us that the measures that we would instill in our first year would create 5,000 jobs. It was not a promise of a net gain of 5,000 jobs. It's an independent analysis that told us 5,000 jobs would be created by the things we are going to put in place as a government. It was never a promise of a net gain of 5,000 jobs."
Opposition MLAs disputed that interpretation of Gallant's jobs promise as revisionism, but Liberals have stuck by the explanation for nearly four years and used it to claim success in creating jobs themselves, despite limited job growth in the economy.
Feb. 28, 2018: Declaration of success and 1 last clarification
In early February this year Statistics Canada issued its jobs count for New Brunswick for January 2018 and it showed at that point the province had 800 fewer jobs than when Liberals had first taken office in October 2014.
It made for a jobs record nearly as poor as Alward's, but three weeks later Treasury Board President Roger Melanson issued a news release announcing government had kept its signature 2014 campaign promise to create the 10,000 jobs — and then some.
"We made a promise to support the creation of 10,000 jobs by 2018 and we delivered on that promise," read the release.
"Between October 2014 and December 2017, 15,126 jobs were created in the province."
Melanson's account claimed the jobs came through Opportunities NB (3,639), the Regional Development Corp. (3,470) the Jobs Board (787) and the Department of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, (6,960) although the numbers are unaudited.
And although Melanson did not mention or attempt to explain the lacklustre monthly job counts the province has been getting from Statistics Canada, despite so much government-funded job creation, he did reference the issue indirectly.
Despite the treatment of Alward, Melanson said, provincial governments should not really be held responsible if little or no job growth occurs on their watch as long as they are doing their best.
"As a small province we cannot always control the forces and impacts of the global economy, but we can and have taken the actions required to help create jobs and provide meaningful work for New Brunswickers," he said.