Tuesday, January 26, 2021

NB ranks last in helping according to report

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows the provincial government has almost completely depended on the federal government to help its citizens and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada has earmarked $374 billion between federal and provincial governments in direct COVID-19 emergency spending, but almost every province is sitting on unspent funds, according to a new study from the CCPA.
The report tracks which level of government picked up the tab for every COVID-19 program announced through Dec. 31, 2020, and also analyzes how the provinces are spending their share of federal transfers. Overall, 92 per cent ($343 billion) of COVID-19 direct spending initiatives, excluding liquidity and unallocated funds, came from the feds – compared to eight per cent ($31 billion) from provincial governments.
“It’s only fitting that the federal government took the lead during this crisis given historically low interest rates and a manageable debt-to-GDP ratio,” said study author and CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. “That being said, it’s clear that many provinces are leaving money on the table during a time of unprecedented crisis. There is fiscal room for many provinces to step up and do more.”
Some of the key findings from the study, relative to New Brunswick, include:
• Half of the provinces (P.E.I., N.S., N.B., Man. and Sask.) haven’t met the 50-50 cost sharing stipulation attached to municipal supports through the Safe Restart agreements;
• Amid the crisis in long-term care (LTC), six out of 10 provinces (N.L., P.E.I., N.B., Man. Sask. and Alta.) don’t have sufficient plans in place to access the full amount of federal LTC funds. Overall, 12 per cent of COVID-19 health spending is coming from the provinces;
• Six of 10 provinces (N.S., N.B., Man., Sask., Alta. and B.C.) didn’t access the full federal amount available for the low- wage essential worker top-up.
• New Brunswick hasn’t fully spent what it has received from the federal government in COVID-19 health transfers, $5.9 million remains to be spent.
“It’s incredibly problematic that several provinces do not yet have plans to spend federal money in health care, long-term care and housing at a time when it’s so urgently needed,” said Macdonald. “When it comes to government spending, this has largely been a federal show. There is room to do more, particularly at the provincial level, to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts. Post-pandemic, all levels of government must work together to rebuild better – to be prepared for future crises, to tackle the inequities that COVID-19 has exposed, and to improve public services.”
New Brunswick Union President Susie Proulx-Daigle says the study is particularly illuminating given how many provinces have used the pandemic and the financial issues associated with it as an excuse to try and push cuts and austerity measures.
“The people of New Brunswick and its small businesses need help during this crisis,” said Proulx-Daigle. “To see how little the province spent to help its people is shocking, not to mention the money it left on the table or hasn’t spent.”
The full report, Picking up the Tab: A complete accounting of federal and provincial COVID-19 measures in 2020, is available for download on the CCPA website.