New Brunswick Spent Far Less Than Other Provinces on COVID Recovery But Economy is Growing

New Brunswick has been spending on pandemic relief and stimulus efforts over the last two years have been more than $1 billion below the average of other provinces, but New Brunswick’s economy has been performing better than most despite that, according to a new analysis by Royal Bank economists.

“The better relative performance from the health perspective in the province, allowed the government not to have to respond as strongly as other governments,” said RBC senior economist Robert Hogue, who monitors provincial economies for the bank.

“Kudos to not just the provincial government, but to all New Brunswickers to have been able to skate through this period and relatively successfully,”

The RBC report, released last week, is one of a number by big banks that have shown success in containing the COVID-19 virus in the Maritime provinces has generated significant economic benefits for the region on top of obvious health benefits.   

Hogue and RBC economist Carolyn Freestone project that in New Brunswick’s case, economic output this year will reach $40.8 billion. 

Adjusted for inflation and other factors, that would be a 1.3 percent increase in real economic growth since 2019, fourth-best among provinces during the two years of the COVID-19 ordeal. 

It’s slightly less growth than RBC expects in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia during the same two years, but those provinces all spent significantly more to combat the virus and spur economic recovery than New Brunswick, as did the six provinces not growing as quickly.

As of Monday, New Brunswick had recorded a total of 2,299 cases of COVID-19, one-twelfth of the Canadian average.

That led to fewer disruptions in day-to-day life for most people, and it has allowed many businesses to operate more freely during the pandemic than in other provinces.

New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves credits more than $3 billion in direct pandemic spending by Ottawa in the province for cushioning the worst of the economic effects and insists low infection rates reduced the need for much supplemental spending beyond that.

Scotiabank and TD each forecast in March that New Brunswick would likely end up as the best-performing economy through the two years of the pandemic, not the fourth-best, while also posting the lowest budget deficit per capita among all provinces.

“The province is tapping federal funding for the majority of its pandemic-related spending, helping to contain pressure on its fiscal position,” said the RBC report.

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