FREDERICTON - New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says when he promised to create 5,000 new jobs during his first year in power, that did not necessarily mean an increase in the total number of people working.
In his first question period as premier, Gallant told the legislature Thursday that his promise to create 5,000 new full-time jobs is based on a consultant's report but it did not mean he was committing to a net gain of that many people employed.
"It was not a promise of a net gain of 5,000 jobs," he said.
He made the clarification after Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Bruce Fitch said the Conference Board of Canada is forecasting 1,600 net new jobs for the province in the year ahead.
During the recent election campaign that saw the Liberals win a majority government, Gallant repeatedly promised to create 5,000 new jobs in his first year and 10,000 jobs over his first mandate.
"That's the basement, that's the guarantee," Gallant said in Moncton on Sept. 8 when he released the party's platform.
Neither the platform nor news releases on the provincial Liberal website about the jobs promise specify that the party was not committing to a net gain of jobs.
"It's certainly a commitment that was made without the proper details, which again is something the public needs to be aware of," Fitch said Thursday outside the legislature.
"There seems to be a little incongruency here with what the premier has said and what the actual expectations are."
Gallant insisted he has been clear all along.
"It is very important to make the distinction between 5,000 jobs that are created and a net gain of 5,000 jobs, because a net gain would mean that the economy would have grown by 5,000 jobs," Gallant said outside the legislature. "We didn't promise that."
Fitch said he's concerned that any possible net gain in jobs could be thwarted by the government's proposed moratorium on fracking for shale gas.
The government is expected to introduce legislation in this session to implement such a measure, but it has not said what specifically it would prohibit.