Tories' $2B spending plan has $1B hole in it, says Stephen McNeil

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Tories' $2B spending plan has $1B hole in it, says Stephen McNeil

Tories' $2B spending plan has $1B hole in it, says Stephen McNeil

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil says a PC promise to spend $2 billion on roadwork, high-speed internet and a new hospital will fall $1 billion short because the Tories are banking on money from Ottawa to build new health facilities, something he says is not going to happen.

McNeil told reporters at a campaign event Tuesday that both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his predecessor, Stephen Harper, have made it clear that "health-care infrastructure is the responsibility of the premiers."

McNeil said his government tried to convince Ottawa to kick in funding for the plan to replace the aging Victoria General and Centennial hospital buildings in Halifax, but was turned down flat.

"No other Canadian premier has been able to do that under Conservative and Liberal governments," he said.

Baillie stands by promise

On Monday, PC Leader Jamie Baillie promised to spend $2 billion on infrastructure over 10 years, with half of that money coming from the federal government.

He stood by his plan Tuesday when the potential health-facility funding pitfall was put to him at his campaign event.

"The priorities of the Trudeau government for their infrastructure funding include transportation, include health and housing," Baillie said. "I want to make a business case about how the VG hospital fits into their priorities, and I think I can do it."

Baillie said the VG is a regional hospital that looks after people from across the Maritimes.

Pressed by reporters for a reason why he would be able to accomplish what others have failed to do, the PC leader remained adamant.

"We are going to build that VG Hospital," he said. "We are going to find $2 billion in partnership with Ottawa to meet the infrastructure priorities of Nova Scotia."

A news release issued Tuesday by the Conservatives cited a recently announced federal investment of $70.7 million for McGill University in Montreal and two of its affiliated hospitals.

Federal government responds 

But a subsequent statement from Infrastructure Canada said the funding for McGill is from the post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund, which is managed by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The fund is meant, in part, to modernize research facilities on campuses. 

"Hospitals are not eligible for funding under Infrastructure Canada's funding programs," said spokeswoman Jen Powroz.

Baillie was also faced with questions Tuesday about how he would tackle the debt or deal with a deficit under a PC government.

Although Baillie said he could spent $2 billion over a decade on infrastructure projects without running deficits, and that keeping the books in the black remained a priority for him, he didn't rule out possible deficits.

"In moments of crisis, I don't think that's going to be the most important thing. But in a normal year, I think balancing the budget is the right thing to do," he said.