Great things are happening in New Brunswick, but there are foundational, underlying financial issues that have the potential to negate good work being done by government, the private sector and non-profit groups such as ours. The province’s debt load, which has been accumulated over many years and several changes in government, pressures the Province to keep taxes high while providing fewer services - which could ultimately discourage business investment, immigration, repatriation, and economic growth. This inhibits growth and negatively affects governments’ ability to provide services to New Brunswickers - which is exacerbated by every demand we make.
Those of us outside government need to do a better job at understanding and remembering that government is spending our money. Anytime we ask - or demand - something from government, remember how hard you worked so that government has that money to spend and particularly remember that we only have so much of it. It’s how we think about spending our money within our households, so why don’t we think of it that way when its government? Collectively, we have to be more thoughtful about what we actually need, what we can actually afford.
Approximately $700M a year, or $80,000 an hour of our tax dollars are unavailable to support current services because they are evaporated into interest payments on our debt. The stakes are high right now in New Brunswick and the upcoming election gives all of us the opportunity to not only hear from all sides of the political spectrum, but also to shape the policies of candidates and parties. A good idea isn’t enough - good ideas have to be delivered loudly and often to make an impact on political platforms and ultimately on public policy.
Engaging in the political process and providing an avenue for parties and citizens to exchange ideas is one of the ways our organization tries to bring value to our membership and the community. The policy priorities and decisions of whichever party forms government in after the September election will have a major impact of the business community and our members want to be as informed as possible before making a decision.
That’s why the Fredericton chamber just wrapped up our Political Leadership Series, which featured the leaders of all six registered political parties in New Brunswick through May and June. I thank each of them for their engagement and commend their willingness to answer at-times difficult questions. Each of these sessions are now available in their entirety on the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce Youtube Channel.
That’s also why we joined forces with Le Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick Business Council and the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce to launch the “We Choose Growth” campaign in March. The issues that face the business community are plain to see - I think that’s why our groups had very little trouble agreeing on our five pillars of:
- A private-sector-driven economy
- Responsible resource development
- Improved export performance
- Labour force development
- Responsible financial management
I think that’s also why our message has been so well received across industries and geography. Other groups that have now endorsed the We Choose Growth message include the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, Chartered Professional Accountants of New Brunswick, Forest NB, BioNB, Ignite Fredericton, Merit Contractors and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. We encourage other groups and individuals to spread the word and join our efforts.
We recognize that the five proposed priority areas will require a sustained commitment from government to make needed policy and regulatory changes, difficult budgetary decisions and smart investments that will help New Brunswick reach its full potential through economic growth. New Brunswick’s economy and finances will not be fixed in one election cycle, but it is imperative we start now. That is why we intend to advocate for these priorities areas after the election in September - all parties will choose growth now - but it’s what happens after September 24 that matters most.
Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with nearly 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’.