Fredericton Chamber 2021 Policy Priorities
The vision of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity. As members of our chamber, board of directors and staff are primarily local residents, we recognize the symbiotic relationship that exists between business, the community and the citizenry. Citizens support local business, which creates jobs, grows the economy and provides government with the resources to provide the social programs, recreational activities and infrastructure needed in our communities. Our mission is: Support business prosperity through networking, shared services, advocacy and events. The Fredericton chamber’s vision and mission, along with our close connection to the community, guides every decision we make as an organization, particularly our policy and advocacy work.
In the fall, our board of directors discusses and updates our policy priorities in draft form. These draft priorities are then put to the membership in our annual member survey. Our policy priorities in 2021 are:
- Competitive Business Environment
- Workforce Development
- Natural Resources and Energy
- Innovation, Digitization and the Knowledge Economy
- Access to Primary Health Care
Competitive Business Environment
Traditionally, cost competitiveness has been an advantage that we have had in New Brunswick, but this has eroded over the past five years (pre-pandemic). NB businesses have seen increases in minimum wage, property tax, corporate tax, HST, EI rates, carbon tax, CPP increases, land transfer tax and WorkSafeNB premiums (amongst other costs). We are also concerning with government debt as the primary driver of increased costs through taxes.
But the business environment is about more than just costs. It also includes the regulatory environment (red tape, roadblocks to development, overlapping jurisdictions, etc.) and now the COVID-19 environment (Public Health restrictions, government support programs and support-local movements).
We have recommended that the government complete a comprehensive tax policy review to ensure that the province is following jurisdictional best practices and that New Brunswick’s tax structure is aligned with and is an extension of the Province’s economic development policy and growth strategy. The only way to sustainably improve the economy is through consistent business growth and we work with all three levels of government to advocate for the best possible conditions for that growth.
New Brunswick’s declining population is one of the greatest threats to sustained economic growth moving forward and the Fredericton chamber addresses this issue primarily through working closely with New Canadians and post-secondary students/institutions.
The chamber advocates on the provincial nominee program, express entry program, startup visa and others. We also actively work to connect post-secondary students with local businesses and the community generally by working with businesses, our economic development organizations, post-secondary institutions and students themselves. There is substantial alignment of goals between these four groups and the chamber works to connect them and advocates for policies that put this alignment into practice.
Natural Resources and Energy
Natural resources are, by far, Canada’s largest export sector and as a key part of Canada’s and New Brunswick’s economic mix, the chamber believes that any serious plan for creating jobs, greening our economy and reaching out to new markets has to place the competitiveness of the resources sector at its core.
Natural resources and energy provide crucial high paying jobs for people in rural areas, but urban areas benefit as well. Through their extensive supply chains, natural resource firms are important customers of manufacturers, innovative startups, our world-class ICT sector and other service providers in cities that are miles from the forest, farm or mine site. Because of their multi-sector impact natural resource projects provide opportunities that we cannot afford to ignore.
Much of our advocacy work in this area is focused on barriers to development such as: overlapping federal/provincial rules, unclear consultation requirements, the lack of skilled labour, the lack of political will / priorities, and lack of public buy-in for both renewable and non-renewable projects / resources.
Innovation, Digitization and the Knowledge Economy
Particularly in Fredericton – the knowledge economy heartland – a healthy knowledge sector is critical to our role in creating wealth for New Brunswick. Our post-secondary institutions are some of our most valuable economic development assets – they drive research and innovation, draw international students to the province, propel the technology sector and the startup community – in addition to providing highly-skilled training for our future employees.
Cyber security is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. The Cyber Centre in Fredericton can be a path to being a worldwide leader focused on critical infrastructure and from there we can expand New Brunswick’s cyber security footprint more generally. The government will gain revenue and critical infrastructure to further the significant economic growth through cyber security by private industry investment from Knowledge Park.
Access to Primary Health Care
Easy and efficient access to primary health care continues to be an issue for our members, particularly in relation to attracting skilled employees. That is why we established a Physician Recruitment & Retention Committee in 2009 and are still actively assisting efforts of Horizon Health and the NB Medical Society to attract and welcome physicians to our community, while seeking other ways to expand easy and efficient access to primary care.
Currently, about 15,000 citizens in Fredericton are currently without primary care physician (44,000 in NB). Premier Higgs stated in the State of the Province that the wait list will be cut in half by March – we are hopeful this comes to fruition, but long-term work is still ahead of us.
Access to Primary Health Care has been an issue in the province for decades and perhaps one of the positive legacies on the past year has been to highlight the need for health reform including continuing and expanding the use of virtual health care.
Of course, many issues arise during the course of a year that affect chamber members that may not fit neatly into one of these four priorities. We still always respond to matters of importance to our members, but prioritizing our policy areas allows us to be more efficient in our work and give members more value for their membership. As always, please contact Policy Manager Morgan Peters anytime to discuss any policy/advocacy issues your business may be facing – email@example.com or (506) 451-9742.