(Fredericton, NB) – Earlier this summer, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce provided each of New Brunswick’s five registered political parties with its seven “Questions That Count” for the 2014 provincial election. Over the next four weeks, we will be sharing the responses received, beginning with questions one and two this week, below.

“This is the second phase of our pre-election activities for 2014,” said Krista Ross, chamber CEO. “In April we hosted the leaders of each party, who spoke to our members and the general public. Now we are getting into more detail with our Questions That Count and in September there will be a couple of events that we believe will help our members and the public get focused on the election.”

The first event planned for the election period is an all-candidates forum on September 3rd, where the chamber has invited the candidates from all eight electoral districts in the Greater Fredericton Area. The space will be divided by riding and attendees can register to hear from the candidates in their specific area. The second event is a presentation on September 10th by Richard Saillant, author of Over the Cliff? Acting Now to Avoid New Brunswick’s Bankruptcy.

“We think it is important to highlight the province’s financial position, which will hopefully encourage more citizens in the province to take an interest in the election and our present fiscal situation,” said Joseph O’Donnell, chamber President. “As the book details, New Brunswick is facing some tough choices presently and the more people who know the reality of our provincial finances, the better.”

Questions That Count for the 2014 New Brunswick Election

Question 1
New Brunswick is highly dependent on federal transfer payments. Other Canadian provinces, through these transfers, subsidize the delivery of government services in New Brunswick. Often, revenues that support these transfers are derived from natural resource extraction. The wealth contained in these resources has the potential to create prosperity and employment, and to sustain important public benefits like education and health care. New Brunswick’s next provincial government will be confronted with difficult and potentially unpopular decisions regarding resource development. Would your party use this revenue to address immediate and pressing problems? How can this opportunity be used to maximize our economic and human potential?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
The Progressive Conservative Party is the only party with a clear plan and vision to put New Brunswick’s natural resources to work for our province. On June 24th, 2014 Premier David Alward released a study called Our Path to a Stronger New Brunswick (www.strongernb.ca). This study details the benefits that 5 major energy and natural resource developments could bring New Brunswick.
Developing our Natural Resources responsibly is exactly what the Progressive Conservative Party want New Brunswickers to say “yes” to during this election. A projected $8.6 billion of possible investment into the New Brunswick economy with these 5 industries alone could create 3% yearly to the provinces nominal GDP or $1.43 billion annual boost to the provinces economy. An investment of this scale by private industry could generate $198 million in new revenues for the provincial government. David Alward and the Progressive Conservative Party are the only political party saying yes to Natural Resource Development and we hope the Fredericton Chamber will join us during this upcoming election.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
The Liberal party strongly supports natural resource development as one way to generate revenue to address pressing needs in our province. We support the proposed Sisson Brook Mine which will bring significant benefit to the central region of the province. We were early proponents of the Energy East Pipeline and the benefits that will bring the province in terms of employment and revenue. Our forestry industry is extremely important to the province’s bottom line. Shale gas, extracted through hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), has potential to bring revenue and jobs to the province; however questions remain about both the viability and safety of the industry. We are awaiting the results of more research and information that will help determine whether our concerns about the impact of fracking on human health, the environment and our drinking water can be sufficiently met through regulation. Any revenue generated from the natural resource industry and other sources would be used to maximize human and economic potential. Priorities for a Liberal government will be balancing the books and a greater focus on economic development, through strategic investments in education, training and literacy, to help us better realize our potential in the future.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
The NDP believes in safe and sustainable resource development that is profitable for the province as a whole. The NDP will not allow any natural resource development project to proceed unless it passes two independent tests: first, is it environmentally sustainable? Second, is it profitable for the province?

The NDP will establish an independent office modeled on the American Environmental Protection Agency, which will have among its mandates the power to assess the environmental sustainability and safety of shale gas (or any other resource extraction project). Once that is complete, the Department of Finance will assess the industry’s potential profitability to the province.

If either of these two tests fail, the project will not be approved. If both tests are passed the proposal will proceed to a free vote by MLAs before going forward. Tests can only be conducted at two year intervals, with costs borne by industry.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
New Brunswick's domestic economy has largely been dependent on the export of natural resources throughout its history, so the lesson we should take from our current challenge is that we must diversify our economy so we are less dependent on natural resources and less dependent on the ups and downs of export markets.

Renewable resources can be developed sustainably and New Brunswick has that opportunity with traditional resources such as food production, timber, fish and shellfish if we take an approach that is ecologically-based and tied to sustaining the well-being of communities adjacent to those resources. We also are blessed with ample renewable energy sources including solar, wind, bioenergy, tidal and geothermal whose development should increase the resilience of our communities and enhance our well-being.

In the face of the growing crisis in our climate, the further exploitation of fossil fuels is unsustainable. We have exceeded the limits of the Earth's capacity to absorb the carbon pollution resulting from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, so the ethical imperative must be to reduce our economic dependence on fossil fuel production and use. This presents tremendous opportunities for economic development as we change our patterns and scale of energy use, while shifting to renewable sources of energy whose exploitation require growth in the clean tech and ITC sectors.

People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
The People's Alliance supports the safe, responsible development of our natural resources with comparable royalty returns to other jurisdictions. We must develop these resources to the benefit of not only the companies involved, but as well to the people and province in order lessen our dependence on equalization. The goal is to eventually get off equalization altogether, and reduce the provincial debt.

Question 2
For decades, New Brunswickers have enjoyed a high quality of life. But the future of many of the services we value most are now in doubt. In particular, the healthcare cost burden is felt by everyone, including chamber members. While we applaud recent cost control efforts within our health care system, what practices do you have planned for improved health care outcomes? How do you plan to financially sustain the NB Drug Plan? What plans do you have in place for physician recruitment?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
The Alward government knew when it set out to improve the way the province spent money on healthcare it would be a difficult battle. Our provinces aging demographic and increased need for services have not made the task any easier. However; New Brunswick was the only province in Canada to hold the line on healthcare spending while improving service delivery. The Alward Government knew that New Brunswick needed to do better with the money the province did have available and that meant making sure the dollars were properly targeted to frontline services.

The NB Drug plan is the first of its kind in Canada and will be a model for other provinces. David Alward’s Government and the PC Party are 100% committed to working with businesses to ensure the implementation of the plan is affordable, while ensuring that New Brunswickers are covered for the prescription drugs they need. Lowering healthcare costs is everyone’s responsibility. David Alward is fully been committed to wellness and created the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities to ensure there was a targeted approach to improved lifestyles. New Brunswick has a Wellness Strategy Action Plan and an excellent healthcare system.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
At the Liberal Party we are strong believers in the phrase that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our focus will be very much on preventive care. One of the priorities of the healthcare system has to be to keep people out of hospitals, we need to keep seniors in their homes longer and we need to focus on wellness and make sure New Brunswickers live longer, happier, healthier lives by addressing the sources of chronic illnesses and negative effects of smoking and obesity. This begins with things such as finding better ways to teach an encourage health eating habits among children and programs such as rebating a portion of the cost of smoking cessation products, something we have tried to pass through the legislature only to be blocked by the current government. We believe the long term benefits far outweigh the costs in wellness and healthy living initiatives.

As for physician recruitment it is important to make New Brunswick an attractive place for physicians to take up a practice. But there are other ways to allow New Brunswickers access to primary care that they don’t enjoy now. This could include expanding the network of community health centres to provide more access to health professionals in non-emergencies. Nurse practitioners, advanced paramedics and midwives can also be better utilized in a more efficient more accessible health care system.

We believe there are a number of aspects of the recently introduced New Brunswick Drug Plan that need to be reviewed. We support extending drug coverage to people who volunteer for coverage (in Phase 1 of the Drug Plan), but we are very concerned with Phase 2. Concerns include the amount of coverage people are getting for what they are paying. It also remains unclear as to what the cost for this plan will be to New Brunswick businesses moving forward.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
The central focus of the NDP’s healthcare platform is patient-centred care and creative solutions to healthcare delivery issues. Among the policies the NDP advocate in this area are:

  • Allow for Advanced Care Paramedics to practice in the province.
  • Enhance the use of collaborative healthcare centres.
  • Support the NB Drug Plan, with costs to business offset by elimination of the small business tax
  • and reductions in red tape.
  • Emphasize Patient’s Medical Homes to promote family physician collaboration with healthcare
  • teams.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
We must transform our system of primary health care so that it both creates a healthier population and ensures timely access to physical, mental and reproductive health care.

Central to the Green Party's approach would be shifting primary care from emergency rooms and solitary family physicians practicing in solitude to collaborative care practices where patients are cared for by family-based practice teams which include nurse practitioners, dieticians, councillors, and other health professionals working with family physician. These practices would be situated in community health centres which would provide prevention-focussed addiction and mental health services, and chronic disease and pain management programs. They would also provide health and wellness assessments and follow-up support for seniors to enhance preventative health care for our aging population.

The Green Party will develop and implement a women's health agenda, one that will establish comprehensive reproductive health care programming, mental health counseling, chronic disease management, and wellness support for women of all ages, and that would integrate midwifery into the health system. The Green Party will end government-imposed cap on medicare billing numbers, so doctors can establish practices where they are needed.
To ensure we have adequate resources to pay for the growing need for health care services driven by our aging population, the Green Party would collaborate with the other four provinces of Eastern Canada to press Ottawa to modify its health transfers to account for the age of our populations.
People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:

The People's Alliance will eliminate duality in Healthcare, by merging the two health authorities and once current agreements expire, also merge ANB and Facilicorp into one health administration. This has the potential to save well over $100 million annually.

Our party opposes the mandatory phase of the NB drug plan, and if in a position of power will scrap it. In order to sustain the voluntary phase, the People's Alliance would explore all available options. The current plan places too much burden on the working poor and small business.

With more than 900 members, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest chambers of commerce. A dynamic business organization, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is actively engaged in policy development that affects the competitiveness of our members and of the Canadian business environment.

Krista Ross, CEO, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce – (506) 458-8006