(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. The chamber has previously released the first two questions and related responses, centering on natural resource development and the costs of healthcare.

This week, the chamber is releasing the responses to questions three and four, which focus on post- secondary education and infrastructure, respectively.

“With this series, we have tried to approach what we think are the biggest issues in the province head- on and get the parties to put their cards on the table a little bit,” said Krista Ross, chamber CEO. “We really appreciate the parties’ willingness to participate in this initiative, in our Political Leadership Series in April, and hopefully this will continue with our local candidate forum in September, where our members and the public will have an opportunity to hear from the representatives directly.”

The chamber is planning an all-candidates forum on September 3, 2014 at the Fredericton Convention Centre from 6:00 to 9:00pm. Each candidate from the eight electoral districts in the Greater Fredericton Area has been invited to participate through their party.

On September 10, 2014 the chamber is hosting Richard Saillant, author of Over the Cliff? Acting Now to Avoid New Brunswick’s Bankruptcy for a morning presentation. This event is also open to both chamber members and the general public.

Questions That Count for the 2014 New Brunswick Election

Question 3
Fredericton is the epicentre of post-secondary education, innovation, and knowledge-based business development in New Brunswick. New Brunswick and Fredericton have seen success in creating jobs and wealth by establishing and growing knowledge-based industry sectors, such as geomatics, software development, and consulting engineering. How can we better connect emerging opportunities with entrepreneurs, job creation, and business growth opportunities? How do we use our post-secondary institutions to make Fredericton Canada’s start-up capital?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
The start-up industry in New Brunswick is growing at an amazing rate and Fredericton has proven to be a wonderful city for many of these businesses to set up roots. This new and emerging sector has been great for the local and provincial economy. As a province and government, we need to ensure that there is the proper environment for these businesses to take root and grow.

David Alward and the Progressive Conservative Party knew that this sector needed a boost in New Brunswick and made a clear commitment during the last elect to put a focus on Research, Development and Innovation. David Alward created the innovation foundation to work directly with business and invested $80 million in the sector. Part of that $80 million dollars is the Industry Innovation Challenge – Bringing Big Ideas to Market, a $15 million challenge to business that will support the creation of up to six large-scale initiatives which will seek to transform our industries by mobilizing and focusing R&D assets to fuel economic growth. The Alward Government and the Progressive Conservative Party are committed to post-secondary education, innovation, and knowledge-based business development in Fredericton and New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response
Fredericton has distinguished itself in recent years for its entrepreneurial spirit and successful start up ventures that are often tied to young graduates from our local post-secondary institutions. Fredericton’s ICT firms have a growing reputation and we will provide more opportunities for people at all levels to learn things such as coding. We can broaden partnerships with our businesses and schools and ensure we provide courses that are in tune with emerging industries.  We will work with universities to improve the commercialization of research that can lead to patents and more New Brunswick-made products going to market.  We will also simply the process of starting up a business and develop a pool
of expertise to assist start-up entrepreneurs.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
Part of better connecting emerging opportunities with entrepreneurs will be achieved via the elimination of the Small Business Tax and reductions in red tape, reducing the burden of starting a new business.  However, making use of our post-secondary institutions to make Fredericton a start-up capital must focus on all aspects of the education system, not just universities. Only through major improvements in literacy, primary school outcomes, and skills training, and regarding community
colleges as being just as vital as universities, will entrepreneurs and investors find the workers they need to make their businesses function.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
The Green Party would institute public policies, regulations and fiscal measures to put New Brunswick on the path to sustainability and to reduce our economic dependence on fossil fuels.  This would create untold opportunities in the knowledge based and tech sectors in supporting this transition. One example would be to fully transform our electrical grid to a smart grid powered by renewable energy sources, exploiting new energy storage technologies and integrating electric vehicles.

People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
Our party has looked into micro loans, as well as a commitment towards eliminating the small business tax offset by reduced corporate subsidies provided by government. We also support reducing the burden of educational costs on students and allowing more resources towards targeted innovation.

Question 4
New Brunswick is struggling with the challenges presented by an overextended and aging infrastructure. Our economic productivity relies heavily on transportation, communications, and municipal infrastructure, all of which require significant investment to remain competitive. How do you plan to align the priorities of government and its partners to attract investment and address capital renewal issues?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
In the past, New Brunswick went through booms and droughts when it came to capital spending. The unpredictability of that system was incredibly hard on businesses and local governments alike. When the budget can fluctuate wildly year to year, it is difficult to plan for the future. To address that problem, the David Alward implemented 3 year, rolling capital budgets. Now business and municipalities know exactly what to plan for and when it will come.

Improving our infrastructure is vital to business, but maintenance of existing infrastructure is equally as important. By using asset management systems, planning ahead and spending within our means we can efficiently build required new infrastructure to attract business, maintain our current infrastructure and budget responsibly.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
Infrastructure investment is important for our future. It can’t break the bank and needs to be adequate to prevent existing infrastructure from falling into a state of disrepair that is going to cost a lot more to fix in the future. Investment needs to be consistent, strategic, and make sense. We will establish a set amount for annual infrastructure funding to allow for better planning both by government and the construction industry. Investment will be based on evidence-based assessments, not politics. Infrastructure includes investment in things such as better broadband and connectivity, schools and hospitals. But it has to be strategic and meet our needs as a province.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
The quickest way to address the province’s infrastructure woes is to take politics out of infrastructure spending decisions. Too often Liberal and Conservative governments have put political consideration ahead of public safety and needs when making infrastructure spending decisions. Indeed, the Alward government raised the share of road funding dollars that can be personally allocated by the Minister of Transportation from 20% to 40%. The NDP would reduce this to zero percent. Ministers should set the total budget for infrastructure spending; the allocating of the funding should be determined by engineers and experts based on safety, usage, and current and anticipated needs. This will ensure that infrastructure needs are better addressed.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
The Green Party would extinguish the politics and the patronage system that currently burdens the maintenance and renewal of our infrastructure. We would economize on expenditures by avoiding public-private partnerships which have proven to be more expensive in the long-run than publicly funded and managed infrastructure.  And we would place a clear emphasis on establishing new green infrastructure to make our cities and towns more walkable and bikeable, and provide convenient public transportation .

People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
Capital investments will have to be targeted to projects of the highest priorities. We will continue to work with the federal government on capital renewal partnerships.

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