(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. To date, the chamber released the first four questions and related responses, centering on natural resource development, the costs of healthcare, post-secondary education, and infrastructure.

This week, the chamber is releasing the responses to questions five and six, which focus on immigration and tax policy, respectively.

“As a chamber of commerce, we are of course focused on the issues that matter most to the business community, but I believe there is substantial alignment in this regard between business and the general public,” said Krista Ross, chamber CEO. “In New Brunswick, we need to get our economy rolling for a number of reasons, but ultimately it comes down to maintaining the quality of life we enjoy in this province. It’s on all New Brunswickers – business, government, citizens - to be informed, make decisions and move forward. As Richard Saillant’s book makes perfectly clear, we are on the precipice of financial disaster in the province and all of the issues we are dealing with in our series have a direct and symbiotic relationship to the economy.”

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.

The chamber is also 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 have been invited to participate through their party.

Questions That Count for the 2014 New Brunswick Election

Question 5
A significant factor in Fredericton’s economic success has been its ability to attract, retain, and inspire talent. In short, to maximize its human potential. The same quality of life, economic opportunities, and cultural vibrancy that residents enjoy has drawn newcomers to our city as well. But many impediments remain. If elected, how could your government help Fredericton be more effective in attracting newcomers, recognizing credentials, and supporting investment? What will your government do to create opportunities for all residents to participate in the economy and grow a highly talented and skilled workforce?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
David Alward understands that the key to strengthening our communities is through increased economic opportunity. Communities with strong economic backbones tend to have greater opportunities for their residents. Greater opportunities and choices make our communities more attractive to newcomers and New Brunswickers that want to work here at home. New Brunswick and Fredericton in particular have truly embraced emerging businesses and technologies. Fredericton has shown an amazing ability to attract and retain new business related to technology start-ups, research & development and the innovation sectors. This is a great start, but there is more that we can do as a province to create even more opportunities.

The Alward Government understands that growing the provincial economy must take several different approaches. This government has put an immense focus on innovation, R&D and the technology start- up sectors. These jobs pay well, and keep some of our brightest New Brunswickers working right here at home. That is just one sector. David Alward and the Progressive Conservative Party are the only political party with a clear vision for New Brunswick’s natural resources and their responsible development. There are 5 major resource development and energy projects currently standing at New Brunswick’s doorstep. These five projects (Energy Easy Pipeline, Sisson Mine, Canaport Marine Terminal, LNG Export Terminal and Natural Gas extraction) could add $8.6 billion of private investment to our province, but
we must say yes to new opportunities.

Creating opportunities for New Brunswickers to stay in this province is part of the solution, developing a strategy to increase immigration, grow our population and train a highly skilled workforce are the other pieces of the puzzle. David Alward has developed specific tools to achieve those goals within three key strategies: Population Growth Strategy, Francophone Immigration Action Plan and New Brunswick’s Labour Force and Skills Development Strategy.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
A Liberal government recognizes the importance of growing our population and attracting newcomers to the province. In order to do so we must ensure they have the opportunity to succeed when they get here.  We will seek out ways to reduce barriers to work and investment in New Brunswick. We will work to improve the recognition of credentials from other countries and provinces for newcomers to the province. We will also work toward the development of a regional immigration strategy with the goal of more provincial control to meet the needs of Atlantic Canadians.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
The NDP will be release details of our immigration proposals in our platform, which will address the question of bringing in newcomers to Fredericton. Two keynote immigration policies are to nurture and enhance connections between educational institutions, international students, and employers, and to tailor the Provincial Nominee Program to focus on immigrants who have already worked or studied elsewhere in Canada, with special categories for entrepreneurs who are graduates of Canadian business schools, semi-skilled workers for rural areas, and a Francophone stream favouring graduates of French- speaking educational institutions.

We will further stimulate opportunities and investment via the education measures mentioned in the response to question three, along with the following economic and tax policies:

  • Eliminate corporate welfare, which picks winners and losers in the economy and often rewards politically well-connected and already profitable companies.
  • Introducing a New Jobs Tax Credit. This measure will provide a 15% refundable tax credit to businesses that create new jobs. If a business creates a job, they get the tax credit for 15% of the cost of that job.  Since it is refundable it will include all companies, including start-ups, which are not yet profitable. Similar policies have been used in the United States with great success, not only by the Obama administration but individual states. Of the ten states that had the lowest unemployment rate in spring 2014, six had some form of New Jobs Tax Credit.
  • Eliminate the small business tax.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
The Green Party's agenda for transforming primary health care, education, energy and infrastructure will increase Fredericton's attractiveness to newcomers and to residents. We want Fredericton to become a beacon of sustainability that ensures a quality of life that retains our residents and attracts newcomers alike.

People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
We believe that to retain and attract business there is a need for the entrepreneurial spirit to once again take hold.  To help foster this atmosphere, we would invest both finances and services to rebuild and strengthen research and development. Our colleges and universities hold the key to new ideas in business, and a People's Alliance government would work to support those institutions and in turn
create an environment for future investment.

Question 6
New Brunswick and Fredericton need a consensus on our most urgent and pressing priorities. We also
need a way to pay for action on these priorities, including a tax policy that is strategic and balanced. New Brunswick should seek a tax policy that supports our ability to create jobs and business growth. The current Small Business Tax Rate is 4.5% which is the second highest in Canada. Where do you feel this number should be? How can New Brunswick balance business and personal tax burdens?

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick response:
A Progressive Conservative Government would like to lower both personal and business taxes. As a province we need to be realistic about ensuring any tax reductions can be offset with new revenue to pay for the services that New Brunswickers need.

The Alward Government and the Progressive Conservative Party are committed to increasing the provinces revenue through the responsible development of our natural resources. Putting these resources to work for the province will mean the government can ease the burden on individuals and businesses and ensure both have the ability to grow financially.

New Brunswick Liberal Party response:
We believe the small business tax rate should be set at the rate which allows our small businesses to be competitive and ensure that New Brunswick is a jurisdiction in which small businesses can prosper. Taxes are an important revenue stream for government, but they need to be fair and balanced for both businesses and individuals. Whether it’s the small business tax rate, or the range of government fees that have increased over the years, small businesses are under pressure and are operating in a difficult economy. We believe we need to keep the costs for small businesses low and lower them where possible.

New Brunswick New Democratic Party response:
Please refer to the tax policies outlined in the answer to question 5.

Green Party of New Brunswick response:
We have seen a shift in tax burden from large corporations to individuals over time. This was based on the misguided idea of tax competition- using corporate tax reductions to attract business to the province. This approach was a gamble that was based on no sound economic evidence and it failed. This approach was pursued to the extreme in the resource sector where tax concessions were so large as to not only eliminate corporate taxes but generated negative marginal effective tax rates in the forestry, mineral, and natural gas sectors. The consequence was to shift the tax burden to individuals and other corporate sectors, most of which generated more jobs per dollar of investment than the heavily subsidized resource sectors.  The Green Party would re-balance this towards more representative national and international standards.   We would ensure the resource sectors of our economy pay their fair share of taxes.

Similarly, small business pays an unfair amount for their electricity they consume, to provide a cross- subsidy to heavy industry in the resource sectors. We will ensure small business pays only what it costs to supply them with the electricity they consume, and charge heavy industry its fair share.

The Green Party has not established the tax rate which small business should play.  The tax system is currently extends huge advantages to large corporations, especially those in the resource sector which dominate New Brunswick's economy. We would hold an inquiry into our tax system to determine the fair allocation of taxes among small businesses, corporations and individuals.

People’s Alliance of New Brunswick response:
In an effort to help level the economic playing field in New Brunswick, the People's Alliance of New Brunswick will eliminate the small business tax on income of up to $500,000. The plan is estimated to cost $27 million annually, but will be offset by slashing the amount government pays out in large corporate subsidies. Between 2006 and 2011, the provincial government handed out on average $109 million dollars annually in some form of subsidy.

Unfortunately, we will not be reducing personal income taxes until such time the deficit has been eliminated. Once we maintain a surplus of $100 million each year which will be used to pay down debt, the interest saved the following year will be used to lower taxes. This method will always target maintaining $100 million towards debt repayment and reducing taxation slowly as to not lose the ability to pay down debt.

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