A re-elected Liberal Government will continue to create more opportunities and build a fairer economy and province for all New Brunswickers.
The Liberal platform that was released today features a number of progressive measures aimed at creating more jobs, helping more families with their childcare fees and college or university tuition, and reducing wait times in health care. The platform also includes a detailed summary of its fiscal plan which includes a balanced budget by year three.
By contrast, Blaine Higgs and the Conservatives have released only a partially-costed platform that includes a commitment to cut $538 million in public services. The Conservatives have not made clear how these cuts would be achieved. Even a report commissioned by then-Finance Minister Blaine Higgs in 2012 that proposed laying off 545 teachers, 259 educational assistants, and closing 79 schools represents a cut of only $14.2 to $22.7 million per year, far from Higgs’ current goal of $538 million.
“It is irresponsible for Blaine Higgs to propose a major gutting of government programs and services to the tune of over 500 million dollars without being open and honest about how he would achieve it,” added Gallant.
Gallant argued that the cuts to government services that Blaine Higgs ordered when he was the minister of finance helped contribute to a declining economy, lost jobs, and a shrinking population. Despite those cuts, Blaine Higgs missed every fiscal target that he set for himself as minister of finance.
The Gallant Government, by comparison, has made record investments in education and health care, all the while cutting the deficit in half, and having the first balanced books in ten years. Our Liberal platform is costed and will result in new annual investments of $49 million per year when fully implemented, a figure that will be partially offset by at least $10 million in net new revenue.
The Liberal platform contains many progressive initiatives aimed at further growing the economy, improving the quality and affordability of child care and post-secondary education, and reducing wait times in health care. These commitments include:
CREATING JOBS AND OPPORTUNITY:
- Extending the $900 million strategic infrastructure initiative by two years and $150 million to continue to improve our roads, schools and hospitals;
- Increasing the minimum wage to $14.00 per hour by the end of the mandate, beginning with an increase to $12.00 per hour on April 1, 2019;
- Doubling funding for the Youth Employment Fund, allowing more youth to benefit from experiential learning opportunities over the next four years;
- Grow tourism’s contribution to the economy to $2 billion per year by 2025 and add two years to the current Tourism Growth Strategy, investing a total of $125 million over 10 years;
- Launch a competition for private sector organizations, post-secondary institutions, and other potential partners to develop proposals for three made-in-New Brunswick economic superclusters to help grow and diversify the economy;
EDUCATION AND TRAINING:
- Expanding the Free Child Care Program and the Middle Class Childcare Subsidy across the province by 2019;
- Enhancing the Free Child Care Program and the Middle Class Childcare Subsidy so more parents qualify to receive more financial support for child care;
- Raising the threshold of its signature Free Tuition Program to $70,000 from $60,000 and thereafter indexing it to inflation, and adjust the sliding scale of the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class Program accordingly;
- Encouraging university and college graduates to stay in New Brunswick by eliminating interest on New Brunswick provincial student loans;
- Investing to restore high-calibre trades education in New Brunswick schools, ensuring that every high school has a modern trades infrastructure;
- Increasing the budget for literacy programs by 25 percent;
- Investing to hire health professionals and nursing home workers, including hiring 90 net new doctors, 50 net new nurse practitioners, 40 new nurses, 80 new licensed practical nurses, 80 new resident attendants, as well as more paramedics and midwives;
- Reducing wait times in New Brunswick’s busiest emergency rooms by launching five non-urgent care centres;
- Investing $400 million over the next four years in renewing the infrastructure and equipment of New Brunswick’s regional and rural hospitals;
- Setting up a dedicated fund of $50 million over 10 years within the capital budget to invest in improvements for rural hospitals;
- Creating 1,000 new nursing home and memory care beds and investing over $100 million in nursing home renovations over the next five years;
- Developing a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy for employees in the nursing home sector, and phasing in an increase of hours of care from 3.1 hours today to 3.3 hours by 2022 and 3.5 hours by 2026;
- Requiring the implementation of pay equity in local governments and quasi-public sectors by 2020 and large businesses in the private sector by 2022;
- Creating a full department responsible for women’s equality with a mandate to reduce gender-based violence, promote women’s equality and implement pay equity;
- Ensuring that prescriptions for all Health Canada-approved methods of contraception are covered under the New Brunswick Drug Plan and under private drug plans offered in New Brunswick;
- Increasing funding for transition homes by an additional 5 percent to support survivors of gender-based violence;
ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE:
- Doubling investments in energy efficiency in our schools, hospitals, and homes from $20 million to $40 million;
- Continuing the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until concerns about the environment, health, and water are addressed;
- Banning the use of disposable plastic bags in New Brunswick retail stores while exploring ways to boost New Brunswick’s hemp industry by encouraging retailers to use hemp bags;
- Increasing the amount of land protected in New Brunswick to 10 percent by 2020 and increase crown land conservation areas by 150,000 hectares over five years;
- Creating at least two new provincial parks;
- Ensuring there are no provincial income or consumption tax increases for New Brunswick individuals;
- Maintaining the current higher income tax levels on the richest 1 percent of New Brunswickers;
- Maintaining the tax rate for large corporations at least 14 percent, increased from 12 percent in 2016;
- Freezing NB Power rates for all residential customers and small businesses for four years; and
- Providing teachers, nurses, and other public servants with access to better paid parental leave