Yesterday, the Federal government tabled it’s 2021 budget which includes many positive initiatives for New Brunswick.
“While this past year has been difficult to say the least, the federal government came to the aid of the Provinces and individual Canadians during their time of need” says Roger Melanson, Interim Leader for the Official Opposition. “What’s very concerning is the Higgs government track record of being very reluctant to provide any real help. While other Canadians benefit from federal help, New Brunswickers aren’t. We’re as Canadians as any other Canadian in the country. Higgs needs to partner with Ottawa.”
The 2021 federal budget also includes a plan to reduce the deficit substantially over the next five years.
“The federal government has responded to the need for a long-term economic recovery plan, something the Higgs government has failed to do,” said Rob McKee, MLA for Moncton Centre and Liberal Finance and Treasury Board critic. “Federal investments in this plan are considerable and we are very conscious of the need to also have a plan to reduce deficits in the coming years and this budget covers that. Growing the economy and getting people back to work, especially women, are key to bringing balance back to the books.”
Small and medium-sized businesses New Brunswick have been hard hit by the pandemic. A number of federal programs created to keep them in business will be continued through the recovery phase.
“The support to small and medium-sized businesses through the pandemic has been effectively provided by the federal government – we can’t say the same for the Higgs government,” said Gilles Lepage, MLA for Restigouche West and Liberal Economic Development Critic. “The pandemic is still a major threat to our economy – especially to the tourism, and arts and culture sectors. We are very pleased to see continued support to those and other sectors included in the federal budget.”
Fostering a more environmentally friendly economy figured prominently in the budget with billions earmarked towards creating jobs and stimulating the economy in a sustainable way.
“Taking bold steps such as investing heavily in zero-emissions technology and investing $8 billion in the reduction greenhouse gas emissions is the right way to make our economy environmentally sustainable,” said Francine Landry, MLA for Madawaska Les Lacs-Edmundston and critic for Environment and Climate Change. “Clean technology is the way of the future and I am glad to see Canada is moving in the right direction. It’s time for New Brunswick to invest in clean technology.”
Women have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, especially in regard to employment and childcare.
“Investing $30 billion dollars over five years to create an affordable national child-care program shows this government understands the barriers women face when deciding to enter, or re-enter, the work force,” says Isabelle Thériault, MLA for Caraquet and critic for Women’s Equality, Isabelle Theriault. “I am glad to see the plight of women addressed in this budget. This program will provide ground-breaking support for young families and has the potential to revolutionize the role of women in the workplace.”
The pandemic has highlighted concerning issues in New Brunswick’s long-term care sector. While Premier Higgs has previously spoken against the idea, the Official Opposition welcomes the creation of national long-term care standards.
“Recent and troubling decisions made in the long-term care sector, such as the decision to exempt certain nursing homes from having to abide by province set care regulations is exactly why national standards for long-term care are needed,” says Robert Gauvin, MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe and critic for Social Development. “We have an aging population in New Brunswick, and they deserve proper care. These standards would prevent a provincial government from trying to save money on the backs of the most vulnerable.”
First Nations in New Brunswick have been all forgotten by the Higgs government whereas federal commitments to and investments in Indigenous communities remain significant.
“The federal commitment to Indigenous communities is to be commended; it recognizes the importance of its relationship with Indigenous peoples,” said Lisa Harris, MLA for Miramichi Bay-Neguac and Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs. “In stark contrast to the Higgs government our federal government is supporting self-determination and social and economic development through negotiating tax agreements with Indigenous governments. It is the equitable and right approach despite what Premier Higgs misguidedly believes.”
The recently tabled budget also includes measures to make post-secondary education more affordable both for current students and those repaying their student loans.
“Waving the interest accrual on Canada Student Loans and enhancing the repayment assistance will provide direct relief to New Brunswickers currently paying down their student loans, while the doubling of the federal student grants will make post-secondary education much more accessible for low-income families. Including various other initiatives, this is the largest investment in young Canadians we have ever seen,” said Chuck Chiasson, MLA for Victoria-La Vallée and critic for Post-Secondary Education.