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Questions That Count – 2014 NB Election

In April, we hosted the leaders of all five of New Brunswick’s registered political parties in our “Political Leadership Series” as the first phase of our pre-election activities. That initiative allowed the parties to generally address chamber and community members on topics of their choosing that related to the province’s business environment.

Now in the second phase we are moving on to more targeted information through our Questions That Count. The questions were chosen by our Provincial Government Affairs Committee after consultation with the chamber membership and board of directors. They were provided to all five parties on 11 June 2014, who were asked to respond by 11 July 2014. We will start releasing the responses received during the week of 21 July 2014.

Reproduced below are the Fredericton chamber’s seven Questions That Count for the 2014 NB Election.

Introduction

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce strives to create a healthy and vibrant business culture and environment in our region, leading to prosperity, social progress, and economic opportunities for everyone. We are all keenly aware of the deeply troubling fiscal and demographic challenges facing present and future provincial governments in New Brunswick. Any future government will need to strike a balance between spending restraint, enhanced efficiency in all aspects of programs and operations, and new initiatives designed to stimulate economic productivity. With that in mind, we have developed seven “Questions that Count” which we pose to all registered political parties in the Province. We hope that the answers provided to us, when distributed to our members, will help them to decide which party they will support in the upcoming 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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Question 7
Given the dire debt and deficit situation New Brunswick is in, what steps will your party take to resolve the financial crisis?