I am pleased to see such a diverse crowd here this evening - representatives from various political parties, from many different industries, from different parts of the province - and indeed, from different parts of the world. It can sometimes be easy to focus on our differences, to get tunnel vision and seeing things only from our own perspective, to get bogged down with trying to protect our little turf.
But the truth is there is so much more that connects us than divides us. We all want to see a healthy and prosperous New Brunswick. We want our children to have opportunities to live and work in their home province. We want to deliver quality services to seniors and students and everyone in between. Our chamber’s vision is Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity and I think this vision is equally applicable across the province as it is to Fredericton. And we all have a role to play to make that vision a reality.
The government would not have a single dollar if not for successful businesses. The tax dollars and other sources of revenue that we create funds every hospital visit, every inch of highway and every lesson our kids learn in school. It is important that governments understand and remember that. The better the business conditions that government is able to create, the more prosperous we can all be.
BUT - those of us outside government also need to do a better job at understanding and remembering that fact. Anytime we ask - or demand - something from government, remember how hard we worked so that government has that money to spend and remember, we only have so much of it. It’s how we think about spending our money within our households, so why don’t we think of it that way when it government? Collectively, we have to be more thoughtful about what we actually need, what we can actually afford.
This is particularly relevant given the election later this year. When you hear “free” this or “government-funded” that - remember what that really means.
So what do we really need? I’m sure there are differing opinions on that question, but here are five things that I think we need and that government, business and the general population can agree on:
- A Private Sector Driven Economy that creates jobs and growth
This requires a commitment to making New Brunswick the best place to grow a business through competitive tax and regulatory policy. A thriving private sector supports job growth and creates the tax base required to sustain health, education and social programs in our province.
- Responsible Resource Development
A commitment to adopt development-friendly and environmentally sound approval processes with clear timelines and predictable parameters for decision making and approval. This will allow NB to attract major private sector investment for projects that will grow employment and opportunity while protecting our natural environments.
- Export Focused Economy
A commitment to pursue a strategy to develop New Brunswick companies as export ready and increase our global profile for trade opportunities with markets such as the United States, Europe and Asia.
- Labour Force Development
A commitment to retaining our talent and attracting a skilled workforce with the skills needed for new and existing companies to grow and prosper.
- Responsible Financial Management
A commitment to thoughtful spending of tax dollars with the goal of reducing provincial debt. A balanced budget creates consumer confidence and business momentum while providing an appropriate level of services to citizens
I don’t think those are five easy steps to prosperity, but that’s the point - if it was easy, we’d already be doing it. These five will take a sustained focus over many years and that’s why we need some kind of consensus and focus that will survive through business and government cycles while being adaptable to changing circumstances. As Henry Ford once said - “Coming together is a start, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”
Here’s to a successful New Brunswick.