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On November 27, 2015, Minister Victor Boudreau released the specific initiatives the Government of New Brunswick is considering as part of their year-long strategic program review. The list, a combination of efficiencies that should be the ongoing business of government and a series of tax increases that will hurt our fragile economy is sure to please no one in the short term - but may be our last shot at getting our fiscal house in order in the long run. There is no doubt - New Brunswick needs action and now. Hopefully this process will give the government the political will to make decisions
and the commitment to stand by them.

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce has been engaged throughout the program review process and our primary advice for the minister continues to be focusing on choices that will not hurt economic growth in the province as this is the only sustainable way to truly get the province’s finances in order for the long term. No amount of cost cutting or tax increases will lead to prosperity - only growth and the province being ‘open for business’ will get us there, both in reality and by perception.

Death and Taxes in New Brunswick

During both the federal election campaign earlier this fall and the provincial election in 2014, we heard a lot about “asking the 1% to pay a little more” - and now it appears that “a little more” means nearly the highest personal income tax rates in the world. Only three OECD countries (Sweden, Denmark, Portugal) have a higher rate than New Brunswick for their top earners. And this is before a promised 4% federal hike takes effect - which would put the province’s top combined bracket at 58.75%. Finance Minister Melanson has said his government will look at the issue - but we were also assured during the 2014 campaign that New Brunswick’s top rate would not exceed Quebec’s, which then happened in the provincial Liberals very first government.

Earlier this week, 12 countries, including Canada concluded negotiations of the long-awaited Trans Pacific Partnership. While we will have to wait for the complete details and ratification of the agreement to fully judge the deal, we can reasonably expect that it will produce a regulatory environment that is more conducive to trade on a massive scale. The signatory countries have a combined population of 800 million people and make up 40% of the world’s economy (lead by the United States and Japan)  and the jurisdictions involved will surely want to add other economies to the deal such as China, India and the Philippines.  

Earlier this month, the chamber’s Municipal Government Affairs Committee submitted its annual policy brief to Fredericton City Council. When authoring our briefs to government, we use feedback from our membership through our surveys, consultations with stakeholders and partners (including City staff), and the expertise and insight of our committee and board of directors. Gathering information and input from a variety of sources allows the committee to fulsomely consider the issues that matter to chamber members.

Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce on the Alberta oilsands
In March 2015, Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce attended a two-day tour of the Alberta oilsands. This also included a visit to Calgary to see the business side of the province’s oil and gas industry. The tour was hosted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as part of their Partnership for Resource Trade initiative.

The Brian Gallant Liberal Government delivered its much­anticipated first budget on March 31, 2015. Overall, the cuts were probably not as deep and tax increases not as intense as some had predicted, but all New Brunswickers are impacted in some way. Ministers Melanson and Boudreau have also been laying the groundwork for a much “tougher” budget for 2016­17 throughout the pre­budget process and the Engage NB program review, which has continued in the immediate aftermath of releasing this year’s document.

Platforms

Now that we are officially passed the half-way point of the 2014 election period, each of New Brunswick’s five registered political parties are starting to lay their cards on the table. Central to these policy and funding announcements/promises are the party platforms, all of which have now been released. These platforms form the basis on the parties’ message to the voting public and in theory, form the foundation of the winning party’s mandate for the next four years.

A big part of the chamber’s raison d'etre is to make connections – member-to-member connections, connecting members with the right services and benefits, acting as a bridge to government officials and providing critical information to the membership.

We accomplish many of these goals by making our own connections through working with partner stakeholders. A few examples:

Our relationship with the Neil Squire Society has made access to their programs and services much more known and accessible to our members. Their “Working Together” program is a wage subsidy initiative that makes it easier for employers to hire persons with disabilities by providing financial and other support. For more information, contact Kristine Johnston at (506) 450-7999 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On 17 September 2014, the chamber’s professional development offerings begin for 2014-15 with a Lunch and Learn titled “How to Avoid Looking Stupid When Using LinkedIn.” Heather MacLean, CMO of TaylorMade Solutions and Chair of Ignite Fredericton’s board of directors will guide participants through how to get the most out of this business-specific social media platform. Heather states:

On June 24, 2014, David Campbell of Jupia Consulting released a report titled “Our Path to a Stronger New Brunswick: Potential New Brunswick Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resource Investments.” Commissioned by the Province of New Brunswick, the report looks at the potential economic impact of five prospective large-scale projects:

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.