The vision of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity. As members of our chamber, board of directors and staff are primarily local residents, we recognize the symbiotic relationship that exists between business, the community and the citizenry. Citizens support local business, which creates jobs, grows the economy and provides government with the resources to provide the social programs, recreational activities and infrastructure needed in our communities. Our mission is: Support business prosperity through networking, shared services, advocacy and events. The Fredericton chamber’s vision and mission, along with our close connection to the community, guides every decision we make as an organization, particularly our policy and advocacy work.
Our policy priorities in 2018-19 are:
Competitive Business Environment
Traditionally, cost competitiveness has been an advantage that we have had in New Brunswick, but this has eroded. Over the past three years, NB businesses have seen increases in minimum wage, property tax, corporate tax, HST, EI rates, land transfer tax and WorkSafeNB premiums have nearly tripled over the past three years (amongst other costs). An unknown carbon tax and CPP hikes are looming in 2018 and 2019 respectively WorkSafeNB premiums will continue to rise until government intervenes with new legislation. All the while, we are seeing economic growth around 1% annually. While decreasing the province’s small business tax is helping, that benefit are being swallowed up on multiple fronts.
We have recommended that the government complete a comprehensive tax policy review to ensure that the province is following jurisdictional best practices and that New Brunswick’s tax structure is aligned with and is an extension of the Province’s economic development policy and growth strategy. The only way to sustainably improve the economy is through consistent business growth and we work with all three levels of government to advocate for the best possible conditions for that growth. The three policy priorities that follow are inhibitors to reaching this goal.
New Brunswick’s net debt is nearing $15 billion, or about $20,000 for every person living in the province - effectively doubling in the past decade. The province spends $700 million per year in interest payments alone - $80,000 every hour. These numbers do not include NB Power’s $5 billion debt or the $3-5 billion that will be spent on the Mactaquac Dam in the near future. Our population is shrinking and aging - making it increasingly difficult to credibly address the situation in any meaningful way. The debt restricts the province’s ability to make investments to drive growth, provide services and keep costs to businesses and citizens manageable.
The chamber believes that all steps should be taken to prioritize efficiencies within government, while rationalizing public assets and services to reflect current realities. More than anything, individuals and businesses want to know that their tax dollars are being put to good use. After a two-year Strategic Program Review and a steady stream of tax and cost increases over that time, we would have expected some progress to be made on the debt.
Natural Resource Development
Natural resources are, by far, Canada’s largest export sector and as a key part of Canada’s and New Brunswick’s economic mix, the chamber believes that any serious plan for creating jobs, greening our economy and reaching out to new markets has to place the competitiveness of the resources sector at its core. Natural resources provide crucial high paying jobs for people in rural areas, but urban areas benefit as well. Through their extensive supply chains, natural resource firms are important customers of manufacturers, innovative startups, our world-class ICT sector and other service providers in cities that are miles from the forest, farm or mine site. Because of their multi-sector impact natural resource projects provide opportunities that we cannot afford to ignore.
New Brunswick’s declining population is one of the greatest threats to sustained economic growth moving forward and the Fredericton chamber addresses this issue primarily through working closely with New Canadians and post-secondary students/institutions. On the immigration side, we run three government- and private-sector-supported programs to assist entrepreneurial newcomers in getting their businesses launched.
The chamber advocates on the provincial nominee program, express entry program, startup visa and others. We also actively work to connect post-secondary students with local businesses and the community generally by working with businesses, our economic development organizations, post-secondary institutions and students themselves. There is substantial alignment of goals between these four groups and the chamber works to connect them and advocates for policies that put this alignment into practice.