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Legislative Assembly

Throne speech highlights / Second session of 54th Legislative Assembly (99/11/30)

NB 1561

Nov. 30, 1999

FREDERICTON (CNB) -- Focusing on public priorities to build compassion and competitiveness in New Brunswick is one of the main themes of the Speech from the Throne, delivered today by Lt. Governor Marilyn Trenholme Counsell in Fredericton. lieutenantgovernor

The throne speech, which officially opened the second session of the 54th Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick focuses on providing the services New Brunswickers need at the taxation levels they can afford.

"This session of the Legislative Assembly has the unique distinction of heralding the close of one century and the beginning of a new millennium," the lieutenant-governor said. "This new century reminds us all that we must take a longer view; that we must take decisions for our province not just for the next election, but for the next generation."

(Lt.-Gov. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell inspects the guard prior to delivering the Speech from the Throne)

Following are highlights of the speech:

CHANGING THE WAY GOVERNMENT WORKS : 200 DAYS OF CHANGE ACTION PLAN

The government has created a new standard of accountability with its 200 Days of Change action plan. With the speech from the throne, which reports on the status of that plan, 15 of the 20 commitments have been met:

- An all-party committee of the Legislature has been established to review key public appointments.

- An independent financial review of the province's books has been completed.

- A court challenge has been joined against the federal Bill C-68, An Act Respecting Firearms.

- Three hundred (300) new, permanent nursing positions have been created.

- A comprehensive physician recruitment initiative to make New Brunswick physician-friendly is now under way.

- Senior couples will now have the choice to live in the same nursing home.

- The Premer's Action Committee for the economic development of the Acadian Peninsula has been established.

- Support for a national shipbuilding policy has been obtained from all provincial premiers.

- The size of cabinet has been cut by 30 per cent.

- A Red Tape Reduction Committee has begun its work.

- An ABC review of all agencies, boards and commissions is under way.

- One hundred (100) new teacher assistants are in place

- A new $1 million school supplies top-up fund has been established.

- A Healthy Minds school nutrition program from grades K-3 is being piloted.

The government will continue to work toward fulfilling the remaining commitments, and improving the public accountability of government. This will include:

- An enhanced role for MLAs will be created through the development of a new MLA Responsibility Act.

- Hospital corporations will appear before the Crown Corporations Committee to improve accountability.

- Public service renewal will be supported through the creation of a virtual Centre for Leadership and Management.

- The government will work co-operatively with the aboriginal community and the federal government to improve the economic and social prospects for aboriginal peoples. An Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat has been created.

RENEWING HEALTH CARE FOR NEW BRUNSWICK FAMILIES

- Health care funding will be increased each year of the government=s mandate, despite previous federal government cuts to transfer payments resulting in about $100 million less in transfers for health, post-secondary education and social services than New Brunswick would have received in 2000-2001.

- The government will continue its joint efforts with other provinces, and directly with the prime minister to convince the federal government to fully restore the Canada Health and Social Transfer to 1994-95 levels.

- A Premier's Health Quality Council will be created, with a two-year mandate to examine the structure of health care delivery and to develop an action plan to move to a regional health governance system. The council will advise on the development of a Patient Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and a provincial Health Report Card.

- The government will work with health care professionals to ensure long-term resource and professionalization plans are developed.

- A senior-level patient advocate position will be established to cut through red tape and help bridge the gap between patient needs and services.

- The Legislative Assembly Committee on Health has already begun to study wellness and health promotion as first step in developing a Wellness Strategy for New Brunswickers.

- An announcement in improved special care home funding rates will be made shortly.

- The Prescription Drug Program will be enhanced for multiple sclerosis patients.

- The government will take steps to improve the co-ordination and delivery of child welfare services.

- Waste management strategies will be developed to ensure the protection of public water supplies and water quality in lakes and rivers.

- The NB Sharing initiative will be implemented in co-operation with grocery store chains, which will allow customers to make contributions toward the purchase of New Brunswick food products for donation to food banks and community kitchens.

BUILDING NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES

- As part of a total development plan for natural resources, sector-specific strategies will be developed for forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, mining, agriculture and tourism.

- The Red Tape Reduction Committee has a six-month mandate to help reduce government barriers to job creation and economic growth affecting New Brunswick businesses, particularly small businesses.

- The forthcoming budget will provide additional assistance to small business by lowering the corporate income tax rate to ensure they remain competitive.

-New job opportunities for young New Brunswickers will be encouraged in the budget through a JobStart program.

- The government will focus on trade as a key job creation tool by strengthening the co-ordination of international and domestic trade policy within government, and making technology and exports a strategic imperative of its economic development efforts.

- New Brunswick will participate in a Team Atlantic Trade Mission to the United States in the spring of next year to further business opportunities for New Brunswick firms. The government will work closely with its Atlantic provincial partners to establish a stronger presence in this market to promote new trade and investment opportunities.

- The recent decision to award a provincial natural gas distribution franchise will further job creating investment in this sector. A memorandum of understanding on natural gas co-operation with the Province of Quebec will be signed shortly.

- To counteract competitive changes in regional, national and international energy markets, a comprehensive, sustainable energy policy will be developed to ensure the future economic and social needs of New Brunswickers are met. This will also include a response to the report by a previous legislative committee on electrical industry restructuring.

- As part of providing fairer wages to New Brunswickers, legislation will be introduced to increase the minimum wage by 25 cents effective January 1, 2000.

MANAGING SMARTER

- The government will begin a phased approach to lowering income taxes for New Brunswickers beginning with its first budget. The goal is to give New Brunswick the lowest personal income tax burden in Atlantic Canada and one of the lowest overall tax burdens in all of Canada.

- The government believes in balancing the books honestly and openly to show New Brunswickers the real financial situation facing our province at all times.

-A systematic program and service review across government is now under way to determine whether existing programs and services are contributing to the economic, social, and competitive needs for New Brunswick=s future.

- The government will examine the merits of de-coupling New Brunswick=s tax system from the federal tax-on-tax system to a more effective tax-on-income system. This will restore a greater degree of provincial control over taxation. At the same time, the taxation system will be reviewed to ensure it is more simple, fair, transparent and efficient.

- Personal income tax relief will be announced in the forthcoming budget. Amendments will be introduced this session to the Residential Property Tax Relief Act to eliminate the September 30 deadline for receipt of applications for the property tax allowance program and expand the eligibility period of those entitled to claim the allowance. Marriage licence and initial birth certificate fees will also be eliminated as part of the budget.

INVESTING IN EDUCATION

- The government will continue to invest more funding in education each and every year of its mandate as a clear public priority.

- School infrastructure and renovation programs will focus first on ensuring our schools are safe and healthy for those who learn and those who teach.

- A multi-year funding formula for post-secondary institutions will be announced to ensure education opportunities for New Brunswick students, and to allow universities to commit to longer-range plans.

- The government will restore active community involvement at the local level in education decisions through publicly and locally elected education councils. The new Legislative Assembly Committee on Education will begin a public examination of this issue in the coming weeks.

- Steps to update the province=s literacy initiative are under way with the formation of a working group of the four major literacy organizations in the province, community colleges, and the Department of Education. Specific recommendations for renewal will be made to the government early next year.

A STRONG VOICE FOR NEW BRUNSWICKERS IN CANADA AND ATLANTIC CANADA

- The government will work to preserve and protect New Brunswick=s unique role and identity in the Canadian federation, as one of the founding partners and as Canada=s only officially bilingual province.

- The Legislative Assembly will be asked to adopt a unanimous resolution calling on the federal government to immediately restore full Canada Health and Social Transfer funding, along with an annual escalator, and lift the equalization ceiling for New Brunswickers.

- Greater maritime and Atlantic regional co-operation will be encouraged to ensure a more competitive New Brunswick. Initiatives are already under way to create a new Council of Atlantic Premiers to strengthen our region=s voice in Ottawa and across the country. The first meeting of this council will be held soon in New Brunswick.

- The government will enhance regional economic and social co-operation on a number of fronts, including trade, research and development, health care, regional development, and reducing business barriers among the Maritime Provinces.

A NEW VISION FOR A COMPETITIVE, COMPASSIONATE NEW BRUNSWICK

To ensure government is structured to meet current and future economic and social needs, policy and program initiatives will be introduced in the session for consideration by MLAs:

- A budget will be presented for review and approval by the Minister of Finance, as well as a Statement of Estimated Revenues and Expenses, and Capital Account appropriations for the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

- Specific new legislative initiatives will be tabled for the consideration of members of this legislative assembly.

- A number of acts that are outdated, have seldom or never been used, or serve no significant public policy purpose will be repealed as a first step in modernizing the legislative landscape in New Brunswick.

- The government will also undertake a consolidation of New Brunswick Acts at the conclusion of the program and services review process. This has not occurred in over 25 years. This process will result, over time, in a modern, simplified and more accessible set of laws for the province.

99/11/30

EDITOR'S NOTE -- The complete text of the 1999 speech from the throne is available on the Internet at: http://www.gnb.ca/legis/busi/54/throne99-e.htm. Copies are also available by contacting Communications New Brunswick, Editorial and Web Services: tel.: 506-453-2240; fax: 506-453-5329; e-mail: wwwcnb@gnb.ca. MEDIA CONTACTS: Amanda Harpelle or Luc Fournier, Office of the Premier, Fredericton, 506-453-2144.

99/11/30