Throne speech highlights / Second session of 56th Legislative Assembly (07/11/27)
Nov. 27, 2007
FREDERICTON (CNB) -- Another balanced budget, a new provincial health plan, strengthened environmental regulations for drinking water, mandatory coroner's inquests for workplace fatalities, targeted property tax relief, a long-term plan for early learning and child care, province-wide learning disabilities and literacy strategies, population growth and business attraction strategies and a feasibility study into bringing natural gas to northern New Brunswick are among the initiatives included in the speech from the throne which opened the second session of the 56th Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.
"This throne speech will outline a legislative agenda that will set in motion transformative change toward a self-sufficient New Brunswick," Lt.-Gov. Herménégilde Chiasson said. "Your government's action plan and this legislative session will build on what is good about New Brunswick with the goal of making our province an even better place to be."
The speech from the throne outlined the government's legislative agenda, which is intended to set in motion transformative change toward a self-sufficient New Brunswick through strategic initiatives in four key areas: transforming our government, transforming our relationships, transforming our workforce and transforming our economy.
Highlights of the throne speech include:
Transforming our Government
· The 2008-2009 capital budget will be tabled on Dec. 11, as well as a fiscal and economic update for the current year.
· A balanced budget for 2008-2009 will be tabled during the spring sitting.
· The mandate of Service New Brunswick will be expanded, and a new 'one business - one record' system of business services will be introduced by 2009.
· Government departments will begin transferring their customer-facing services to Service New Brunswick as part of an overall quality service initiative over the coming year, beginning with the Office of the Rentalsman.
· A new Provincial Health Plan will be introduced that will focus on six priorities - achieving better balance, enhancing access, improving efficiency, harnessing innovation, making quality count and building partnerships. The plan will provide residents with tools, resources and support to allow them to work in partnership with health professionals to take better care of their own health.
· Amendments will be introduced to the Pharmacists Act to enable these health professionals to prescribe certain drugs. The profession of midwifery will be regulated through new legislation.
· New legislation will also be introduced to legalize living wills and provide for substitute decision makers to make health care decisions for individuals no longer competent to make their own decisions.
· A Task Force on Access to Family Justice will be mandated to report on options for increasing access to justice in family law disputes.
· Pay day lenders legislation will be introduced to set limits on the cost of borrowing and regulate the business practices of these short-term lenders.
· Mandatory coroner's inquests for workplace fatalities will be instituted and resources enhanced for coroners when reviewing the circumstances of sudden and unexpected deaths.
· A Domestic Violence Death Review Committee will be established and the Child Death Review Committee will be moved to the Office of the Chief Coroner.
Transforming our Relationships
· In May 2008, New Brunswick will host the Forum des Organisations internationales de la Francophonie (Francophone Conference of the International Non-Governmental Organizations), as well as the Conference des ministres de l'Education de la Francophonie, (Conference of Francophone Ministers of Education), which represents more than 50 countries of the Francophonie.
· A Commissioner on the Future of Local Governance is examining the structure and organization of local government in New Brunswick.
· Targeted property tax relief will be introduced for homeowners least equipped to deal with the tax burden associated with rising assessments.
· Requirements will be strengthened for drinking water treatment and disinfection and standards for municipal drinking water systems.
· Government will adopt new performance-based standards for municipal wastewater effluent from wastewater treatment facilities. These standards will incorporate an environmental risk management model and harmonize regulations with other Canadian jurisdictions.
Transforming our Workforce
· A Special Committee of Cabinet on Early Childhood Development and Care will be appointed.
· A long-term plan for early learning and child care will be tabled which will enhance supports to young children, their parents, and the professionals and community groups who support them.
· A new I'm Ready for School initiative will be introduced, designed to ease the transition into kindergarten, especially for children at risk.
· Government will establish and invest in 22 community schools in 2007-2008, with support from local communities and the private sector. A new framework for investing in small rural schools, providing new learning opportunities for students in rural areas, will be announced.
· A Diversity in Learning initiative will support trades and vocational education in schools and career counselling services will be improved.
· A province-wide learning disabilities strategy will be launched focused on early detection and intervention, and a new integrated service delivery model will be piloted to improve services for students in the public school system.
· Government will release a literacy strategy designed to support bold targets to increase literacy to the levels necessary for self-sufficiency.
· A working group of university presidents, community college principals and government officials is considering the recommendations of the Commission on Post-Secondary Education's report, and will recommend to government the best model for a post-secondary education system in New Brunswick and an accompanying implementation plan early next year.
· Amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act will respect presumptive cancer coverage for firefighters.
· The minimum wage will increase to $7.75 an hour by April 2008, an increase of $1.05 since October 2006.
· A population growth strategy for the province will be introduced and government will build partnerships to expedite and streamline the immigration process and improve settlement services for recent immigrants.
Transforming our Economy
· Government will outline its strategy for public and stakeholder engagement following the tabling of the report from the Task Force on Wood Supply and Forest Diversity.
· A Fisheries Renewal Framework will be tabled that will provide an agenda for transformational change in this sector.
· Strategic investment initiatives will be introduced to support the agriculture and aquaculture sectors, ensure long-term growth and sustainability and position them to contribute to self-sufficiency.
· Changes will be introduced to the Tourism Development Act to create a more competitive tourism environment and ensure quality and standards.
· The government will initiate an intercultural dialogue on the contribution of the cultural sector to our society.
· Government will address the issue of access to capital for new and growing small businesses through the newly launched NB Growth program.
· A unit will be created within Business New Brunswick to develop and aggressively execute a strategy for attracting and supporting investment by existing and new marquee firms.
· New Brunswick will support the advancement of key technology clusters, driven by strategic investments in priority core technologies to enhance our capacity for global competitiveness.
· The result of the $2.5-million feasibility study into a potential second nuclear generating station at Point Lepreau will be announced during this session.
· Government will consider policy options for community wind development initiatives and review NB Power's renewable portfolio standard to ensure that it reaches its maximum potential in renewable energy.
· An official policy on tidal power generation will be released, and work will continue in exploring tidal energy potential in the Bay of Fundy with Nova Scotia.
·A feasibility study will be launched into bringing natural gas to northern New Brunswick as a key priority of the Department of Energy.
· The Electricity Act will be reviewed to ensure that the utility structure and the electricity market adequately reflect the self sufficiency goals and energy hub agenda.
· Government will continue to invest in safe and efficient highway corridors with the recent signing of the first phase of a $414-million cost sharing agreement with the federal government for projects in the national highway system. The early completion of the twinning of Route 1 remains a priority.
· An infrastructure strategy will be announced to improve the condition of our provincial highways, including those in rural areas.
· As outlined in the Charter for Change, initial funding of the $100-million Northern New Brunswick Initiative to improve the economic infrastructure of the northern counties of our province will be allocated in 2008-2009.
· A new Species at Risk Act will be introduced to modernize the existing Endangered Species Act and a new Biodiversity Strategy will be unveiled designed to protect ecosystem, species and genetic diversity.
· A trust fund for the Petitcodiac River will be established and planning and design work will begin for the restoration of the Petitcodiac River as further partnership options are pursued between the Province and federal government.
"Our government will implement the legislative and policy changes necessary to build a better New Brunswick. However, transforming our province will take all New Brunswickers working together. We all have the opportunity to play an important part in building a better New Brunswick," Premier Shawn Graham said. "We have a long journey ahead of us, but I am confident we can achieve our goals. It's time to make this province the envy of Canada - a place to be successful, a place to be self-sufficient."
EDITOR'S NOTE: The complete text of the speech from the throne and highlights are available online. MEDIA CONTACT: Marie-Andrée Bolduc, Office of the Premier, 506-444-2286.