Oct. 7, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is an open letter from Premier Shawn Graham to the federal party leaders:
New Brunswick is on the road to self-sufficiency. It's a journey that draws on the fundamental spirit of New Brunswickers - a spirit of determination and self-reliance; a spirit of pride in this place and a belief that it can be better.
A self-sufficient New Brunswick will be a place where we shape our own destiny, where we stand on our own two feet. For the province, that means reducing our dependence on equalization, creating more of our own revenues here at home, and being a strong partner in the Canadian federation.
We have good reason to be optimistic about our goal - the population is increasing, wages are rising and our gross domestic product is projected to exceed the national average. Our government is making choices to invest in our people, build on our strengths, and become a magnet for income growth and job creation.
We are making significant investments in education to improve literacy and enhance educational outcomes for our children. We are moving to revitalize our post-secondary education system to meet the demands of an ever-changing job market. We have introduced a provincial health plan that puts patients first and will improve patient care, enhance wellness, and make our health system more efficient. We have appointed a commissioner to review our local governance structure; the commissioner's report will be published this fall. And we have tabled a discussion paper on tax reform which outlines options to transform New Brunswick's tax system so that it more effectively supports investment, savings, job creation and economic growth. This paper has been the subject of extensive public hearings by a legislative committee whose final report is expected later this fall.
Over the past two years we have made notable progress on the road to self-sufficiency but we need the Government of Canada to be a partner on this journey, to fulfil its role in the development of this nation and this province.
On Oct. 14, Canadians will elect a new parliament to govern our country. Following the federal election I will seek an early meeting with the newly elected prime minister to explore ways that we can expand the partnership that New Brunswick has established with the federal government, so that we can work together to build a more self-reliant New Brunswick and a stronger Canada.
If each government does its part, acting on its respective role and responsibilities, we can foster growth and prosperity. We can build a better New Brunswick. We can build a self-sufficient New Brunswick.
Transforming New Brunswick and accelerating our drive toward self-sufficiency requires a strong partnership with the federal government, based on long-term goals and mutual benefits. There are a number of ways our governments can work together to build a better New Brunswick. Here are just a few:
Investing in our children: We are working to give our children the best start in life to ensure that their generation will be ready to meet the challenge of self-sufficiency. We need to ensure that our children arrive at school ready to learn and that parents and communities have the capacity to support families and young children. We see an opportunity for the federal government to partner with us in the establishment of early childhood development centres - part of our 10-year early childhood strategy - that could be a model for learning and development for all regions of Canada.
Expanding our workforce: A new economy and new jobs require workers with new skills, and New Brunswick needs to develop a well-educated, flexible workforce. We are working to increase our population so that we have the people to match our economic needs. We want to work with the federal government to recruit and retain the workers we need, and provide training to meet our present and future labour force requirements. We will be looking to more actively involve the federal government in the development of the energy hub (and Benefits Blueprint) so that we can work together to build the workforce we need for an expected economic growth.
Building blocks for growth: Economic growth requires that we make smart investments in the infrastructures that support our economy, including highways, wireless communications, pipelines, power lines, ports, airports and railways. These investments must be focused on developing our potential, driving new economic growth and improving services to New Brunswickers in all regions of the province. We must build on our strategic position as part of Canada's Atlantic gateway. The federal and provincial governments have taken a significant step in this direction with the recent announcement of funding to complete the twinning of Route 1 between Saint John and the New Brunswick-Maine border. Other investments are also required for rail, seaports and intermodal transportation links that will support growth and development here. The federal government has recognized the importance of investing in gateways by committing funds in the 2007 budget to support gateways across the country. Continued commitment to these investments in support of an Atlantic gateway will be key to the growth of this province so that it can support a more prosperous Atlantic region.
New Brunswick is developing innovation clusters to promote research and commercial development of new products in advanced learning technology and the energy and bio-economy sectors. I look forward to working with the prime minister on ways to increase research and development in our province in a manner that supports the growth of our established clusters and leads to further economic growth. This is particularly important as we complete the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station, and continue examining the feasibility of a second reactor in the province.
New Brunswick has embarked on a process to restructure our tax system that would encourage savings, investment and economic growth. This will improve the competitiveness of the province's tax regime, and is a key building block in our self-sufficiency plan. Should New Brunswick pursue this course, the co-operation of the federal government in ensuring that we have the necessary flexibility in restructuring our tax system is important to achieving our objectives.
A new vision for the north: Our government has set out a new vision for growth and development in northern New Brunswick. We have already made significant investments in new developments for the north, including New Brunswick's share of federal funding to forestry-based communities announced earlier this year. Our goal is to transform the economy of this region so that it can be more diversified and resilient in the face of global economic forces. A key element in our strategy is to provide access to natural gas for northern New Brunswick's industries and communities. Bringing natural gas to the region would complete the final link in the network of natural gas pipelines, giving Canada greater security in energy production and distribution. This is a win-win proposition that would benefit not only northern New Brunswick, but all Canadians.
A stronger federal presence: The federal government can play an important role in New Brunswick's achieving self-sufficiency by playing a greater part in the life and work of our province. It can and should spend a greater share of its research and development funds in this province, supporting innovation and the growth of new-economy jobs here. It can invest in our cultural activities, so that we can do a better job of telling our story to the world. A prime example is the Congrès Mondial Acadien, which is coming to New Brunswick in 2009. It can expand its presence in this province, providing opportunities for more public services to be offered for and by New Brunswickers.
There is mounting evidence that when Ottawa locates administrative units in New Brunswick - the only officially bilingual province in Canada - they perform better, have better employee retention, and cost less to operate than when located in Ottawa. We are not suggesting relocating to New Brunswick units currently located in Ottawa. We do, however, recommend that Ottawa look to New Brunswick when establishing new units. Locating newly created units in New Brunswick above all makes economic sense. It would also help the province on its road to self-sufficiency.
These are just some of the elements of our long-term strategy for building a strong and self-sufficient New Brunswick.
We invite all candidates from all political parties in the current election campaign to voice their support for our self-sufficiency agenda, and to encourage their national parties and leaders to take a stand for New Brunswick and its self-sufficiency agenda.
We look forward to working at every level - with the prime minister, with federal cabinet ministers and with their officials - to build a strong, self-sufficient New Brunswick within a more prosperous Canada.