Assembly of New Brunswick
Speech from the Throne
Speech from the Throne - Fall, 1997
delivered by Lt.-Gov. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell
Today I have the honor and privilege of welcoming you to the Third Session of the 53rd Legislative Assembly of the Province of New Brunswick.
This is my first opportunity as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick to preside over the opening of a session of our Legislative Assembly. It is a duty that I have looked forward to with great anticipation, and I am pleased and most humbled to have been given the opportunity to serve in this capacity.
My government wishes to acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks to our former lieutenant-governor, the Hon. Margaret Norrie McCain, who so graciously served our province in a diligent and caring manner.
On behalf of the people of New Brunswick, I want to recognize and sincerely thank the former premier, Frank McKenna, for 10 years of exemplary leadership and unselfish dedication to the province and its people.
On behalf of all members of the Legislative Assembly, I would like to congratulate John McKay (MLA-Miramichi Centre), on his recent appointment as speaker of the house.
Following on the success of the Annual Premiers' Conference in St. Andrews this year, my government will host the 23rd Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Fredericton in 1998.
New Brunswick participated with the Government of Canada at the recent Francophone Summit in Hanoi. My government is very pleased with the decision to hold the next summit in Moncton in 1999, where youth is expected to be the predominant theme. This international event brings together 49 heads of state and government, and the exposure and spinoff activities are expected to be of major benefit to New Brunswick.
On behalf of the members of the Legislative Assembly, I would like to
acknowledge and pay tribute to all our athletes who so ably represented
the province at the 1997 Canada Summer Games. They succeeded in
bringing home a record 17 medals.
My government shares the concern of our Atlantic colleagues about the current and future impact of federal social and economic policies on Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic Vision Conference was the beginning of a renewed effort to address these concerns, and to help communicate to all Canadians the vision of this region and the determination to remain strong and vibrant partners in our Canadian federation.
Over the past 10 years, my government has made considerable progress in fiscal management, in diversifying and modernizing the economy, in social policy reform, and in improving the quality of life for our citizens. New Brunswick has been recognized across the country and elsewhere as an activist province working tirelessly to promote its strengths and advantages.
My government recognizes that while we have succeeded in putting our fiscal house in order, New Brunswickers have had to make sacrifices along the way. Our citizens approached this challenge with resolve, and it is only fitting they should benefit from these accomplishments. The province is now positioned to build and expand on these accomplishments, and to reinvest some of its hard earned dividends in the key social programs and enhancements to our quality of life.
My government will maintain fiscal discipline by operating within the framework of a balanced budget, living within our means, and paying down the net debt. This will continue to present a major challenge to the government in the coming years. It is as a result of these fiscal policies over the past decade that the Province now can make strategic investments in our key social programs. My minister of finance will elaborate on this later in the session.
The government has put in place a solid foundation for New Brunswickers to participate in the new information economy. The resource sectors are restructuring, and the province's businesses and industries are ready to participate in the new global trading environment. The economic indicators for the province are strong and positive, and marked growth in the economy and in employment opportunities is expected. New Brunswick is at a crossroads in our economic history, and is poised to grow and expand with the rest of Canada as we move towards the millennium.
The Province has reached a landmark where an increased emphasis can be given to stabilizing and securing key social programs, while continuing aggressively to pursue job creation opportunities. My government continues to believe the best social program is employment, and job creation will remain a priority for 1998. At the same time, it will be balanced with strategic reinvestments in social programs with health care and education as the top priorities.
A sound and compassionate system of health care is of fundamental importance to all New Brunswickers. My government remains committed to a planned and relevant health care system which meets the needs of all citizens. A major goal of my Department of Health and Community Services will be to ensure the system is sustainable for generations to come.
This government is completing the third year of its major policy initiative: Making Health and Community Services Sustainable. No further fundamental restructuring in the health care system is planned. As we enter a period of stability and sustainability in the coming year, reinvestments will be made in key health care and social services.
Last year, my government responded to particular requirements identified in the hospital system, as well as in other service components of the long term care strategy. This year, my Department of Health and Community Services will respond positively to a recent study on nursing home care.
My government is participating in renewed efforts in federal-provincial co-operation in health, social services and human resource development, leading to the design and implementation of a new social policy framework for Canada. My minister of health and community services will be participating in the development of a federal-provincial protocol for discussing issues regarding the interpretation of the Canada Health Act.
A new Public Health Act will be introduced and provide stronger enforcement powers to reduce health hazards and control communicable diseases.
Major investments will be made in TeleHealth, in partnership with the region hospital corporations and the private sector. By becoming world leaders in TeleHealth, the government will not only provide better, more modern services, but will create jobs for New Brunswickers.
An effective public education system is also a major priority for New Brunswickers, and in 1998 my government will focus on stabilizing the system and undertaking strategic reinvestments in selected areas. Additional resources will be made available and directed to classrooms, particularly in remedial, special needs and enrichment activities, as well as music, arts and physical education.
The new Education Act will be proclaimed during this session, and will provide the legal framework to complete the reforms necessary to prepare New Brunswick students for the 21st century. The emphasis will be on learning and teaching, and a better school environment for students and teachers. A Positive Learning Environment Policy will be implemented in 1998.
This year, my Department of Education will be making new technology investments, which will see an infusion of World Wide Web-ready computers in our schools. This will enhance opportunities for learning in the classroom.
My government is aware of concerns expressed about the cost of post-secondary education and particularly the student debt load. New measures will be introduced to help alleviate the burden of student debt repayment.
An area of increasing concern to New Brunswickers is the accessibility of video lottery terminals. My government will move to implement a phased-in program to remove video lottery terminals from all non-licensed establishments in the province. Effective immediately, the installation of video lottery terminals in non-licensed establishments will no longer be authorized. My minister of finance will be providing further details in the coming weeks.
My Department of Human Resource Development remains committed to its mission of client self-sufficiency, and will continue its emphasis on education, training and job experience. Support will be in place to assist unemployed New Brunswickers in their transition or return to the workforce. Assistance will be provided through integrated case management and active program interventions.
My government is sensitive to the concerns of our most vulnerable citizens, and particularly those with lower incomes. A number of these concerns will be addressed in the coming year. In addition to investments in health care, training and education, and job creation, other measures will be undertaken to help alleviate hardship and to give greater support to low income families and individuals:
My government continues to be concerned with the high level of youth unemployment. Following the decision reached by provincial premiers in August, the Province will continue to aggressively pursue the development of a National Youth Employment Strategy with sister provinces and the federal government.
Amendments to the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act will be introduced to support a regional focus for the council and a strengthened provincial network for New Brunswick women. The Change of Name Act and the Family Services Act also will be amended.
As a result of the success of some 150 Community Access Centres, the program will be extended to a second phase to focus on bringing new services to rural New Brunswickers. On-line pilot projects will be introduced for banking, university courses, high school equivalency certificates, tourism promotion and others.
My government believes the most compelling reason for job creation and a growing economy is to generate the resources necessary to secure and protect social programs, and to improve our quality of life. Job creation, therefore, will remain a high priority.
My government's job creation initiatives for 1998 will target new sectors, such as plastics and metalworking, while vigorously pursuing call centres, information technology businesses and textiles. Special efforts will be undertaken to encourage value-added processing and manufacturing in wood, textiles, metalworking, minerals and fisheries. Both rural and urban regions of New Brunswick will benefit from these job creation efforts.
Special economic development emphasis will continue to be given to areas adversely impacted by major disruptions, such as the Sussex area with the closure of the potash mine.
My government will continue to build on the success of our recent tourism initiatives. In 1998, a major new marketing campaign will be launched in Ontario as well as in selected Canadian and U.S. cities. The emphasis will be placed on the eco-traveller and the fly-drive market, in partnership with airlines.
Specific tourism development plans will be introduced for Cape Tormentine, Albert County and in the Shippagan/Lamèque/Miscou area. A new Outdoor Network project will be launched, resulting in new facilities at Hopewell Rocks, Sugarloaf Park, Tracadie-Sheila, Caraquet and Mount Carleton. The new and expanded tourism initiatives for the coming year are expected to create a significant number of jobs throughout the province, especially in rural areas.
Priorities in the resource sectors for 1998 will result in increased employment opportunities, particularly for rural New Brunswickers. These will include:
The Sable Island natural gas project will result in over $135 million in investment in New Brunswick, with hundreds of associated jobs. Legislation will be introduced to create an appropriate environment for the development of natural gas distribution. A lateral pipeline to the northern part of the province is clearly a priority of this government. A natural gas industrial benefits strategy will be developed to maximize the number of jobs for New Brunswickers.
Electrical energy deregulation will be advanced in 1998. Transmission tariffs for wheeling electrical power through and out of the province will be implemented Jan. 1, 1998. A further stage of transmission access to allow for the wheeling of electric power into and within the province must be fully addressed.
The energy sector in New Brunswick is now at a crossroads. Several issues need to be explored, including restructuring, open competition and private sector involvement in the electrical energy sector. My government believes these matters must be addressed in full consultation with New Brunswickers. A discussion document on electrical energy issues will be tabled during this session and referred to a special committee of the Legislative Assembly for that purpose.
My government will introduce legislation to amend the New Brunswick Highway Corporation Act, Motor Vehicle Act and the Highway Act pertaining to the new, four-lane Fredericton-Moncton Highway. A new Fredericton-Moncton Highway Financing Act also will be presented during this session.
A major element of my government's job creation strategy is to prepare New Brunswickers for the jobs of the future. A new Work-Ready Workforce initiative for information technology firms will be developed and implemented to better reflect the opportunities available in New Brunswick. In partnership with universities and colleges, the number of work-ready graduates will be increased. New programs will be introduced in schools to assist teachers on how best to use this technology.
My government is fully aware of the future demographic trends in New Brunswick. Our future development will depend, to a large degree, on population growth. A new Immigration Strategy will be developed pursuant to successful negotiations with the Government of Canada.
My Departments of Justice and the Solicitor General will implement a number of new measures in 1998 to improve the system of justice in the province:
My government will introduce amendments to the Right to Information Act, and will request that it be referred to a legislative committee for consultation.
The Hon. Justice Creaghan's review of the Conflict of Interest Act will be tabled and referred to a committee of the Legislature for review and advice from all Members of the Legislature.
My Government will bring forward during the course of the next year, its response to the study on the efficiency of the New Brunswick Language Policy. This will include measures regarding the language of service to the population and the language of work.
As a result of a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, my government will introduce legislation to establish an independent Commission on Judicial Salaries.
The Corporate Registry will be modernized, and the Companies Act will be tabled for amendments.
In 1998, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission will give priority to creating a high standard of excellence in New Brunswick as an accident-free workplace. Amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act will provide important adjustments to benefits for injured workers and surviving spouses.
A province-wide, high-speed, high capacity communications network will be put in place in 1998 to connect most government offices and facilities. NBTel and Fundy Communications infrastructure will be used, consistent with the government commitment to support private sector service providers.
To facilitate current municipal restructuring initiatives, you will be asked to consider legislation respecting amalgamations. Amendments to the Municipalities Act and Municipal Elections Act will be tabled in response to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Electoral Reform.
A new Cultural Policy will be introduced which will create the framework for the growth and prosperity of the arts and culture in our province. Initiatives will be undertaken to strengthen New Brunswick's music and sound recording infrastructure. The Arts Development Trust Fund Act will be amended to ensure a stronger funding base for the Arts Board.
My government will continue to advance a range of initiatives aimed at strengthening environmental protection, encouraging stewardship and promoting sustainable development.
Implementing the Clean Air Act will be a major focus, including full consultation on new regulatory requirements for administrative penalties and public involvement.
The Wellfield Protection Program will enter the final stage of public discussion, leading to the designation of protected areas around environmentally fragile municipal groundwater supplies.
Completion of our province-wide, state-of-the-art solid waste management system will open the way for a new and expanded waste diversion strategy to further reduce the volume of waste generation and disposal in the province. Specific initiatives in this regard will include a Waste Oil Recovery Program operated jointly with manufacturers and vendors of such products.
In the coming year, my Department of Natural Resources and Energy will complete a new Protected Areas Strategy for New Brunswick, which will contribute significantly to conservation biodiversity.
A new Conservation Easement Act will be introduced during the session to permit legal easements between private landowners and non-profit organizations for protection of ecologically sensitive lands with appropriate tax breaks.
The people of New Brunswick have been asked to share their views with a special committee of this legislature in regard to the Calgary Declaration of Premiers on Canadian Unity. A special committee will table a report reflecting its consultation with New Brunswickers, and members of this assembly will be asked to debate a resolution on the unity of Canada.
Further details of my government's 1998 agenda and 1998-99 spending estimates will be outlined by my ministers over the course of this session.
You will be asked to review and approve the Statement of Estimated Revenues and Expenses and Capital Account appropriations required to operate the government for the coming fiscal period.
I would like to wish the honorable members of this assembly success throughout this new session.
May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.