Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Closing the Debate on the Speech from the Throne
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Closing Debate - Speech from the Throne

Premier of New Brunswick
Honourable Bernard Lord


November 23, 2000

Draft Speaking Notes Only

The text of this speech has been made available
for informational purposes only. The printed version of the
Journal of Debates (Hansard) remains the official version.

Mr. Speaker,

I am proud to stand today to close the debate on our government's second Speech from the Throne. I wish to congratulate the MLA from Kennebecasis for her excellent speech as Mover of the Speech from the Throne. She is a proud New Brunswicker and a proud defender of Progressive-Conservative values.

I would like to congratulate the member for Centre-Péninsule on the excellent speech he gave as seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. Also, I wish to pay tribute to him on his recent appointment as president of the New Brunswick section of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.

As the Premier, I can bear witness to these members' dynamism and deep concern for the future of our province.

On behalf of all the Members of this Assembly, I would like to acknowledge the dedicated work of Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor. She is serving the province and its citizens with pride and dignity. We wish her well.

I would also like to thank the staff of Legislative Assembly for their contribution to the work of this Assembly - I would like to acknowledge the dedicated work of the Clerk and Assistant Clerk of the House, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the pages, the library staff, the staff of Hansard, the staff at Translation and all other staff for their work. These people often have to work beyond regular hours to enable this House to function well.

I would also like to thank those responsible for the operations of our government - the members of our Public Service. Their dedication is very much appreciated.

I would like to pay a special tribute to my own staff, the people working in the Premier's Office, the constituency office and those that support me in my ministerial duties at the Executive Council Office, at Intergovernmental Affairs, at the Regional Development Corporation.

I also want to thank our caucus and our Cabinet. Over the last eighteen months, as we were adapting to our new duties, their support has been tremendously important. We form a good, hardworking team. A team which believes in New Brunswick, in its communities, in its people, and a team which is committed to build a better province.

We were extremely pleased, in October, to welcome Canada's Governor General, Mrs. Clarkson, and her husband, John Ralston Saul, on their first official visit to New Brunswick. Mrs. Clarkson is a true representative of Canadians. She is a symbol of tolerance and inclusiveness - in her first year in her function, she has demonstrated an impressive capacity to integrate what is at the heart of Canadian society.

Honourable Leader of the Opposition, I want to extend my sincerest congratulations to you on being inducted as Grand Officier of the Ordre de la Pléiade. Your colleagues in the House did not have the pleasure of your company on September 30, when this honour was presented. However, it was a good idea of yours to ask your daughter Sophie to accept the award on your behalf. She was a credit to the Thériault family, giving a speech with great confidence and assurance. You have good reason to be very proud of her.

Although we have different ways of seeing issues of a political nature and may well have differences of opinion on many of them, I wish to assure the Leader of the Opposition of my respect for him and his family--in fact, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to him, his wife Gisèle, and his children, Sophie and Sébastien, my best wishes for the future.

We all know how demanding political life is and how greatly it can influence and sometimes even infringe on our personal and family life. You will therefore permit me to convey my sincerest thanks to my wife, Diane, with whom I celebrated 10 years of marriage in September, but with whom I have already had 14 years of happiness.

I also wish to thank both my children, Sébastien and Jasmine, who will, I hope, one day understand our desire to build a better New Brunswick for children of their generation.

Moncton East

One of our greatest privileges as members is to serve our constituents. I feel very privileged to represent the residents of Moncton East.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Moncton East for their continued support. They were among the first, in 1998, to put their trust in me and our Party. At that time, it was not only trend-setting to vote PC - it was a bold statement, and an act of vision! I personally owe a lot to the voters of Moncton-East.

So does the PC Party of New Brunswick. So does the province.

On June 7, 1999, the people of New Brunswick followed the trend initiated by the people from my riding - they voted for the team of men and women that are with me today, proud representatives of all regions of the province and of the diversity of the people of New Brunswick.

Many elected representatives would probably like to have political careers similar to the one of former Premier Louis Robichaud. Turning 75 on October 21, he had to accept mandatory retirement from the Senate after serving there for close to 27 years, putting an end to another chapter of a journey that covers nearly half a century.

I had the privilege of welcoming Louis Robichaud to Fredericton at the ceremony commemorating the 35th anniversary of our flag on February 28. His presence as well as that of Mr. Pichette, who oversaw the designing of the flag, enhanced the authenticity and historic nature of the ceremony.

Mr. Robichaud, who was in fine form, spoke four times longer than his allocated speaking time. Glancing around the reception room, he said he was pleased that, fortunately, walls cannot talk.

If the walls of this Assembly could talk, they would probably tell us that the decade from 1960 to 1970 was without a doubt one of the most significant in the political history of New Brunswick.

We will be remembering Louis Robichaud's legacy as Premier - for presiding over ten years of change. Not all of what Louis Robichaud proposed was well received or welcomed at the time - some programs and initiatives were most controversial - collective bargaining rights for the civil service, the Official Languages Act, adoption of non-premium medicare system, the programme of Equal Opportunity.

Today, they still shape many aspects of our government. His legacy should also serve to remind us, as elected representatives, that we should never limit ourselves to what is nice and popular. We also have to stand up and do what are convinced is right for the province and its people.

We are honoured to build on his legacy of Equal Opportunity to create Greater Opportunity.

When Richard Hatfield took office, he kept building on the initiatives brought about by Robichaud. He undertook important reforms in social services and in service delivery. He instituted tolerance and respect for our linguistic communities as a fundamental characteristic of New Brunswick. He was largely responsible for ensuring that Equalization was enshrined in Canada's constitution.

It is a fundamental principle of this country that allows Canadians to have access to comparable levels of services regardless of where they live. It means that a person living in Miramichi can have access to the same services as a person living in Moose Jaw. It's part of our identity as Canadians.

We are honoured to build on Richard Hatfield's legacy of tolerance and inclusion and his effort to create a more compassionate New Brunswick.

For ten years, Frank McKenna promoted New Brunswick as a good place to establish a business. The legacy of Frank McKenna is that he changed the perception of New Brunswick. We are honoured to build on that legacy and improve the reality of New Brunswick.

That's what this Throne Speech is about. Because I believe that everything we have today came from people before us, and not from one generation, and certainly not from one government, and specifically not one Premier - nobody built this province from scratch.

The history of New Brunswick did not start in 1960. Every morning, when I get to my office, I pass before the pictures of 29 Premiers, starting with Andrew Wetmore, the first Premier of New Brunswick after Confederation in 1867. This is a constant reminder that we are building on the legacy of all the premiers, all the governments, all the generations that came before us.

Everyone has built on what was there before, and the challenge that we have in the year 2000 is to do exactly that - to continue that process, to take what is good and build on it.

And take what is not fitting anymore, and change it, and make it better.

That is what this Throne Speech is all about.

It is about Building on our foundation. Building on Equal Opportunity to create Greater Opportunity. This approach will create greater opportunities for New Brunswickers to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Greater opportunities for New Brunswickers to compete in this era of globalization. And by being more competitive, by creating more jobs and generating wealth, we will create greater opportunities for New Brunswick to be a more compassionate province, to better help those who need it the most, to invest more in health care and education.

It is about vision and charting a new course. Because while it is important to build on the legacy of those who came before us, we must not limit ourselves to the past.

We must chart our new direction for the future.

This Throne Speech is about our vision. It is about our legacy. The legacy we will leave for our children and grandchildren to build on. A legacy of hope. A vision of greater opportunity now, and in the future.

Someone said that character is what you exhibit when no one is looking. Well, a vision is what you demonstrate day in and day out. It is about being true to your vision and acting upon it even when people may not notice.

I would like to share with you the very first vision statement - a statement of 250 words - (256, to be exact) that I wrote when I was running for the Leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick, over three years ago, in 1997. I was saying then, and I quote,

"My vision for New Brunswick is one of a prosperous province with a better education system and improved health care in each region. My vision is of a less centralized government with an increased standard of living for New Brunswickers. I see New Brunswick as a place where youth can stay and build the future with us and where the « not so young » people are proud that they did stay and are proud of their accomplishments.

I want us to build a better New Brunswick. A province where we will have a thriving economy based on our natural resources combined with new technologies. We must invest in ourselves and build New Brunswick with New Brunswickers.

I see a province filled with diversity where we respect our differences whatever they are, and work to find the common ground. Consultation is essential. Renewed democracy is much needed. A new balance must be defined between a centralized government and our local identities and aspirations.

At the dawn of a new millennium, it is vital for New Brunswick to have a leader at the service of people. We will live within our means, but we will never abandon our responsibilities towards the youth, seniors, and workers of our province.

We will work vigorously to improve the quality of life of New Brunswickers. Education, health care, and economic development are the keys to my vision for a successful future for New Brunswick. My mission is to bring people together to provide hope, security, and dignity to all our citizens."

I still believe in that vision. Our team has set out a comprehensive plan to transform this vision into reality.

In the Spring of 1999, we sought a mandate from the people of this province with a plan entitled New Vision - New Brunswick. On June 7th 1999, the voters entrusted us with this new mandate.

We used this plan to draft our first Speech from the Throne. Not surprisingly, the Opposition parties were disappointed. The Leader of the Opposition said he was going to suggest to his caucus that they don't debate the Throne Speech at all, breaking tradition. He said there was nothing new in it.

As I stated at the time, we are not about to apologize for putting forward a Speech based on the principles, the direction and the specific commitments we made to New Brunswickers. What was new to New Brunswickers, after 12 years of centralized power, was a government stating simply and matter-of-factly, that it was doing what it said it would do.

Our first year and a half as a new government was about fulfilling specific commitments we made to the people of New Brunswick. It has been an exciting time for us - because we believe in keeping our word, because we believe in doing what we said we would do.

In our first Throne Speech, we envisioned a more efficient government, focused on the five clear public priorities of :

1. Investing in education

2. Building new job opportunities

3. Renewing health care

4. Changing the way government works

5. Managing Smarter and lowering taxes

In addition, we fulfilled 20 specific commitments to New Brunswickers as part of the 200 Days of Change. I know the Opposition doesn't want me to talk anymore about the 200 Days of Change.

Because they all said it couldn't be done.

We kept each of those 20 commitments to the people of New Brunswick because that's what it means to be an accountable government. That is what we will continue to do.

While running for office, we told the people of New Brunswick we would, if elected, remove the Liberal tolls on the Moncton-Fredericton Highway. Our commitment was based on fairness. In last year's Throne Speech Debate, I said that we have sought the mandate to stop the collection of the Liberal Tolls - we sought the mandate, we received it - and we met our commitment by removing the tolls, and actually realizing savings on the total cost of the project.

It would have been tempting not to proceed. Many people - friends and foes - told me not to bother with that issue. Forget about it. You can always say that 19 out of 20 is fine. You don't have to do everything you said you would do. Make it 19¼, 19½, 19¾. Don't bother with the Liberal tolls. This government has been elected with a platform and we will do what we said we would do.

A platform is not a bus ticket that you can dispose of at will.

And if the Opposition want to attack me, if they want to attack this government for honouring its commitment, so be it. If they want to accuse me of keeping my word, Mr. Speaker, I plead no contest.

We will continue to meet our commitment to more open and accountable government by releasing a report entitled "A Progress Report to New Brunswickers" and a government-wide goals and outcome paper outlining our strategic goals and desired outcomes.

In this first year and a half of governing, we have gone beyond fulfilling electoral commitments - we went further by establishing a new foundation for governing on which to build fundamental change, to create a more competitive and more compassionate New Brunswick.

We said and I will repeat, that governments cannot be all things to all people.

Our second Speech from the Throne continues to fulfil our New Vision-New Brunswick plan for our province through five specific ways:

1. Empowering People and Communities

2. Creating Jobs and Wealth

3. Sustaining our Health Care System

4. Managing Smarter

5. Fighting for New Brunswick's Interests

It contains more than 30 specific initiatives and commitments which will further advance the implementation of our New Vision-New Brunswick plan. We believe it's an important next step in fulfilling the mandate we received from the people of New Brunswick. We believe it clearly highlights the vision that we are working on every day. We believe it provides the road map that will lead us into the future.

We are offering New Brunswickers a broader set of measures that will truly change the way government works for people. Changes that reflect the nature of New Brunswick - a dynamic, caring, diverse and bilingual society.

Empowering People and Communities

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that I decided to run for office was because I felt there was too much centralization of power in New Brunswick in the 1990's, and because I felt citizens should have a greater say in what happens in their province.

What took place in the 1990's is that the government was shutting people out, shutting the doors on them. The previous Liberal government took away local control from New Brunswickers on education, on health care, on economic development. Schools boards were abolished. Hospital boards were abolished. Economic development was centralized. A lot of the decisions were centralized in the hands of a few, and many felt it was all centralized in the hands of one single individual, the premier.

That is not my vision of New Brunswick.

I know it may be contrary to conventional wisdom to see a Premier and a government actually reverting power back to people instead of grabbing power. That's what we stand for in this government.

We stand for inclusion, not exclusion. For people, not power. For province, not for party.

We stand for a province where people can actually get involved, share their ideas, bring their solutions, and contribute to the future and the well-being of our communities, of our seniors, of our children and grand-children. That is what will make New Brunswick stronger.

That's why, in this second Speech from the Throne, we are inviting New Brunswickers and their communities to have a greater role in public affairs. We are empowering them, giving them the tools and the power to have a greater say on issues that concern them directly, in their daily lives.

Parents want to have a say in what goes on in education, and we agree with them - that's why we're creating locally-elected District Education Councils. Patients and families want to have a say in what goes on in health, and we agree with them. - that is why we're creating Regional Health Authorities with some locally elected representatives and greater accountability.

Entrepreneurs and community leaders want to have a say in what goes on in economic development, and we agree - that's why we're creating Community Economic Development Agencies. When you include people in decisions which affect their lives, greater opportunity is created. We know that it works Mr. Speaker, because we have tried it for a year in the Acadian Peninsula. And it is working.

Let's give people an opportunity to participate in education, in health, in economic development. Because these are essential components in the building of stronger communities. Because they are issues that define quality of life. Because they are issues that, ultimately, measure the success of communities. Because this is what sets New Brunswick out from the pack.

This is a clear departure from what previous governments had to offer.

We are coming out of a long period where governments were just too happy to pick up responsibilities from people. Under the previous government, responsibilities were just taken out of the hands of people and communities.

We are now in the process of giving back power to the people. We will create opportunities for citizens to put their wealth of knowledge, wisdom and values to the benefit of our population. We will remove the barriers and impediments that frustrate or discourage those who wish to contribute, those who wish to volunteer ideas, time and resources to the well-being of fellow citizens.

I understand this concept of empowerment could raise suspicion, doubt, even cynicism.

The question was put to me last week, by a member of the media - "inclusion is, you know, a worthy goal - but weren't you elected to run the province?"

Yes, we are running the province. And no, we are not abdicating our responsibilities as a government.

Cohesion will be maintained through strong, clear provincial goals and standards, but within a framework that takes into account New Brunswick's diversity and provides enough flexibility to benefit from the strengths of every citizen and every community and enable them to reach their full potential.

We believe that by this greater participation, there will be greater opportunities for individuals, and for our society as a whole, because by involving New Brunswickers, our direction will reflect the very nature of our province. A province where New Brunswickers can see themselves and shape their future. Here, not somewhere else. We want to export our products and services, not our people, not our youth.

We feel there's nothing that prevents a provincial government, from setting clear objectives, provincial standards, a clear direction of where we go in the future, and at the same time inviting the people of New Brunswick to come in and say "you're welcome to participate!"

To compete in today's international economy, there's a clear message - think globally, act locally. Well, we are doing the same thing with government right here in New Brunswick. Setting provincial goals, standards and objectives to compete with the world, and acting locally to empower people to achieve and surpass these goals at the local level.

I feel very good about this, because in the last electoral campaign, it's exactly what we said to the people of New Brunswick we would do. When we were seeking a mandate in 1999, we said we would include people in the decision process. We said we would change the way the government works.

And that means having a provincial government that believes in people. Mr. Speaker, we, on this side of the House, have no fear of letting people in, and participating with us in how we build this province, and how we create greater opportunities.

Our vision of New Brunswick is based on the belief that people should be included, not excluded; that people should be consulted, not second-guessed; that they should be welcomed to participate in key issues that affect their lives, not shut out of decision-making.

It means creating a framework that will enhance the people's sense of belonging and pride in their community and their province, that will enable them to bring forward their own views on important issues, that will give people the opportunity to bring a positive contribution, as citizens, to our overall goal: making New Brunswick a strong, smart, innovative and united province.

Greater opportunity to participate, greater opportunity to contribute, greater opportunity to succeed, greater opportunity for all.

That's our vision for New Brunswick.

Honouring New Brunswickers

Mr. Speaker, government itself does not makes a province strong. It's the people. That is why we have created the Order of New Brunswick, which will enable us to acknowledge and recognize the outstanding accomplishments of New Brunswickers and their contribution that they have made to our present and to our future.

I proposed this initiative, because I believe, as I said before, that everything we have today came from the people before us. Two weeks ago, on the eve of Remembrance Day, we announced the dedication of Highway 15 between Moncton and Shédiac as "Veterans Highway - Autoroute des Anciens combattants". The idea came from a veteran - and I thought it was a good way to pay tribute to those who made sacrifices and even gave their lives so that the world could benefit from freedom and democracy.

We should not have to wait for others to acknowledge and recognize accomplishments, to reward success. Being able to do it among ourselves is a sign of maturity and of self-confidence. The Order of New Brunswick will become a source of pride, inspiration and motivation for our population and our youth.

Creating Jobs and Wealth

Mr. Speaker, building Greater Opportunity is also about creating new job opportunities.

We will deal with the reality, not the perception. The reality is that our economy is doing very well. But we still face challenges. We will work to overcome them. I'm optimistic, because I believe the opportunities far outnumber the challenges.

More people have found work. A record number of New Brunswickers are employed - we know that these number will fluctuate on a seasonal basis. And we know full well there are still many New Brunswickers that are looking for work.

Prospects are good. There is renewed optimism in all regions of the province, particularly in the North, in the Acadian Peninsula.

If there is one area where we have demonstrated our ability to create mechanisms and solutions that are tailor-made for the specific situation of each region of New Brunswick, it is the Acadian Peninsula.

The Premier's Action Committee for the Economic Development of the Acadian Peninsula has been in place for a little over a year. For a long time, Acadian Peninsula residents had been asking to be able to participate in and contribute to the economic development of their region and their province.

Today, people feel they are valued. They feel the government is there to work with them, and they know they are allowed to be actively involved in project development. Today, the economic revival of the Peninsula is well under way, after a lost decade.

Acadian Peninsula residents see that job opportunities are becoming a reality, not only in other areas of the province, but also in their area. Plants are being built in the Peninsula, and other projects will get under way in the near future.

People will have to get ready to take the positions which will have to be filled--in sectors such as textiles or high technology. We are prepared to help them, to invest in their training, and to give them the tools which will enable them to succeed and to attain greater job stability and a higher income.

Workers are also entitled to respect and dignity in their daily activities - we will introduce amendments to the Employment Standards Act, in order to improve the minimum employment standards for New Brunswick workers.

We will also continue to define our approach in the creation of new job opportunities and prosperity. Last Friday, the Minister of Investment and Exports released a strategy based on supporting New Brunswick businesses and on diversifying our economy.

Our efforts in creating new job opportunities and prosperity will be emphasized by the release, in the coming months, of a comprehensive economic growth agenda. An agenda that will capitalize on our natural resources, on agriculture and fisheries, on our strategic location for exports as a "border province", on our skilled workforce, on our leadership in technology.

A key focus of our economic development strategy will be eNB, or "electronic New Brunswick", which will cover e-business, e-learning and e-government.

Managing Smarter

Mr. Speaker, we will not lose sight of the necessity, as a government, to live within our means. The best way to grow our revenues is to grow our economy - and that means building new job opportunities. I can tell you that raising the tax burden, specially income taxes, is not the way to go. Most of the other provinces in this country are reducing income tax - if we don't, we will be left behind. We don't want that.

I'm very proud of the fact we have the lowest small business tax in Canada. That means our small business have a competitive advantage.

I believe that by having a more competitive tax system, by making key investments in research and development, in making key investments in education and training, in making key investment in infrastructures, in strategic investments in facilities such as the new National Research Council Institute on e-commerce, we will build a stronger economy for New Brunswickers and our youth.

We will see less of our young people leaving this province and we'll see more coming back to build a stronger province. That's how we need to grow our revenues. We can't spend our way to prosperity. It has been tried before. It failed.

Big government, big spending, big taxes do not create a stronger economy. What we need in New Brunswick is a smaller, more focussed government on clear priorities. We need lower personal income taxes. We need to ensure that people can keep more of their money and invest more of it.

Sustaining our Health Care System

Sustaining our health care system is a high priority of New Brunswickers. It is a high priority for this government, so it is there for all New Brunswickers when they need it. We've invested record levels of dollars in health care in New Brunswick.

We've adopted a physician recruitment strategy, to help us recruit and retain doctors.

We've increased the number of first-year students in medical schools from New Brunswick by 25 %. We've created three hundred full-time permanent nursing positions throughout the province. We've improved coverage for drugs for MS patients, something the previous government failed to do.

When I hear the Opposition saying that we need long-term solutions for health, I fully agree. But the previous government neglected health care. They even cut medical seats in medical schools. That is one of the reasons why we have a doctor shortage in this province. But now they want us to fix everything. Instantly.

Mr. Speaker, we've done a lot for health care providers, for the patients, for their families - we know that we need to do more.

As we said in our Speech from the Throne, " More money, by itself, will not fix all our health care problems and guarantee better care. New ways of delivering services more effectively that meets health care needs, while respecting what New Brunswickers can all afford, must be looked at. Only this way can our health care system be made truly sustainable for us all - patients, families, providers and taxpayers."

We also know that the federal government has a responsibility in health care. They also have a responsibility in the current state of health care in the country.

An intensive lobby from Premiers of all provinces, for most of the past year, led to the September agreement, which will result in more money from Ottawa to fund health care. This money is welcomed, and it will be put to good use.

But if we truly want Canadians, coast to coast, to have equitable access to health care, we believe the federal government should immediately restore the CHST payments to the levels they were in 1994. We welcome the support of the Opposition parties in joining us in a united action in that regard.

Fighting for New Brunswick's interests

Equalization will be high on our agenda in the coming months. It goes to the heart of what defines us as a country. It's part of our Constitution. It's a fundamental principle of our country to allow Canadians to have access to comparable levels of service regardless of where they live. And it's a fundamental principle to allow provinces to be able to pay for such services.

To put it simply, the demand and responsibilities are in the hands of provinces - but the money is in Ottawa. This year's edition of "How Ottawa's spends" is using an appropriate subtitle - "Past Imperfect, Future Tense". The past has indeed been imperfect, and the future could very well be tense.

We will continue to bring forward positive arguments and fight for New Brunswick's interests on key issues ranging from twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway, regional economic development, training, shipbuilding, environmental issues, post-secondary education, social housing, heritage, culture and many others.

Conclusion

The difference between this government and the opposition is clear. We are a government for the people. We have opened the doors of government.

I can tell you today that we are not content with what we have already accomplished. We will continue to do what we said we would do - and we are committed and determined to do more.

This is not a government which is content with second best. As I said last year, this is not a government that is content to go for the bronze. We are going for the gold and we will continue to go for the gold. We will continue to create greater opportunity for all the people of New Brunswick.

And there are some important contrasts to be made between the Opposition and this side of the House. We are building for the future. We believe in people.

We believe in empowerment of people. They believe in power over people.

I look forward to debating these issues with the Opposition in the weeks and months to come. I'll be very happy to compare our record in the last month and our plan for the future with their record for twelve years. That is if they ever ask me a question.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue, as a team, to build a more competitive and compassionate New Brunswick, a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.


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