July 6, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following op-ed article was released today by Premier Shawn Graham.
FREDERICTON (CNB) - "As summer got into full swing this week, an historic Legislative session came to a close. At 79 days it was a record-breaker, and with 74 bills passed, new initiatives launched and new investments made, it was also one of the most productive. I want to thank all members for their contributions and suggestions during this important session.
"Our government ended the session with a stronger majority and an even stronger sense of confidence that our province will reach the goal of self-sufficiency by 2026. New Brunswickers share in that optimism.
"On Feb. 6, we promised this session would lay the foundation for a self-sufficient New Brunswick. We made that promise and we delivered.
"We promised to bring forward a number of important legislative changes. We made that promise and with the most bills passed in a single session in the past decade, we delivered.
"We delivered on our promise of a balanced budget. Rather than shying away from the fiscal challenges we inherited, we made the tough choices and delivered a budget which lays the groundwork for future transformational change.
"We delivered on the Three E's - education, energy and economic development.
"Our new education plan will make New Brunswick a leader in student achievement. Better opportunities were created for children with autism, community schools have become a reality and new investments will support innovation in our classrooms. We have also invested $8 million for new child care spaces.
"We delivered more accessible and affordable post-secondary education with new grants for first-year university students and the removal of parental and spousal contribution requirements from student loans. The Commission on Post-Secondary Education will soon deliver recommendations for the most significant transformation of our post-secondary system in 40 years.
"The energy sector is abuzz in New Brunswick. The refurbishment of Point Lepreau is underway and we are moving forward on examining the feasibility of a second reactor. New partnerships have been reached with our neighbours in Nova Scotia and Maine. An accelerated plan will add 300 megawatts of wind power to NB Power's generation capacity.
"New Brunswick has never been better positioned in its history to take advantage of the growing demand for energy in New England and we intend to capitalize on these opportunities.
"During this session we delivered new energy efficiency programs, new legislation to make gas regulation more responsive to consumer needs and new measures to provide relief from rising energy rates to those who need it the most.
"New Brunswick is open for business again. Whether it's a national company like Rogers or TD Insurance or a homegrown success story like Mariner Partners in Saint John or Laforge Doors in Saint Andre, we're supporting economic growth in our province. Our efforts are paying off. In June, New Brunswick recorded its lowest unemployment rate in 33 years. It's impressive, but we're ready to work even harder.
"Economic opportunities will bring New Brunswickers home and attract new Canadians. To focus these efforts we created the Population Growth Secretariat, and we've nearly doubled the funding available for these measures.
"The environment is a defining issue for our time, and our government is delivering. We kept our commitment to introduce an ambitious Climate Change Action Plan this session. Our share of Saint John harbour clean-up funding has been allocated, and we are moving ahead on the restoration of the Petitcodiac River.
"Support is being given to New Brunswickers who need it the most. We've improved child protection and appointed a Public Trustee to act on behalf of those who can no longer make decisions themselves. The adoption process was modernized to support New Brunswick families. A new investment of $40 million will help make affordable housing more accessible. Along with 125 new nursing home beds, a comprehensive long-term care consultation will improve care for older New Brunswickers.
"A record $2.1 billion was invested in health care. Progress was made on our 'One Patient, One Record' system linking patient information across the health care system. A new single provincial ambulance service will ensure consistent training, response times and care across the province. Work continues on a transformational health plan to be unveiled before the end of the year.
"Promoting healthy lifestyles is a cause close to my heart. We've partnered with The Canadian Diabetes Association to provide pedometers in schools. We're working with the NB Trails Council to encourage New Brunswickers to use our trail system. Also, with our partners at Canadian Tire JumpStart and Sport New Brunswick KidSport we're providing more opportunities for children with financial need to know the joy of sport.
"The provincial government has made great strides, but we won't transform this province alone. We know the value of strong partnerships.
"An historic bilateral agreement between the Province and our Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities has introduced a new era of cooperation between our government and our First Nations people.
"The Community Non-Profit Task Force is continuing its work. I am eager to receive their report in early fall so we can build a new relationship with this important sector.
"Our government's diplomatic approach with the federal government is yielding results as evidenced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent visit. I am optimistic that our federal counterparts are eager to share in the journey to self-sufficiency.
"At the outset of this session we promised to be a government of action, of change, of hope. We made those promises and we have delivered. The session has ended but the work has not.
"In May, we received the report of the Task Force on Self-Sufficiency. We have taken significant steps in addressing this report and I look forward to moving forward on this road map for transformational change.
"From Aug. 8 - 10, New Brunswick will host the 2007 annual summer meeting of the Council of the Federation at which time I will assume the chair of the Council. We will use this opportunity to promote our province and take a leadership role working with our provincial and territorial colleagues to strengthen our great country.
"Everywhere I travel in the province, I feel the energy and the optimism of New Brunswickers. During this past legislative session we took our first steps toward transformational change in New Brunswick. I look forward to joining with all New Brunswickers as we continue this journey to self-sufficiency.
MEDIA CONTACT: Communications, Office of the Premier, 506-453-2144.