Office of the Premier

Op-ed article / Year in review (07/12/21)

NB 1652

Dec. 21, 2007

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following op-ed article was released today by Premier Shawn Graham.

FREDERICTON (CNB) - As 2007 draws to a close, it's a time to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the 12 months ahead. New Brunswick is better positioned to achieve self-sufficiency than we were a year ago. There have been a number of exciting projects launched, including Potash Corp's $1.7 billion expansion in Sussex that will make New Brunswick the largest potash producer in the world. As well, the diversification of Miramichi's economy is well underway with the establishment of Atcon Group's Centre of Excellence in Steel Fabrication. Our government made prudent choices in order to balance the budget, choices that now allow us to make important investments in 2008.

The coming year will be an important one for our province. It will be the year when we set in motion the transformation of our economy, our workforce, our relationships and our government.

While we face challenges in sectors such as forestry, the outlook is very good for the New Brunswick economy in 2008. The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council predicts New Brunswick will lead the region in economic and employment growth in the coming year. This will build on the strong performance in 2007, which saw the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years and the strongest job growth in the country.

With this positive outlook, the time is right to make important investments in strategic infrastructure. The coming year will see the largest capital budget in New Brunswick history being invested in our roads, schools and hospitals.

Activity in the energy sector has been steadily increasing and this will continue in 2008. We are well on our way to becoming an energy hub for the northeast. In the coming year, we will release the results of the feasibility study on a second nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau, and launch the feasibility study into bringing natural gas to Northern New Brunswick.

Our growing economy will require a transformed workforce, and we are starting with our very youngest New Brunswickers. In 2007, we set out a bold new vision for education, When kids come first. This year, we will build on that plan, with a focus on ensuring New Brunswick kids come to school ready to learn and that they carry that passion for learning throughout their lives.

Early in 2008, we will receive the recommendations of the working group on post-secondary education to ensure we have an integrated post-secondary education system that is first-rate and student-centred. We will also be taking measures to ensure that student debt levels come down.

Early in the New Year, we will be unveiling our Population Growth Strategy that will make New Brunswick the place to be, by attracting at least 5,000 new immigrants per year by the year 2015.

Building a better New Brunswick takes more than government. In 2008, we will strengthen partnerships and relationships with other governments, business and labour organizations, post-secondary institutions, community groups, the non-profit sector and New Brunswickers.

This year, we will be asking New Brunswickers to consider new and better ways of doing things. Government will lead by example as we transform how we deliver services. Our new provincial health plan will be a perfect example of how we can - and must - look to do things differently in order to make them better.

As a government, we must also ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute to and benefit from a better New Brunswick. That's why I am so pleased that we have established the Department of Social Development, which will go beyond providing services to empower and engage our most vulnerable groups.

At the dawn of a New Year, we are standing at the threshold of one of the most transformative periods in our province's history. The journey to self-sufficiency is not only a journey of government or of the business community. It must be a journey taken by all New Brunswickers together. I invite you to join us, to reflect on how you can contribute to building an even better New Brunswick.

At the end of January, I will be delivering my annual State of the Province address which will outline in greater detail where we are heading as a province.

In 20 years, when we are living in a self-sufficient New Brunswick; when our province is the envy of all of Canada, we will look back on 2008 as a year when investments were made, decisions taken and transformations begun that made New Brunswick the place to be.