Feb. 26, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following op-ed article was issued today by Premier Shawn Graham:
FREDERICTON (CNB) - There can be little doubt that in 2009 the top issue on the minds of government, business and individuals is the economy.
I have pledged to New Brunswickers that providing strong and determined leadership through this economic storm is, without a doubt, our government's number one priority. I was proud that, in December, New Brunswick was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to present a plan that would address the economic challenges in the short term and also place us in a strong position in the long-term - a plan that positions us to achieve our goal of self-sufficiency by 2026.
Here at home, we are investing in a record $1.2-billion capital budget; helping New Brunswick businesses gain access to capital; and implementing more than $100 million in tax cuts in our upcoming budget.
But as Canada's most export-dependent province, we also recognize that we need to be bold and aggressive not only here at home but beyond our borders. Now is not a time to retreat or put up walls around New Brunswick. Now, more than ever, we must forge ahead on important partnerships that will benefit our province and our country as a whole.
To that end, New Brunswick took an important step forward this week when Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald and I co-signed the Partnership Agreement on Regulation and the Economy (PARE). This ground-breaking agreement will remove regulatory hurdles and cut red tape in our respective provinces so that trade, competitiveness, and workers' availability and mobility will be enhanced.
For example, commercial trucks delivering goods between our two provinces currently have to stop to be weighed at Salisbury and at Amherst, N.S. These stops are within 50 kilometres of each other. PARE will eliminate this duplication, resulting in savings to the trucking companies - savings that will reach businesses and, eventually, the consumer.
Business operators in each province will have an easier time hiring skilled workers from next door. PARE also deals with numerous issues of workforce mobility. There will be an alignment of licence criteria and qualification in the private security industry, for example, as well as the mutual recognition of licensed gas technicians.
There will be potential savings in building planning costs as building codes become more closely aligned. Likewise, there will be efficiencies realized from more consistent technical safety legislation.
PARE offers benefits for the many New Brunswick and Nova Scotia companies that do business in both provinces. This agreement is the latest achievement in our government's ongoing work to form new, co-operative partnerships with other jurisdictions, the federal government and a range of stakeholders.
In August, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and I signed two important trade agreements between our provinces. I am particularly pleased that we signed an agreement aimed at increasing labour mobility. This has been an ongoing issue for several decades, and this new agreement will allow greater movement of workers between our two provinces, particularly in the construction industry.
Along with partnerships with our closest neighbours, we continue to seek out opportunities across the country. Earlier this month, I joined several New Brunswick firms as part of an Atlantic Canadian mission to Alberta. Since 2006, New Brunswick-based firms working with our government have indicated total sales of $100 million per year with Alberta clients. I believe New Brunswick's diverse and experienced business community can help the Alberta companies that face challenges in their supply chains and are looking to streamline their operations.
We're also building partnerships with our neighbours in the United States, particularly in Maine and specifically in terms of the energy sector. Just last week, Gov. John Baldacci and I jointly sent a letter to United States President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to highlight the importance of the northeast energy corridor. The development of this corridor represents a great opportunity for New Brunswick to play a pivotal role in both countries' efforts to address their economic, energy and environmental challenges.
Beyond North America, we're increasingly looking toward China as a key partner for our province. In November, I accompanied more than a dozen New Brunswick companies - along with delegations from Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island - on a trade mission to China, which has been a growing market for New Brunswick goods. In fact, in 2007 alone, more than $48 million in exports were shipped from New Brunswick to China. That's an increase of more than $12 million from 2006, and we believe there is room for much more growth in this trade relationship.
In light of such potentially significant economic benefits, we are committed to building these partnerships and others like them throughout the rest of this mandate and beyond. In the global economy of the 21st century, our province will hit new heights of economic growth by being open to the world - and by joining forces with strong, dynamic partners, we'll ensure that the world will remain open to New Brunswick.