Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Speech from the Throne
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Speech from the Throne, 2000

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of the Legislative Assembly, invited guests, and all New Brunswickers.

Welcome to the opening of the Third Session of the 54th Legislative Assembly.

Last month, New Brunswickers welcomed with great warmth and affection, Canada's Governor-General, Her Excellency, Adrienne Clarkson, and His Excellency John Ralston Saul on their first official visit to our province.

On behalf of all New Brunswickers, I want to express appreciation to former Premier Louis Robichaud upon his retirement from the Senate. His legacy to our province is an enduring one.

On behalf of all MLAs, I want to express gratitude to Edmond Blanchard and Bernard Thériault, who have retired from this legislature after many years of service to New Brunswick.

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Like Canadians everywhere, we remember with respect the life of former prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A book of condolences, signed by many New Brunswickers in the foyer of this building, has been forwarded to Mr. Trudeau's family.

As with last year's Speech from the Throne, we recognize the achievements of several individual New Brunswickers, some of whom are with us today.

Dave Durepos of New Maryland was the captain of Canada's gold medal basketball team at the Sydney Paralympic Games. Our team's gold medal win is the first ever in an Olympic or Paralympic summer games brought back to New Brunswick.

Ed Winchester of Rothesay won a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships this August in Zagreb.

David Adams Richards, renowned author and native of the City of Miramichi, was awarded the Giller Prize for his fictional novel Mercy Among the Children.

Five New Brunswickers recently received Order of Canada honours: the Honourable Gérard La Forest for law; John Hooper of Hampton, for visual arts; Elphège Chiasson of Lamèque for industry/commerce/business; Don Gardiner of Fredericton for volunteerism; and Sister Mona Kelly of Saint John for social service.

This year's winner of the New Brunswick Human Rights Award for 2000 is Hampton Elementary School for its production of "Peace Cranes 2000", which honours John Peters Humphrey, drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Honouring New Brunswickers

Recognizing the achievements and accomplishments of individual New Brunswickers who have contributed to building our province should have pride of place in our life. New Brunswick is one of only two provinces that does not do so in a formal way.

Your government will therefore introduce legislation to create a new Provincial Honour called the Order of New Brunswick. It will recognize distinguished New Brunswickers each year who have made a significant contribution through their leadership and personal activity to the economic, social, and cultural development and well-being of our Province. A special medal, pin, and ribbon incorporating traditional New Brunswick designs and colours will be created to commemorate this unique and worthy honour and be presented at an annual investiture ceremony.

Keeping the Vision

This year's Speech from the Throne marks the third legislative session of your government's New Vision-New Brunswick plan. A plan that focuses on the most important priorities of New Brunswickers: to change the way government works, renew health care, build new job opportunities, manage smarter and lower taxes, and invest in education.

Your government believes in keeping its word; in doing what it said it would do. It continues to meet its commitment to more open, accountable government and will be releasing a comprehensive accomplishments report entitled A Progress Report to New Brunswickers.

Your government will further enhance its public accountability to citizens and taxpayers by the release of a government-wide goals and outcomes paper, which will outline for the first time strategic goals and desired outcomes of government policies, programs, and activities.

This session's priorities continue to fulfill the New Vision-New Brunswick plan in five specific ways: empowering people and communities; creating jobs and wealth; sustaining our health care system; managing smarter; and fighting for New Brunswick's interests in Canada.

Today's Speech from the Throne sets out more than 30 specific initiatives and commitments as part of your government's plan to create a more competitive and compassionate New Brunswick.

Empowering People and Communities

Your government believes in empowering people and communities. Strong, vibrant communities are at the heart of New Brunswick's way of life.

Your government will continue to usher in a new era of cooperative, community involvement in New Brunswick in three vital areas: education, health care, and economic development.

Legislation will be introduced this fall to create new District Education Councils and move education decision-making closer to communities, parents, and students. These councils will have clear authority and responsibilities helping to ensure greater accountability to the people they serve.

Later this session, legislation will be introduced to create new Regional Health Authorities to ensure stronger local and regional input into creating a more patient-focused, community-based health care system. This will lead to more integrated and effective delivery of health care services to people and communities.

Community economic development is central to your government's vision for 'made-in-New Brunswick' job solutions. New community economic development agencies will be created next year to ensure the economic development strategies of government reflect local and community strengths and opportunities, while bringing a more focused approach to business development in communities around the province.

Your government also believes that individual New Brunswickers should have a more direct say in specific decisions of the government that affect them. The future of video lottery gambling is one such decision. A VLT referendum Bill will be introduced this fall to allow a one-time referendum on the specific issue of VLTs to be held in May, 2001, at the time of the next municipal elections.

Empowering people is more than new government structures and processes. It is also about listening to people. Your government will therefore introduce legislation to grant a special one-time payment to surviving spouses of workers whose workers' compensation survivors benefits were discontinued upon remarriage.

Your government will introduce new legislation creating a tort of invasion of privacy to provide greater protection for individual New Brunswickers on this issue.

To allow for more public input and greater openness in the way judges' salaries and benefits are determined, your government will introduce amendments to the Provincial Court Act respecting the Judicial Remuneration Commission.

Your government will introduce amendments to the Employment Standards Act that will improve minimum employment standards for New Brunswick workers.

Creating Jobs and Wealth

Your government believes New Brunswick is strong when every region of New Brunswick is strong. That's why creating new jobs and wealth for New Brunswickers throughout our province is always a top priority.

Steps have already been taken and progress has been made.

Personal income taxes have been lowered by 5 per cent resulting in $54 million more per year staying in the pockets of New Brunswick taxpayers to invest in our economy and our communities. Our small business corporate income tax rate is now the lowest in Canada, recognizing the job-creating engine this sector represents.

New investments by your government since it took office, in textiles, customer contact and call centres, and value-added natural resources will directly lead to the creation of more than 3,000 jobs.

As a result of these job creation efforts and other initiatives, a record high number of New Brunswickers are working today.

Your government will take further steps to help create even more jobs for New Brunswickers. Taxes will be lowered once more in the forthcoming budget as part of a phased approach to reducing personal income taxes for New Brunswickers and meeting the goal of having the lowest personal income tax burden in Atlantic Canada.

More than ever, government must coordinate all of its resources to compete in today's competitive world and create an environment for jobs and prosperity. Your government took the first step to sharpen our economic focus by restructuring government and creating the new departments of Investment and Exports and Business New Brunswick.

Your government will carry out the next step by releasing a comprehensive economic growth agenda that charts a clear course for prosperity and competitive advantage in the 21st century. It will demonstrate our province's determination to embrace the new knowledge-based economy while building on traditional New Brunswick strengths.

A key focus of this agenda is "electronic New Brunswick" or "eNB", your government's targeted approach to the e-economy, covering e-business, e-learning, and e-government. To facilitate e-commerce transactions, a new Electronic Transactions Act will be introduced that will enhance the use of electronic transactions and documents.

To ensure New Brunswick is at the forefront of the new e-economy, a Premier's Roundtable on eNB and Innovation will be formed. It will bring together in one forum, people and ideas from business, academia, and government. A key element in our province's economic development is a competitive energy sector. Your government will release a comprehensive, sustainable energy policy to meet our future economic and social needs.

Trade and exports are critical to our province's competitive success. The new Department of Investment and Exports will reinvigorate New Brunswick's trade activities through stronger participation in trade missions and a clearer focus on strategic markets in Europe, Asia, New England, and the southern United States. Your government will encourage greater involvement of New Brunswick companies participating in Team Canada, Team Atlantic Canada, and Team New Brunswick trade missions next year to these target markets.

Sustaining Our Health Care System

Sustaining our health care system so it is there for all New Brunswickers when they need it is a high priority for your government. That's why it has already invested record levels of funding for health care services to meet growing health care needs, and to compensate for dramatic federal cutbacks to health in the past.

Additional federal funding announced at September's First Ministers Meeting will help, but will by no means meet all of our increasing health care needs. Nevertheless, your government will continue its commitment to the health of New Brunswickers and invest even more in health care services in its forthcoming budget.

A number of steps to renew and sustain our health care system are under way. The Select Committee on Health Care is holding hearings on the views of New Brunswickers on developing a wellness strategy for our province. Greater accountability measures for hospital corporations brought in earlier this year are being implemented. Health human resource issues are being addressed through discussions with physicians, nurses, and other health professionals. The physician recruitment and retention plan announced last year is under way and working, and a full-time physician recruiter is in place.

These specific actions are having a positive effect on renewing health care services for people. They form part of your government's clear vision for a patient-focused, community-based health care system.

A significant new step in achieving this vision will take place through the creation of new Regional Health Authorities. This key recommendation of the former Health Services Review report will not just enhance local input into health care decision-making, but allow for more effective and efficient delivery of health services. By integrating services at the regional level, care will follow the patient and not the other way around. Better planning of health care services will occur, based on real population needs and the health status of those living in the health region.

This year's Speech from the Throne repeats a key sentence in last year's 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 in this way can our health care system be made truly sustainable for us all - patients, families, providers, and taxpayers.

Through the Premier's Health Quality Council, your government has been developing a longer-term blueprint for health care renewal that will help sustain our health care system into the future. The first phase of this blueprint, to be released early next year, will form the basis of a renewal plan to bring stability, security, and sustainability to our health care system. It is a plan that will set out a clear direction for renewal to improve accessibility to needed health services, while delivering those services in a more effective and efficient way. It is a plan that will be discussed and implemented with health care providers and New Brunswickers, so we can together ensure our health care system is there for us all in the future.

Sustaining our health care system is a challenge all governments across Canada face, not just here in New Brunswick. It is not one that government can solve on its own. It will take time and commitment by all involved - government, health care providers, and individual New Brunswickers; but together your health care system can be renewed and sustained for us all. A healthy environment is critical to good health. As stated in last year's Speech from the Throne, your government will continue to make clean and safe water a top environmental priority. It will do so through the application of new regulations to protect municipal groundwater supplies and regional watersheds. The recent Canada/ New Brunswick Infrastructure Agreement provides $163 million for improving municipal water and sewerage systems and other infrastructure projects. Your government will ensure that at least 70 per cent of this amount is dedicated to 'green' infrastructure. The best health diagnosis is the earliest. That is particularly true with children and families. A New Brunswick Early Childhood Development agenda will be tabled indicating your government's strong commitment to invest more in prenatal care; child care; and supports for families and communities.

Impaired driving is a crime that hurts more than the individual responsible. Its tragic consequences can afflict families forever. Changing societal attitudes have had a positive impact in reducing over time the number of people charged with impaired driving both here in New Brunswick and across Canada. Nevertheless, a continued strong message is required. Your government will therefore introduce amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act that will toughen licence suspension periods for those convicted of impaired driving.

Managing Smarter

Your government believes managing smarter is about focusing on key public priorities. Managing smarter respects taxpayers. It makes government more accountable to citizens.

By managing smarter, savings can be reinvested in lower taxes and improved services to people like health care and education.

Your government will table a budget in the spring that will keep its commitment once more to New Brunswickers to invest more in health care and education and to continue to lower taxes. In doing so, your government will continue its strong financial management on behalf of all taxpayers by ensuring a balanced budget with balanced results. A separate capital budget will be tabled this fall, setting out capital investment commitments in highways, schools, community colleges, health care, and other infrastructure priorities.

To improve our overall competitiveness as a province and to ensure financial flexibility rests with New Brunswickers, your government announced its intentions to implement a tax on taxable income taxation system. A new Income Tax Act will be introduced this fall to bring this new system into effect and allow your government to continue to lower taxes for New Brunswick families and workers.

As part of managing smarter and reducing barriers to job creation, your government will act upon even more of the specific red tape reduction measures set out in the report of the Premier's Red Tape Reduction Committee.

Your government believes that a more comprehensive consultative approach to provincial/municipal relations, leading to new governance and related fiscal arrangements, is required. These new arrangements must be characterized by a clearer relationship between the provision of services and funding sources, greater tax equity between municipalities and local service districts, and greater accountability to residents and taxpayers. Discussions with representatives from municipalities and local service districts, leading to the announcement of an agreed consultative process, are under way.

Your government will introduce amendments to the All-Terrain Vehicle Act to establish a mandatory trail permit system for snowmobiles which, combined with effective enforcement efforts, will offer access to a safer groomed trail system. A special All-Terrain Vehicle Task Force will bring together stakeholders to ensure that the growing use of ATVs can be accommodated in greater safety and at less risk to our natural environment.

Your government will continue to modernize New Brunswick's legislative framework by removing unnecessary and unproclaimed legislation from the statute books as well as updating, revising, and consolidating certain Acts to reflect more contemporary needs and realities in New Brunswick.

As part of managing smarter, a report on the ABC review of agencies, boards, and commissions will be tabled.

Fighting for New Brunswick's Interests

Your government will always fight for New Brunswick's interests in Canada. It did so on health care, supported by a unanimous motion of this Legislative Assembly, calling for full restoration of federal cuts to the Canada Health and Social Transfer. This helped lead to the recent First Ministers health agreement.

It did so on a national early childhood development agreement and a Canada/New Brunswick municipal infrastructure program. It fought to ensure that all New Brunswickers benefit from the new National Research Centre's e-Commerce Institute rather than simply one location. And your government continues to fight for New Brunswick's interests on key issues ranging from twinning the Trans-Canada highway, regional economic development, training, shipbuilding, environmental issues, post-secondary education, social housing, and many others.

The most important federal-provincial issue facing this country is the growing fiscal imbalance between provinces and the federal government, and between regions and provinces of Canada. The federal government runs bigger and bigger surpluses, while each year New Brunswickers must make difficult choices to balance our books. Provincial social programs, like health, education, and social assistance, are subject to greater and greater financial demands while federal transfer funding for these programs has not kept pace.

Nowhere is this most acute than in Atlantic Canada, and nowhere is the Equalization program of such significance. Equalization is meant to ensure that Canadians, regardless of where they live, are able to receive reasonably comparable levels of service at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

As a result of leadership from New Brunswick and its Atlantic neighbours, First Ministers recently agreed to review the Equalization program.

In recognition of the importance of this issue to New Brunswick, your government will issue a public discussion paper on Canada's fiscal imbalance and the future of the Equalization program for all New Brunswickers to read and comment upon. The Legislative Assembly will be asked to unanimously approve a motion of support for a strengthened Equalization program as a clear statement of purpose by all New Brunswickers on this fundamental constitutional requirement.

Your government has breathed new life into regional cooperation here in Atlantic Canada and with New England. The inaugural meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers was held in Moncton in May. The Council organized a positive shipbuilding and marine industries forum last month to chart a course for a national shipbuilding policy. A successful Team Atlantic Canada trade mission to New England took place last spring with strong participation by New Brunswick companies.

Your government will pursue even greater regional economic cooperation by working with the private sector to reduce business barriers to growth in Atlantic Canada. Your government will host an Innovators Forum next year with knowledge-based industry leaders from Eastern Canada and New England to enhance cooperation and collaboration in this dynamic sector.

The Year Ahead

As the session progresses, Ministers will provide more details on policy and program initiatives in their departments. During this session Members of the Legislative Assembly will be asked to review and approve a budget presented by the Minister of Finance and a Statement of Estimated Revenues and Expenses, as well as Capital Account appropriations for the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

This year's Speech from the Throne sets out a strong, focused and action-oriented agenda for New Brunswick based on the clear public priorities of New Brunswickers.

This is a 21st century agenda to create a more competitive and compassionate New Brunswick. A better place to live, work, and raise a family.

May divine providence guide you in your deliberations.

Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
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