The Progressive Conservatives have held a majority in the New Brunswick legislature since winning the 2010 provincial election. Their platform, unveiled on Sept. 5 by party leader David Alward, details a continuation of current policies aiming to bring about economic expansion through the development of the province’s natural resources.
The Progressive Conservative platform revolves around $10-billion of private investment entering the New Brunswick economy, mostly in extractive industries. The biggest contributors are shale gas development at $2.2-billion, a liquefied natural gas export terminal at $3-billion, and the Energy East Pipeline at $2.41-billion.
“I want to be crystal clear that we are supportive of shale gas, and its potential as an industry to help us achieve our goals,” said Alward. “To not take advantage of this opportunity would be one of the most irresponsible things a government could do.”
In hopes of boosting resource development, the platform lays out a long-term investment plan for 50 percent of the royalties generated. The fund would be furnished with legislated investments and withdrawals, aiming to draw long-term public benefit from natural resources.
The remaining 50 percent of royalties would be split into halves: half would lower the province’s debt, and half would lower post-secondary education costs by investing in research, development, and innovation.
Aside from bolstering the public purse, the conservative’s development goals include low and stable energy prices, electrical security and reliability of the electrical system, environmental responsibility, and effective regulation.
The platform looks to pair the investment with policy that tries to help small and medium businesses. An initiative to lower property tax rates in the province by 33 percent over four years is currently in its second year. The platform promises that, at the end of four years, the reduction will translate into $49-million per year of savings for taxpayers and benefit 16,000 small businesses in New Brunswick by lowering the costs of commercial space.
The platform also promises to expand on their One-Job Pledge. The incentive pays an employer 70 percent of the wage up to $10 per hour, for a maximum of 40 hours per week. The subsidy would last one year and aims to keep graduates in the province.
The PCs would increase net government spending by $117 million over the next four years. 50 percent of the money will be going to the second phase of the New Brunswick Drug Plan, which began on May 1, 2014.
The platform concludes by predicting a surplus of $119 million if the measures detailed in the platform were to be carried out.
With candidates in all but two ridings, the Green Party is fielding their largest candidate showing ever. Their platform, released Sept. 3, calls for a move away from resource development, the platform puts a focus on sustainable local development.
The proposed economic changes mainly come through tax reform. Residents with personal income above $150,000 would be subject to a new tax rate of 21 percent while residents with personal income below $20,000 would pay no provincial income tax. The corporate tax would rise as well. The change from 12 to 16 percent would bring it into line with rates in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. A slew of theoretical taxes also target the resource sector and carbon dioxide producers.
The resource industry, in particular, receives a lot of attention throughout the document.
New provincial greenhouse gas reductions targets would be set and adjusted to through the restriction of development. A ban on shale gas development and cancel existing related licenses and leases would end fracking in New Brunswick. Fossil fuel infrastructure, such as the Energy East pipeline, would be denied permits, discouraging increases in the production.
The Greens would also back out of the controversial forestry agreements that have been made by the Alward government with the private sector.
The move away from the resource sector comes with a move to support economies on the local level. A New Brunswick first food purchasing policy for provincial institutions, Crown agencies, and departments would try to strengthen local food economies. A move to replace non-renewable energy sources along with a retrofit to reduce demand would seek to generate jobs in engineering, trades, and manufacturing.
To combat poverty in the province, the Green Party looks to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, raise social assistance rates, and eliminate barriers to the workforce.
The platform outlines a strategy around post-secondary education that takes a debt-first approach. It promises to make all provincial loans interest free, cap the student debt of New Brunswick residents at $20,000, and extend the repayment grace period on the debt from six months to one year.
“It’s unacceptable that we are charging students when businesses get interest free loans; householders can get interest free loans to insulate their attic,” said Green Party leader David Coon at a Sept. 5 campaign stop. “We are making money off students and that doesn’t make sense to me. It’s unethical.”
The Greens also propose democratic reform in the province. The key component of this proposal is a shift to proportional representation. Policies would transfer power away from the Premier’s office to the legislature while as well, limiting the ability of Members of the Legislative Assembly to transition into cooperate lobbying after their political career.
The release of the Liberal platform came alongside a promise by party leader Brian Gallant to create over 10,000 new jobs in the province by 2018. Released in Moncton on Monday, the Liberal platform was the last to come out during this election. The Liberal Party would go about fulfilling Gallant’s promise through a combination of tax reform, resource development and new infrastructure projects.
The main source of the new jobs would be a $900-million infrastructure investment fund, aiming for short-term job creation and economic stimulus over the course of six years. The fund would be directed to projects that would eventually translate into long-term growth.
Tax reform would pay for part of the expenditure. The platform proposes an increase in personal income tax for the richest one percent of residents and to cancel the property tax break for businesses brought in by the last government.
The Liberals also intend to reform small business taxes. Their platform includes plans to lower the small corporate income tax to 2.5 percent and to increase a tax credit for investors in small businesses. Additional support for small businesses will come from a four-year freeze on the fees small businesses must pay.
The changes to the handling of small business are a major part of the party’s long-term strategy for job creation and economic growth. Other elements of the strategy consist of investments in literacy, workforce skills and a fund to give unemployed 18-to29-year-olds training and work experience in New Brunswick.
The Liberal platform includes prescriptions for resource development in the province. The Liberals support the prospective Energy East pipeline, but will subject it to a thorough examination of its environmental impacts. The platform says the pipeline is a possible way to gain investment from Alberta-based companies. Other projects that would be supported include the construction of the proposed Saint John-based natural gas export terminal and mining development.
Instead of pursuing shale gas development immediately, the platform promises that the Liberals will instead impose a moratorium on fracking. The moratorium would remain in force until shale gas extraction can be carefully considered from scientific, economic, regulatory and public standpoints.
The party would hike the minimum wage, from $10.45 to $11 per hour.
The Liberal’s approach to post-secondary education attempts to bridge the gaps between high school, university and the workforce. They plan to develop a 10-year plan for all stages of education, which would ensure an easy transition from high school to university or college. It also hopes to align post-secondary training with skill sets desired by the private sector. This allows for students in targeted programs to be matched with careers in their prospective field.
The Liberals propose to eliminate consideration of the parental and spousal contributions to student loans, and provide student loan relief to new parents.
Released on Sept. 4, the platform for the New Brunswick NDP outlines, among other things, their plan to tackle the province’s fiscal debt. There are two key components to this plan: The first is to end corporate bailouts.
“We will end the over $150-million we spend annually on corporate bailouts in the form of grants and non-repayable loans,” states the NDP’s platform.
The second component is the introduction of the New Jobs Tax Credit. The credit would reward companies that create new jobs.
“New Brunswick economists predict that the NDP New Jobs Tax Credit will create between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs within four years,” says the platform.
The New Jobs Tax Credit is part of a series of tax credits that will try to strengthen different areas of the economy with tax incentives. Others include the Research and Development Tax Credit to promote business growth in the province and a tax credit for artists and patrons of artists.
Slashing cabinet positions is also part of the platform. It promises to reduce the size of the cabinet from 17 ministers to 10 while also cutting their expenses and promising no loss of work for lower-level employees.
The document claims the restructuring will save New Brunswick $25-million per year.
This restructure also includes democratic reform. An independent commission would be formed to develop a model of proportional representation. All government spending reports would be published online, and the voting age would be lowered to 16 for provincial and municipal elections.
The end goal is a debt-free New Brunswick, which the platform asserts is attainable by 2018. The platform states that $1.1 billion of the $12 billion debt would be paid off within the first year in office.
For post-secondary education, the party has promised a program to ensure graduates can pay off student loan debt in eight years, and has plans for a Student Protection Act. The act would ensure students’ academic and financial protection in the event of labour disruption at a university or community college.
The platform addresses potential environmental issues in a three-step process. If elected, the NDP would have the independent agency evaluate the potential issue for safety with regards to both human health and the environment. The potential issue is then subjected to a royalty and is assessed for financial viability. If both evaluations are passed, proceeding in the potential issue is voted on in legislature.
Potential issues that will be evaluated this way include shale gas development and the Energy East pipeline. During the process, the legality of the extractions will be assessed so as not to violate Aboriginal and treaty rights.
Can you Vote?
To qualify to vote in the coming provincial election you must:
1. be a Canadian citizen
2. be at least 18 years of age
3. have been a resident of the province for a period of 40 days prior to the election
4. live in the electoral district on election day.
What will you need to vote?
If your name is already on the List of Electors, you are not required to show identification when voting. You will only need to state your name and address to a poll worker.
If your name is not on the List of Electors, you can add your name by providing one or more pieces of identification.
If your name is not on the List of Electors, you can add your name by providing one or more pieces of identification or documentation that collectively show your name, current address, and signature. Driver’s licences, lease agreements, utility bills, student IDs, and other documentation will work for this purpose. You may also have somebody already on the List of Electors to vouch for you.
You can be added to the List of Electors at any advance polling station, ordinary polling station or any returning office in the province. The local returning office is located at 53E Main St. in Sackville.
When and where do you vote?
Advance polling stations open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13 and Monday, Sept. 14. They are located at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre at 182 Main St. Sackville, N.B.
Advance polling stations also open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Tuesday, Sept. 15 to Thursday, Sept. 17. They are located inside Tweedie Hall at the Wallace McCain Student Centre at 62 York St. Sackville, N.B.
The ordinary polling station opens from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, Sept.22. It is located at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre at 182 Main St. Sackville, N.B.
You may also apply to vote by special ballot at the returning office.
Anyone eligible to vote in the election may vote at any of the polling stations.
How to fill out a ballot?
Mark the ballot with an “X” or fill in the oval next to your preferred candidate with the special marker provided at the poll.
The ballot will be rejected if it is:
2. marked for more than one candidate
3. marked in a way that could identify the voter.
Who can you vote for?
The candidates for Memramcook-Tantramar are Helene Boudreau for the NDP, Bernard LeBlanc for the Liberal Party, Megan Mitton for the Green Party, and Mike Olscamp for the Progressive Conservative Party.
The Memramcook-Tantramar riding is newly formed. It is made up of parts of former ridings Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe and Tantramar. There are two incumbents running in the riding; Bernard Leblanc is the incumbent of Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe and Mike Olscamp is the incumbent of Tantramar.
Students have been provided with the option to vote in their home riding if they so choose without any change to the registration process. To do this, students only need to tell the polling officer at any polling station that they would like to vote in their home riding, and they will receive a special ballot.
How to stay informed?
A debate is being held on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Brunton Auditorium. All candidates running in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding will be in attendance. The moderator will be Dr. Mario Levesque of Mount Allison’s Department of International Relations and Political Science.
The debate will have a setion on education and social policy, a section on the environment, and a section on the economy. Each section has the same format, combining moderator and audience questions, and open dialogue between candidates. Questions can be submitted in advance through the MASU website, or during the debate using Twitter.