FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Blaine Higgs outlined the progress the provincial government has made over the past year on its roadmap for the future of New Brunswick.

“From the beginning, we were aware of the challenges our province is facing, and we began with setting priorities and taking action to face these challenges head on,” said Higgs. “We continue to work on finding solutions and on doing what is right to deliver real results for New Brunswickers.”

Higgs said the government has made progress in each of its six priority areas.

Affordable and responsive government

In the past year, the government has balanced the budget, paid down on the provincial debt for the first time in more than 13 years, and introduced a new way of reporting financial information that will show actual quarterly financial results and year-end projected results.

The government also released, for the first time, a list of all tax credits, rebates and relief programs provided to individuals, non-profit organizations, institutions, municipalities and businesses.

Dependable public health care

A new ambulance delivery model was introduced to improve response times.

The government also announced the phasing out of the physician billing number system, which will better enable health authorities to establish the number of physicians needed for programs and services.

In addition, the province is moving away from a single integrated Provincial Electronic Medical Record to an open market. This will give more choice to physicians, leading to better management of patient information.

World-class education

This fall, the province introduced proposals for transforming the education system. Succeeding at Home: A green paper on education in New Brunswick is aimed at ensuring every child gets the best possible education.

Following consultation, the minister of Education and Early Childhood Development will introduce the Classroom Freedom Act to give teachers more options and address challenges in classroom composition.

The department has also introduced a red tape challenge to address administrative overload.

Energized private sector

The government launched a pilot program to reduce red tape by providing entrepreneurs with access to one-on-one help in navigating regulatory requirements. A government-wide initiative was also introduced to reduce the regulatory burden on New Brunswick businesses by $14 million by March 2021.

In August, a population growth strategy and action plan was launched under which the province would welcome up to 7,500 newcomers annually by 2024. The strategy’s objectives include attracting a skilled workforce that aligns with labour force needs and recruiting entrepreneurs who will encourage sustainable economic growth.

Vibrant and sustainable communities

In the past year, the government has worked with the City of Saint John to develop a three-part plan to help the city overcome its fiscal challenges and position it for future success. As part of that plan, the government has committed to comprehensive property tax reform in New Brunswick.

The province has also begun consultation to develop an extended producer responsibility program for packaging and printed paper in collaboration with Recycle NB and stakeholders.

The provincial government remains committed to implementing the Climate Change Action Plan. It is on track to lower its emissions by 30 per cent before 2030.

High-performing organization

The government remains committed to ensuring public sector employees have the tools they need to do their jobs, while fostering a work atmosphere that promotes a positive employee experience and increased engagement.

Higgs says that while much progress has been made in these priority areas during the past year there is still work to be done.

“We are seizing the opportunity to create lasting change that will benefit New Brunswickers for generations to come,” said Higgs. “We will continue to make progress on our priorities and we will not shy away from facing the province’s challenges and making difficult decisions to deliver results, because we must.”