FREDERICTON (CNB) – Promoting job creation and economic development, changing the culture of government, addressing the province’s fiscal crisis through responsible management of public finances, engaging New Brunswickers and enhancing education and healthcare are the major themes of the 2010-11 Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne opened the first session of the 57th Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick today.

“Your government has come forward with a comprehensive plan to change the culture of government and to address the challenges facing our province through responsible fiscal management, citizen engagement and focused leadership,” said Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas in delivering the Speech from the Throne. “This plan details the actions that your government will take to put our province back on the road to prosperity while addressing New Brunswickers’ priorities, including jobs, education and healthcare.”

The Speech from the Throne details the actions that the provincial government will take to create jobs; promote economic growth; reduce the deficit; and improve the quality of education and healthcare in New Brunswick.

“Today’s Speech from the Throne sets out a plan of action – actions that will lay the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous New Brunswick,” Premier David Alward said. “These actions will stop and reverse our province’s fiscal decline, and they will improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare and education. And they will be done by a government that is committed to working with the people of this great province.”

Following are the highlights of the Speech from the Throne:

Economic development and jobs

  • A new economic development vehicle called Invest NB will be established.
  • Economic growth will continue to be fostered in northern New Brunswick through partnership with key stakeholders.
  • Two job creation funds will be established:
    • a four-year, $200-million northern New Brunswick job creation fund, which will cover the entire north and include the regions of Restigouche, Chaleur and Grand Falls; and
    • a four-year, $50-million Miramichi regional job creation fund to help this particular region recover from the downturn in the forestry sector.
  • Small businesses will be strengthened through lowering the small business tax rate; access to more tools and programs to ensure greater access to capital; and easing of regulatory and administrative burdens.
  • Support will be provided to the province’s forestry, farming, fishing and aquaculture industries.
  • The provincial government will partner with farmers to develop a cost-of-production index that will be used to assess the impact of government decisions on the sector.
  • Environmentally responsible growth of the mineral and petroleum sectors will be promoted. 
  • A multi-year silviculture plan for both Crown lands and private woodlots will be introduced with the goal of improving forest productivity as well as wages for workers.
  • Changes to federal government research and development programs will be pursued, in partnership with the other provinces, to increase benefits to New Brunswick companies.
  • Fees charged under the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act will be reviewed and measures introduced to remove them.


Education and early childhood

  • The early childhood development sector will work in collaboration with the primary and secondary education system under the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
  • In partnership with families and stakeholders, work will be done:
    • to establish more spaces for toddlers and infants;
    • to create more early childhood training programs;
    • to increase compensation for staff; and
    • to make the system more inclusive in rural and urban areas and for children with disabilities and other special needs.
  • An updated action plan on the implementation of the McKay report to promote greater inclusiveness will be produced.
  • The commitments made in the Gino LeBlanc Commission will be honoured to address the needs of francophone schools.
  • A review of the decision regarding the Early French Second Language entry point will be conducted.
  • The provincial government will address the issue of bullying. It will work with teachers, support staff, parents, districts and students on a multi-phased approach.
  • The challenges posed by aging education infrastructure are being addressed.
  • A new teaching supplies fund will be established. It will provide $250 to each teacher to buy educational items for his or her classrooms each year.
  • A community service requirement for high school students will be introduced.
  • A new action plan to promote adult literacy will be implemented.
  • The New Brunswick Timely Completion Benefit will be enhanced to be more responsive to the needs of university and college students.
  • Predictable sources of multi-year funding will be provided for New Brunswick’s publicly funded post-secondary institutions.
  • Quality apprenticeship programs will be provided through a new governance model.
  • Persons with disabilities will be assisted through a new transition-to-work strategy and through better access to on-the-job employment supports.


Health and wellness

  • The Regional Health Authorities Act will be amended to reinstate elected members to regional health authority boards in time for the 2012 election.
  • Both regional health authorities will be engaged in developing action plans to improve the quality of services and ensure services are provided in both official languages.
  • A mental health action plan will be introduced by the spring of 2011.
  • Investments will be made in wellness initiatives for youth, seniors and communities.
  • Sport and recreation will be promoted to foster New Brunswickers’ wellness.
  • Work will begin this year to revamp the provincial physician recruitment strategy, and recruitment, and retention results will be reported regularly.
  • Work will begin toward creating a $500,000 fund to assist patients seeking treatment for multiple sclerosis.
  • A new, comprehensive diabetes strategy will be launched in 2011 with a focus on detection, prevention and disease management. More resources will be provided to support diabetes education and management at the community level.


Managing responsibly

  • Legislation will be introduced to begin reducing the corporate income tax rate for small business by 50 per cent to an eventual rate of 2.5 per cent from the current five per cent.
  • The scheduled general corporate income tax rate reduction to 10 per cent on July 1, 2011, will proceed, but no further corporate income tax rate reductions will be introduced.
  • Legislation will be introduced to cancel future tax reductions for the highest-income earners in the province.
  • The Assessment Act will be amended to cap growth in property assessments for all homeowners at three per cent for two years. During this time, the provincial government will work with stakeholders to arrive at a fair and effective property tax system for the long term.
  • Property tax relief for homeowners 65 and older will be initiated in 2012.
  • Service delivery will be enhanced by Service New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Internal Services Agency.


Focused leadership

  • NB Power has been directed to establish a mechanism to put in place a three-year freeze of electricity rates for New Brunswick ratepayers.
  • Work by the Energy Commission will continue on the development of a progressive, long-term provincial energy policy.
  • A legislative committee will be established to ensure the refurbishment of Point Lepreau generating station is the Number 1 priority for NB Power and help bring that project to a successful close.
  • Opportunities will be pursued with all regional partners to create economic wealth and a stable energy market in the province.
  • Legislation will be introduced:
    • to allow New Brunswick credit unions to become members of a new body called Atlantic Central;
    • to amend the Pension Benefits Act to enable New Brunswick to become a signatory to the Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authority’s proposed Agreement Respecting Multi-Jurisdictional Pension Plans; and
    • to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to prohibit actions that distract drivers. 
  • Work with stakeholders will be done on a new schedule for the provincial motor vehicle inspection program.
  • Changes made to the graduated drivers’ licence programs in 2009 will be re-examined.
  • A permanent provincial round table on crime and public safety will be created.
  • A renewed, stakeholder-driven recycling plan will be launched.
  • A new, effective, efficient and fair local governance and service delivery system will be forged in full partnership with residents and stakeholders.
  • New municipal funding arrangements will be devised, and shared service delivery will be established.
  • The provincial government will continue to promote an officially bilingual society and to strengthen the culture and traditions of both linguistic communities in New Brunswick.
  • The provincial government will fulfil its commitment to introduce legislation to create a lobbyist registry; to establish a provincial Referendum Act; and to enable more free votes in the legislative assembly.
  • The first provincial cabinet meeting will be held at a First Nation.
  • Jordan’s Principle will be met with a “child-first” response to ensure delays and jurisdictional disputes do not cause disruptions to necessary public services.
  • Stakeholders will consulted on:
    • the modernization of the Children with Special Needs Program;
    • establishing a seniors’ charter of rights; and
    • developing community inclusion networks across the province to implement the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan.
  • Work will be done with the federal government to increase immigration to New Brunswick. 

 The complete text of the Speech from the Throne and highlights are available online.