FREDERICTON (CNB) – The 2011-12 speech from the throne sets out an agenda for the coming year that continues the work being done to change the culture of government.

This agenda includes targeted measures to invest in jobs; support healthy families and an enhanced quality of life; and ensure continuous government renewal.

Delivered by Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas today, the speech opened the second session of the 57th legislature.

“This throne speech marks the beginning of the legislative year and the continuation of your government’s work to support a stronger economy and enhanced quality of life while living within our means,” said Nicholas. “The last few years have seen significant and difficult changes which have impacted the people of New Brunswick. It is no longer business as usual.”

The speech focuses on plans to transform government by building a robust economy; promoting healthy families; reducing poverty and enhancing education; and improving the culture of government to focus on core services, accountability through performance measures and continuous performance improvement.

“Today’s speech from the throne lays out a new foundation for rebuilding our province,” Premier David Alward said. “This foundation will be built on an economic development strategy that will move our workers from ‘hope wanted’ to ‘help wanted,’ with investments in job opportunities. It will be built by supporting families with renewed programs and services to help overcome poverty, increase access to primary health care and provide quality education for our next generation. This foundation will be supported by a government that is innovative, equitable and sustainable.”

Following are highlights of the speech from the throne:

Investing in jobs

  • A working group on innovation, including academic and private-sector leaders, will bring forward recommendations to improve innovation, research and development.
  • A new procurement act will be introduced to enhance competitive opportunities for New Brunswick companies and to ensure maximum value for public funds is realized.
  • An employment action plan for persons with a disability will be developed to increase the number of persons with disabilities in the labour market.
  • The provincial government will proceed with its commitment to ensure predictable, multi-year funding for universities and predictable tuition for students.
  • Planning is underway to introduce an online reservation system for New Brunswick’s provincial parks.
  • Fleet rationalization to provide greater economic sustainability in the fishing industry will continue by finalizing purchase agreements in the ground fish fleet.
  • The provincial government will continue to invest in the development of an integrated pest management framework and research on alternative products to manage and control sea lice.
  • The Growing Forward 2 Multilateral Framework Agreement will be developed to help agriculture meet future challenges and opportunities. The delivery of farm fuel tax exemptions and rebates will be improved.
  • A digital media incentive is being designed to encourage economic growth and job creation in this important sector.
  • The provincial government will bring qualifying large industrial companies’ electricity costs in line with their Canadian competitors through a large industrial renewable energy purchase program.
  • Policies will be developed and implemented to optimize the energy output from wood-based biomass resources.
  • Minimum energy efficiency standards will be required for new building construction by adopting national standards through amendments to the New Brunswick Building Code Act.
  • The provincial government will perform a comprehensive review of the Petroleum Products Pricing Act and regulations to ensure it continues to foster price stability.
  • A full-time public energy advocate will be appointed to replace the ad-hoc appointments of public interveners as part of amendments to the Energy Utilities Board Act.
  • The provincial government will review the natural gas rate structure and distribution network to achieve a more equitable rate structure and work to improve natural gas access throughout New Brunswick to help companies reduce their energy costs.
  • The provincial government is developing a comprehensive action plan to ensure New Brunswick has a strong regulatory regime in place for oil and gas exploration that includes robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
  • An environmental protection plan is being developed by a multi-disciplinary team of experts to protect individuals and their property as well as vital aspects of the environment.
  • The provincial government will announce its 2012 Forest Management Strategy, taking into consideration the recommendations of both the private and Crown land task forces.
  • The provincial government will reaffirm its commitment to the Canadian military and armed forces reservists in New Brunswick by enhancing existing leave for reservists’ rules under the Employment Standards Act.
  • A smart regulation system will be developed to guide development of provincial regulations during the coming months.

 Healthy families and an enhanced quality of life

  • A strategic action plan for primary health care will be developed that will incorporate recommendations to come in 2012 from the Primary Health Care Steering Committee.
  • Consultations will be held with New Brunswickers and stakeholders on the development of the next provincial health plan. The current one expires at the end of 2012.
  • Following extensive consultations, changes to the Early Learning and Child Care Act will further advance New Brunswick as a leader in early childhood development.
  • Following the current consultations on the entry point of early French immersion, the four-member task force on the issue will make recommendations to the provincial government in early 2012.
  • The provincial government will announce a plan to address inclusion in the school system. This plan will help refocus the provincial government’s efforts to ensure a consistent approach in inclusion practices.
  • A second phase of public dialogue sessions on learning will begin in January 2012.
  • A new vision and dental program for children in low-income families will be implemented in the next year. A prescription drug program for non-insured New Brunswickers is being developed.
  • A panel on seniors: living healthy, aging well will be created as a targeted advisory body to the premier and will provide advice on developing a progressive living healthy, aging well blueprint for seniors in New Brunswick.
  • Amendments to the New Brunswick Building Code Act will be introduced to improve accessibility for New Brunswickers with disabilities.
  • The provincial government will support the work of the special committee on the revision of the Official Languages Act to ensure New Brunswickers have the opportunity to offer their views and comments on amendments to the act.
  • A new species at risk act will be introduced that will complement similar federal, provincial and territorial legislation in a national effort to prevent the loss of plants and animals due to human activities.
  • A series of measures will be developed to assess and communicate better the risks of the effects of climate change under a 2012-20 climate action plan, including specific actions to flag flooding and storm surge risks.
  • The provincial government will implement a wetlands management strategy encompassing longer-term actions to safeguard the natural environment in support of sustainable development.

 Government renewal

  • A balanced scorecard initiative is being developed to provide the provincial government with a tool to focus public-sector efforts toward achieving key performance outcomes and provide a clear vision of overall government direction, goals and targets.
  • An improved culture of government will be focused on core services, accountability through performance measures and continuous performance improvement to ensure there is an alignment between affordable quality public services and public expectations.
  • The feasibility of creating a single, independent financial services regulatory agency will be examined to bring consistent application of regulatory authority, reduced duplication and to provide for an independent hearing tribunal.
  • A structural review of legal aid will be undertaken to provide greater efficiency and accessibility and better ensure access to justice for those who can least afford it.
  • NB Liquor will introduce a comprehensive report on its mandate and future. The provincial government will begin implementing approved recommendations in early 2012.
  • The provincial government is committed to completing a renewal of the 2002 Provincial Cultural Policy that will include public and stakeholder consultations.
  • The provincial government will implement Jordan’s Principle on providing public services for Aboriginal children during the session.
  • A healing-to-wellness court pilot project will be located at Elsipogtog First Nation. It will be the first of its kind in New Brunswick and will include First Nations practices and culture.
  • A duty to consult policy will be brought forward to guide departments through the constitutional duty to consult with the province’s First Nation communities.
  • The legislative assembly will consider changes to the Electoral Boundaries and Representation Act to ensure provincial ridings are as representative and equitable as possible for all electors. The number of electoral districts will be reduced as part of these amendments.
  • The provincial government will introduce legislation to enable persons to vote on New Brunswick nominees for the Senate.
  • Recommendations from Bernard Richard’s report on legislative officers will be considered and amendments to relevant legislation and operating procedures will be introduced.
  • The legislative assembly will also review and consider new legislation governing the Office of the Auditor General to render this service more modern and effective.
  • A multi-year capital budget plan will be tabled to reflect the ongoing funding required for projects already underway and the funding necessary to maintain existing infrastructure.
  • Following extensive consultations, the provincial government will bring forward a local governance action plan that will create a new model for community-governed regional service delivery.

“Earlier this year, your government began its first steps towards changing the culture of government,” Nicholas said. “The results of these efforts will include a legislative and budgetary agenda to be considered by this Assembly that will lay a new foundation for rebuilding New Brunswick.”

The complete text of the speech from the throne and highlights are online.