FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier David Alward's state of the province address sent a strong message to New Brunswick business people and workers about the government's plan to create jobs in the oil and natural gas, forestry, and knowledge sectors.

“It is time to bring our greatest resource, our people, home to work, and we cannot do this without providing opportunities for our local businesses and for our workers,” said Alward. “We have a clear plan to create jobs by growing a domestic oil and natural gas industry in New Brunswick, re-establishing our forestry sector as a leader in North America, and planting the seeds for growth in our knowledge sectors that will drive our economy for generations.”

With a new royalty regime in place and some of the toughest environmental rules and regulations the industry has ever seen, Alward said the time is now to seize the opportunities in shale gas development that have helped to build the strongest economies in North America.

“We know our existing natural gas reserves are currently estimated to be in the range of 80 trillion cubic feet,” said Alward. “We are hopeful that the results of the recent exploration work will add significantly to our reserves, making New Brunswick one of the largest shale gas deposits in North America.”

It is estimated that the shale gas industry could create thousands of jobs in province, which means many New Brunswickers could return home to work instead leaving for opportunities in Western Canada. The development of the industry could also mean $20 billion in investments and royalties for the province.

In addition to creating employment through natural resource development, Alward is encouraging growth in all industries by expanding one of the most successful job creation programs in recent memory – the One Job Pledge.

“This initiative surpassed its initial goal of creating 650 jobs and is nearing the revised target of 850 jobs,” said Alward. “We are now looking to challenge ourselves and each New Brunswick employer by expanding the program's target to 1,000 jobs.”

The program provides a way for recent graduates to begin a meaningful career here at home. In addition to the One Job Pledge, the province has been successful in attracting employment to New Brunswick with 4,354 jobs created in the past three years.

In order to sustain growth and build on this solid foundation, encouraging the next generation and providing them with the skills and opportunities to succeed is key. To help foster this development, the provincial government is launching the Brilliant Labs program.

This initiative will be the umbrella for new investments, both from government and the private-sector. It will award competitive grants to the most passionate and innovative schools, teachers and their students to realize engaging projects that stimulate creativity and grow entrepreneurship through coding, robotics and arts.

“Brilliant Labs will accelerate innovation in our schools by working with and enabling passionate educators to seed a movement to stimulate creativity and grow entrepreneurship,” said Alward. “Successful innovation plans take generational change, but I am confident that we are on the right track for brilliance.”

Brilliant Labs is a continuation of the government's commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship which has seen the creation of the Research and Innovation Council and the largest investment in innovation the province has ever seen with the $80 million Innovation Agenda.

“Our economy is powered by people, whether we are speaking about the knowledge industries or our natural resources,” said Alward. “Together we have built a solid foundation, and it is time to make the decisions that will build a stronger future.”