FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Blaine Higgs delivered his annual state of the province address today, highlighting the province’s growth and continued opportunities in health care, education, energy development, and the economy.

“From the beginning, we promised to do things differently,” said Higgs. “And now we are seeing the outcomes of our actions – positive results that many thought were impossible just a few years ago.”

He said that employment in New Brunswick is rising, as are wages, including the minimum wage. In addition, the population is registering the highest growth since 1867, with Moncton being recognized as the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. Businesses are expanding and attracting strong private investment across the province, while all exports, manufacturing sales and housing sales are climbing, he said.

Higgs said the government remains committed to becoming a leader in energy innovation and development to support growth at home, lead in reducing emissions, and help global allies grapple with an energy crisis.

The government is actively supporting a number of clean energy solutions and transition fuels to support a path to net zero, he said. It has invested in small modular reactor technology, is developing a long-term provincial hydrogen roadmap, and is well positioned to supply Europe with liquified natural gas and would be the first location in Canada to do so.

Higgs also acknowledged some of the challenges the province is facing, in both health care and education.

“We are investing record amounts in health care, but money alone will not solve the issues we are seeing,” he said. “That is why we have been making changes to relieve some of the pressures on the health-care system and allow all of our medical professionals to practice within the full scope of their knowledge.”

Higgs spoke of several changes made to the health-care sector over the past year, including:

  • allowing pharmacists to diagnose and prescribe for more ailments;
  • introducing and expanding the NB Health Link program, which will support those waiting for a family doctor or nurse practitioner;
  • continuing the use of eVisitNB, an online care option;
  • using the MyHealthNB application to provide COVID-19 vaccination status and test results; and
  • launching a pilot project in Bathurst to reduce the wait list for cataract surgery.

“In education, we are facing challenges of a different kind, and I want to thank the minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and his staff who have been travelling the province and consulting with teachers, families and concerned residents on proposed changes to French immersion,” he said. “These consultations are important, and your feedback is not only valued – it will impact policy.”

Higgs said he would like to hear more from the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association.

“The problems you are facing, particularly in English classrooms, must be addressed,” he said. “Our children deserve better, and I look forward to working with you on solutions to ensure these children do not get left behind.”

With national energy policies driving inflation, it is more important than ever to have the province’s finances in order, Higgs said. He also identified steps being taken to improve affordability for New Brunswickers, including:

  • raising the provincial minimum wage;
  • the Emergency Food and Fuel Benefit;
  • removing interest charges from provincial student loans;
  • increasing social assistance rates; and
  • participating in the federal-provincial child-care agreement, which helps families save an average of 50 per cent on care for pre-school-aged children.

“New Brunswickers are our province’s greatest asset,” said Higgs. “That is why our government has taken, and continues to take, steps to ensure that life in our province provides opportunities to grow, prosper and thrive.”