MONCTON – An alliance of New Brunswick business organizations has released a set of policies and priorities for political parties to consider ahead of the federal election.
Representatives from six groups were on hand in Dieppe on Tuesday morning to launch the list of policy priorities.
“Whichever party forms government must prioritize policies and investments that enable businesses to access talent and capital they need to recover and grow,” said Alex LeBlanc, CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council.
“Furthermore, federal policies must consider the unique regional realities across the country and in New Brunswick. “
In addition to the business council, members of Le Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater
Moncton, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters we’re in attendance.
The organizations collaboratively developed three priority areas with actions that should be taken.
Recovery and self-sufficiency
The organizations are looking for changes to grow the ageing labour force and entice New Brunswickers to return to the workplace
“The provincial government’s projection suggests that more than 120,000 New Brunswickers will exit the workforce in the coming decade,” says LeBlanc.
The CEO referenced Statistics Canada data that indicates the number of New Brunswickers on EI had nearly doubled in June 2021 when compared to two years prior.
The Alliance of businesses is proposing a multi-pronged approach that includes national childcare and funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
“There’s a growing evidence that providing universal access to quality and affordable childcare is not only good social policy but is also smart economic policy as well,” he said.
Leblanc added that the housing shortage in New Brunswick creates an additional barrier to population growth.
Before the pandemic struck in early 2020, immigration was a driving factor of population growth in New Brunswick.
When the dust settles on the pandemic, businesses are hoping immigration will return to pre-pandemic levels. The New Brunswick business community wants a commitment to ensure there are 10,000 new immigrants in the province by 2024.
Achieving this goal means eliminating the red tape immigrants face and accelerating pathways for international students.
However, challenges existed even before the pandemic and some businesses have stated navigating a language barrier can be challenging.
“So many immigrants come to town not knowing either French or English or maybe one of the two languages. So, is there room for a federal program which will help increase their language capacity, so [immigrants] are more employable?” said John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton
The New Brunswick Business industry hopes candidates will commit to increased investments for newcomer support and retention infrastructure.
Competitiveness and fairness
Business leaders believe addressing issues requires a regional outlook rather than one solution introduced to help all businesses.
“Recovery-focused policy-making has to consider regional realities,” said Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
“A plan that doesn’t account for regional differences also places a further burden on a province like New Brunswick that has a smaller population, that is more rural than most, and with fewer transit options even in our urban areas.”
Ross and the rest of the business community are looking for Atlantic-specific platform commitments.
They are proposing an incentive to aid small and medium-sized enterprises with the costs of decarbonization, and the transition to a green economy.
“We are asking the federal government to support a special Atlantic investment tax credit that encourages interprovincial investments in startups, exporters, and small and medium-sized enterprises headquartered in our region,” she said.
This alliance of New Brunswick business organizations has already begun conversations with local candidates in an effort to see these policies come to fruition.
“We hope all candidates in New Brunswick will become champions for the policies so that our economy and province emerge from the pandemic stronger than we were before,” said Ross.
Robert Lothian, Huddle Today