2018-03-23 - We Choose Growth

As more candidates put their names forward to seek riding nominations and ultimately run in the 2018As more candidates put their names forward to seek riding nominations and ultimately run in the 2018provincial election, the business community looks forward to engaging with all of the candidates, partyleaders and other stakeholders. To this end, an alliance of business groups has come together inadvance of the election to put forward five key priorities that will allow the next government to create aclimate that attracts new business investment to the province while allowing existing businesses to growand thrive. Along with the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, the initiative is being led by Le Conseiléconomique du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, the Saint JohnRegion Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick Business Council and the Atlantic Chamber ofCommerce. Our organizations agree: New Brunswickers have tough choices to make in the coming yearsand ultimately we can choose to manage growth or manage decline. We choose growth.

A private-sector driven economy means that the next government must commit to making NewBrunswick the best place to establish and grow a business through competitive tax and regulatory policy,supporting access to new and existing markets and reducing cost of doing business. The governmentcan’t create jobs but it can create conditions that allow businesses to do so. In turn, economic growthallows the government to provide public services to New Brunswickers. It’s one of the reasons theFredericton chamber’s vision s Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity.

Responsible resource development has been the backbone of New Brunswick’s economy for centuries.The idea that we cannot have regulations and processes that are both business-friendly andenvironmentally sound is false. In order to attract major private sector project investment NewBrunswick needs a review process that has clear timelines and parameters for approvals that do notshift mid-process. Nothing scares large investments away faster than uncertainty.

The provincial government can have an active role in their efforts to help New Brunswick companiesbecome more export ready and to increase our global profile for trade. Every $1 million in exportscreates approximately six jobs in the province – including services. Our group would like to see exportsdouble by 2030, which will take a concerted effort by both the public and private sector. We are alsohopeful that the province’s exports can diversify over that time with 90% of our exports heading to theUnited States and a large piece of that is energy-related exports.

Key to attracting new investments in the province is expanding and diversifying our labour force byKey to attracting new investments in the province is expanding and diversifying our labour force bydeveloping strategies to retain our youth, create opportunities for ex-patriot New Brunswickers toreturn home, attract and retain immigrants, and create the conditions to convince internationalstudents to stay after their period of study is finished. Somewhat paradoxically, the most importantfactor to growing our labour force is the availability of jobs – which shows that each of these fivepriorities are intrinsically linked – the government must embrace all of them.

The province’s debt load, which has been accumulated over many years and several changes ingovernment is a drag on any growth progress made. Whichever party forms the next government inNew Brunswick must prioritize responsible financial management, including a commitment to reducingNew Brunswick’s net debt. In part, this means restraining spending to true, economically justifiableinvestments with a measurable ROI. We cannot deal with the debt by continuing to ask businesses andindividuals in the province to pay more – New Brunswick has hit the limit in its ability to supportspending via tax increases.

New Brunswick can be the best place in the world to live and work, but not if we don’t get this right. Thisstarts with a commitment to balancing the budget in the next fiscal and a comprehensive taxationreview to better reflect modern realities, best practices, fairness, and viewed through an economicdevelopment lens. The tax system and economic growth are intertwined and much like the federalsystem, tinkering with New Brunswick’s tax code over the decades has lead to a misalignment betweenthe two. A full review of our tax code is needed in light of the modern global economy and NewBrunswick’s current fiscal state. Let us step back and examine what makes the most sense in 2018.

The fact of the matter is, all of our collective efforts to stimulate growth won’t matter if we keepdownloading our spending to future generations. We are already spending $700 million a year to servicedebt that paid for past services. We are borrowing to pay for current services. We have no answer forfuture services. A solution to that problem is the minimum fiscal requirement for New Brunswick’s nextgovernment. We recognize what we are asking isn’t easy – it will take sustained action and political will.If it was easy, it would already be done – but it is worth it. If you agree, please take the time to getinvolved in the 2018 election – let every candidate know what is important to you and all of NewBrunswick.

Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization withKrista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization withnearly 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development andadvocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment.The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity".