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2018-10-23 - The Participants are Different, but the problems are the same

The votes have been counted and 49 MLAs have been elected. We may lack some certainty about whatcombination of people and parties will be running the province for the next months and years, but whatremains crystal clear are the challenges and opportunities facing our economy. This will requireleadership and action from our elected officials, but also from the private sector and all citizens.

The business community is feeling some uncertainty like everyone else – we haven’t experienced a minority government in New Brunswick in nearly a century and this will probably take some time to get used to but at the end of the day it doesn’t change anything – the province’s issues still require a functional government acting with urgency. However the politics play out – government must advance important files, render services that New Brunswickers require and make decisions that benefit the province in the short-, medium- and long-term.

We continue to hold out the We Choose Growth platform as a roadmap that any political party can get behind. Our alliance including the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, Le Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick Business Council and the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce (along with over 100 endorsing organizations and individuals) remains united. The most important choice New Brunswickers face is not who to vote for, its whether we choose to manage growth or choose to manage decline. We still Choose Growth.

Released in March, the five pillars of the We Choose Growth platform are:

  1. A private-sector-driven economy
  2. Responsible resource development
  3. Improved export performance
  4. Labour force development
  5. Responsible financial management

Of course, these five pillars can mean different things to different people and/or political parties – and that’s ok. It’s obvious we can’t expect the parties to agree on which natural resources should be developed or in what manner, for example – but the current investment uncertainty regarding the development of any resource should be a cause for concern for all New Brunswickers – threatening the centuries-long core of the provincial economy – particularly for rural areas of the province.

Likewise, developing the labour force has many different forms and government may legitimately put more or less emphasis in certain areas – but there can be no question that an aging and declining workforce along with skills mismatches are limiting business’ ability to thrive and grow – resulting in less government than otherwise would be realized.

Not everyone cares about business issues – that’s understandable – people are concerned about what affects their lives. What everyone should care about though is that economic growth driven by the private sector is what gives all governments the financial resources to provide services like healthcare and education. If any level of government cannot move forward with a focus on growth, then we have a real problem – especially in New Brunswick where the growth is small and the debt is large. So ultimately, business and growth issues are intrinsically linked to social issues.

As I wrote just prior to the provincial election:

“Want to fund healthcare? Grow the economy. Want to give young people a chance to stay in NB? Grow the economy. Want to take care of our seniors? Grow the economy. Want to retain immigrants? Grow the economy. Want to fund the Creative Sector? Grow the economy. Want higher average wages? Grow the economy.”

This is as true today as it was before September 24th. Politics and governance should be mutually exclusive – the politics will play out one way or another, but what really matters is governing on behalf of all New Brunswickers – certainly all 49 MLAs of New Brunswick’s 59th Legislative Assembly can agree on that.

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


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