September 7, 2017 11:38 am

N.B. minister of newly-created Labour portfolio ready to focus on future

WATCH ABOVE: The new Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister says building on the province's core principles will lead to New Brunswick prosperity. Jeremy Keefe has more.


New Brunswick’s minister responsible for the newly created Labour, Employment and Population Growth file says he is ready to get to work and has big plans for the portfolio.

The ministerial position was created as part of Premier Brian Gallant’s cabinet shuffle earlier this week.

READ MORE: N.B. shuffle focuses on elusive population growth: ‘We just can’t find people’

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“I see three venues: we’re looking at immigration, we’re looking at recuperating our people that left the province and we’re also looking at our youth in the school system,” said Gilles LePage, MLA for the riding of Restigouche West and now Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister-designate.

“That’s where we need to work with the education system to make sure we have the skilled labourers, not for today, but also for tomorrow.”

LePage points to increased enrolment in rural schools as a positive step amidst the challenges that come with an ageing population.

“At least we’re seeing something positive with the youth,” LePage said. “We’re also looking at active seniors in our communities. We’re looking at houses being built, businesses expanding,” he said.

“We’re seeing positive signs.”

LePage believes his party has started the new portfolio in the right direction by prioritizing education and the economy.

“People have been asking for skilled labourers, labourers have been asking for great education,” he explained. “And honestly if you have been listening for the past three years that has been our mandate and our focus.”

WATCH: Census 2016: New Brunswick 1st province since 2006 to see population decline

“It’s welcome news,” said New Brunswick Federation of Labour President Patrick Colford. “It’s nice to see the government has seen the importance of having a minister that’s devoted to labour and employment.”

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour says they were disappointed when labour was eliminated as a cabinet portfolio under a previous government and think the difficulties that come with a shrinking workforce make it long overdue for this level of governmental attention.

“It’s a big file on its own and when it’s put in with these other files it can get washed away so it’s nice to see that there’s a commitment to work closer with labour,” Colford said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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