A look at some of the major issues in New Brunswick’s election campaign, which officially begins on Thursday:
Jobs: The Progressive Conservatives say the Liberals have not done enough to attract new jobs and stem the outflow of young people. The Liberals had promised during the last election to create 10,000 new jobs – later adding the promise was not for net new jobs. While the Liberals say they have created more than 15,000 new jobs, the actual size of the provincial workforce has declined. The cancellation of plans for the Energy East pipeline and the closure of Sears stores and two Sears call centres have seen many of the hoped-for jobs evaporate.
Finances: The Liberals had a timely announcement Tuesday that provincial finances were deficit-free last year for the first time in a decade. But New Brunswick’s net debt is still expected to surpass $14 billion by next spring, and the opposition parties say current spending means an inevitable return to deficit.
Resources: The Liberals have indefinitely extended a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, while Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs has suggested he’d be willing to lift the fracking moratorium in specific areas if there was support. The closure of the large potash mine near Penobsquis dealt an economic blow to the southeast of the province. The Liberals are banking on a proposed tungsten and molybdenum mine at Sisson Brook near Stanley, but environmentalists and some First Nations groups are staunchly opposed. There are also questions about how the province should address the carbon tax.
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Healthcare: The Liberal government privatized the management of extramural nursing and its Tele-Care service by giving the contract to Medavie Incorporated. Some opponents have expressed concerns that profits will be put before patients.
Bilingualism: Language provides perennial controversy in Canada’s only officially bilingual province, and the upstart People’s Alliance party in particular is emphasizing calls for major changes on the file.
Marijuana: The government has made marijuana production one of the pillars of its economic strategy, and established a new Crown corporation to oversee the retail operations for when recreational cannabis is legalized Oct. 17.