Education and literacy the topic of day 15 on the New Brunswick campaign trail

New Brunswick literacy rate highlighted on the campaign trail
WATCH: New Brunswick's Conservative leader says if his party is elected, it will work to correct what he terms an “embarrassing” literacy rate. As Andrew Cromwell reports, one early learning expert says it all comes down to teacher training.

New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs says a Tory government would take steps to address the decades-long trend of low literacy rates in the province.

Campaigning for this month’s provincial election, Higgs says the literacy rate in the province is an embarrassment.

Recent Canada-wide assessments show that, with the exception of Manitoba, New Brunswick Grade 8 students lag behind their Canadian counterparts in reading.

READ MORE: All our New Brunswick election 2018 coverage

Nearly 20 per cent of New Brunswick adults have literacy levels below the national average, and most in that group do not have a high school diploma.

Higgs is pledging to have 85 per cent of students meet or exceed Grade 2 reading standards by 2022, and that the Grade 2 class of 2022 will be top three in Canada in literacy and math.

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The province’s Liberal government has boasted record spending on education, but Higgs says there’s a need to spend wisely and address specific issues.

On Thursday morning Liberal Leader Brian Gallant says a re-elected Liberal government would restore trades to every high school in the province.

Gallant says by giving youth opportunities to learn the important skills in the trades, it will strengthen the workforce.

He says the money to establish modern trades infrastructure in the schools will come through his government’s infrastructure program.

Campaigning in Miramichi, Gallant also said he would take steps to boost enrolment in trades programs by working with the province’s community colleges.

He says by boosting training in the trades, his government is creating more opportunities for youth.

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Homecare and Economic growth plans announced

New Brunswick’s Green party has released a homecare plan that focuses on more individualized care and increased salaries for homecare workers.

Leader David Coon says a one-size-fits-all, profit-driven model leads to lower in-home care standards and unacceptable wages.

He says a flexible system that matches need with care is what’s required.

Coon says if his party forms government, it would increase training requirements for homecare workers, boost salaries to ensure a living wage and improve standards for in-home care.

He says a Green government would partner with non-profit community based nursing homes with the capacity to offer homecare services.

New Brunswick’s NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie has released an innovation and economic growth plan that boosts the minimum wage and creates a so-called public investment bank.

McKenzie says her plan fights social inequalities by introducing a $15 minimum wage so that workers don’t have to take on multiple jobs just to get by.

Campaigning in Saint John, McKenzie said the plan would also create “green collar” jobs by making large public investments in the renewable energy economy and the retrofitting of homes to improve energy efficiency.

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She said an NDP government would also spend on research and development, training and infrastructure to promote growth in high-tech and innovation-based companies.

McKenzie said the program would be funded by eliminating Opportunities NB and existing regional development programs, to the tune of $130 million.

The provincial election is Sept. 24.