Reply to the Budget – February 10, 2017

David Coon, Leader of the Green Party, MLA Fredericton-South

Economic Transition

This government’s strategy, New Brunswick’s transition to a low-carbon economy, largely reflects what New Brunswickers recommended to the Select Committee on Climate Change during the public hearings it held around the province last summer. Yet this budget does little to say where we are headed with respect to the 118 commitments made in the transition strategy. The opportunity should be seized to make deliberate spending decisions to take positive action that will protect us from the destructive weather that global warming is bringing us and to help us make the transition to a low carbon economy that will shrink our energy costs.

Les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick en sont venus à trop bien connaître les longues pannes de courant, les routes et les ponts endommagés, les maisons et les entreprises inondées et l’érosion côtière causée par les tempêtes et les inondations liées au réchauffement planétaire. Le renforcement, la relocalisation et la restructuration de nos infrastructures pour qu’elles soient solides et viables fourniront en outre de nouvelles possibilités économiques pour les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick.

Private Management of Public Services

Mr. Speaker, budgets describe how a government intends to protect and empower its citizens. When it comes to jobs, this budget includes the privatization of management services for cleaning, food and orderly services in our hospitals. We are told this means 280 jobs will be lost, patient safety could be at risk, and hospitals become exempted from the local food strategy. This neither protects, nor empowers these New Brunswickers.

Le budget alimente l’angoisse que tant de personnes éprouvent relativement à l’éventuelle décision de privatiser la gestion de notre programme extramural. Le discours du budget indique que le gouvernement a l’intention de former d’autres partenariats public-privé afin d’accroître le nombre de lits dans les foyers de soins, même si la vérificatrice générale a constaté que les partenariats du genre dans le secteur de l’éducation ont coûté au Nouveau-Brunswick plus que ce qu’ils ont permis d’économiser.

Caring about Health

It is a good thing to see an increase in the budget for Community Health Services. This is an area that must be significantly expanded. The government is moving in the right direction. The budget should contain a deliberate decision to end unacceptable wait times in our emergency rooms. At the other end of the hospital, we have seniors in need of nursing care, forced to live in hospital rooms for lack of anywhere to go. I see no sense of urgency in this budget to solve this problem.

Il est bien de voir une petite augmentation de la somme prévue dans le budget pour les services de santé mentale, qui correspond au financement ciblé fourni par le gouvernement fédéral. Toutefois, il faut augmenter rapidement et considérablement le budget pour les services de santé mentale afin de répondre aux besoins des personnes du Nouveau-Brunswick aux prises avec une maladie mentale.

Addictions

Sixteen percent of New Brunswickers consume alcohol at levels that put them at long-term risk of liver disease and certain cancers. Twelve percent consume enough alcohol to cause injury and overdose. I fear government has not yet come to grips with the conflict between its promotion of alcohol consumption through NB Liquor’s marketing efforts and the rate of abuse and addictions that too many New Brunswickers struggle with.

Le gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick tire des recettes d’environ 160 millions par année d’Alcool NB. Le budget pour l’année qui commence prévoit 20,4 millions pour le financement des services de traitement des dépendances, ce qui est comparable à la somme de 20,2 millions que prévoit le budget de l’année en cours. De plus, le budget pour le mieux-être accordé au ministère du Développement social est passé de 7,3 à 7 millions de dollars.

We need a budget that comes to grips with addictions.

Perpetuating Poverty

Mr. Speaker, there are roughly 100,000 New Brunswickers living in poverty. 22,000 families and individuals receive social assistance from the provincial government. It must be galling for those who have no other choice but to try to live on social assistance to hear people say the best social program is a job. Eighty percent of those on social assistance cannot work and yet we provide them with an income that is impossible to live on. In this case, we in fact need a better social program.

Income assistance rates need to reflect the costs of providing the necessities of life. Two months ago, Prince Edward Island’s legislature unanimously passed a motion by Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker to develop a basic income pilot project in partnership with the federal government. Maybe there is a long-term solution here that we should explore as well.

Public Housing

One thing that makes it possible to afford the basics for those living in poverty is subsidized housing. New Brunswick owns 836 apartment buildings, 153 buildings for seniors and 633 buildings for families. Cuts over the years have reduced services to the Province’s tenants, putting it into the category of absentee landlord for many. The waiting list for subsidized housing continues to grow from 5,371 in 2013 to 5,889 in 2015.

Long-Term Living

The new aging strategy just released by the Council on Aging made a series of important recommendations about tackling the dementia crisis, creating age-friendly communities, reducing social isolation, and innovative living arrangements. Our communities need to be more age-friendly…and I see nothing in this budget that will help our communities become more age-friendly. More than 3,000 seniors living at home suffer from some form of dementia. Significant numbers remain undiagnosed. Action needs to be taken now to address this growing dementia crisis. Doing the Same Thing for the Economy and Expecting Different Outcomes

If it’s one thing every government does, it is to make the economy its number one priority. So how come our economy, or I should say our economies aren’t in better shape. The Tories had their go at the economy for 11 years and the Liberals for 9 years. Any emphasis on community development, rural development, or regional development was abandoned a long-time ago.

Ce qui manque au budget, c’est un soutien à l’élaboration de stratégies de développement économique visant les régions rurales et les petites villes.

Citizen Advocates

An important function of this Legislative Branch of Government is to provide citizens with Legislative Officers to advocate on their behalf to the Executive Branch and to the provincial parliament. Any objective assessment of the budget for our legislative officers would say they are underfunded given their mandates. Yet once gain this government has frozen the overall budget for our Legislative Officers – despite inadequate budgets, despite added responsibilities, despite growing requests from the public, despite proposals by the Legislative Officers for improvements to their budgets, zap their frozen again.

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Our Principles

> Non-Violence

A culture of cooperation, caring and understanding is essential to ending violence in our society. Rehabilitation rather than vengeance must be the goal of our justice system.

> Self-Determination and Citizenship

We must have the opportunity and the responsibility as citizens to contribute to the common good, which requires that all have the capacity to participate in community life.

> Social Justice and Equality

Everyone must have equal access to the necessities of life and be treated with dignity and respect. Treaties with First Nations must be honoured.

> Participatory Democracy

We must be able to participate in decisions that affect our lives and be guaranteed that our votes are reflected in the make-up of the Legislative Assembly.

> Local Self-Reliance

Our communities should be in control of their own destinies, supported by strong local economies, and sustained by local sources of food and renewable energy.

> Living within Our Ecological Means

We must live within the ecological limits of the Earth, while meeting our needs without threatening our children's future or the survival of other species.

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