Sir Winston Churchill once said: “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”
This is such a time in New Brunswick. Our province is replete with problems:
Public spending is out of control.
- The quality of our public services is in jeopardy.
- A considerable amount of money is spent on health, education, and infrastructure, and is producing substandard results.
- The economy is slow-moving; investment and immigration are quiet.
- Our children are choosing to leave our province for opportunities elsewhere.
- The huge and growing public debt results in high interest payments making us susceptible to the lending decisions of national and international institutions.
We’re all dressed up and no where to go.
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens, of which I am president, was created to assist in addressing these disturbing trends.
It is a non-partisan group of New Brunswick residents drawn from the public, business, public administration, consulting, health care, and academia, all of whom share the dream that their beloved province flourish economically, socially, and culturally.
We are here because a succession of governments made promises to attain or maintain power that either cannot be kept or are too expensive for a poor province to manage.
In the process for 25 years, sound resource and program management has been sacrificed resulting in a huge provincial net debt of $14.5 billion, low literacy rates, and a health care system that struggles to meet the needs of the population despite the employment of many dedicated doctors and nurses.
New Brunswick must be managed differently. Time’s up!
The following is a set of four principles developed by the Coalition that can help New Brunswick get on track to achieve responsible public spending, responsible revenue generation, enhancement of our well-being, and better governance.
Responsible Public Spending
- All public spending should be judged not just according to short-term benefits, but also the long-term impact on the province’s welfare;
- The provincial budget should be balanced during periods of economic (GDP) growth;
- All spending on new initiatives must be decided based on an analysis of existing policies;
- Annual budget surpluses, or a portion thereof, should be applied to the public debt;
- Public resources should be re-aligned to reflect population distribution.
Responsible Revenue Generation
- New Brunswick should commit to regional tax competitiveness;
- Our province must be dedicated to implementing a stable economic development plan;
- We need to be unwavering in our goal of achieving sustainable development of our natural resources;
- A proactive, comprehensive, and manageable consultation process should take place before major economic initiatives begin;
- The province needs a robust immigration strategy;
- Official bilingualism needs to be affirmed and integrated more effectively into all government departments.
Enhancing New Brunswickers’ Well-being
- Effective education must maximize literacy and prepare New Brunswickers for citizenship, economic success, and a flourishing life;
- Our province must move toward a re-tooled, more effective, and sustainable health care system, including flexible care for seniors.
Principles for Good Governance
- New Brunswick must commit to long-term plans for the major policy sectors such as health, education, and transportation;
- Public policies must be subject to regular review and evaluation based on clear and publicly available criteria;
- Our province must restore and cultivate the senior civil service as a group of highly qualified professionals, able to offer non-partisan leadership and impartial advice to the government of the day;
- Local government needs reform both structurally and financially;
- We need to fully support the work of the Auditor-General of New Brunswick as an independent public spending watchdog;
- MLA’s must ensure that the long-term interests of the province guide their work in their parties, caucuses, and constituencies; and MLA’s must be committed to the work and vitality of the standing committees of the Legislative Assembly.
New Brunswick is a great province blessed with courageous, intelligent, dedicated, and hard-working people. We can do what needs to be done to restore progress and prosperity to our province.
But it will take strong leadership, both in politics, social institutions, and in business.
On September 24th, we go to the polls to elect a new government.
The Coalition believes that this election is the most critical election in New Brunswick’s history. The challenges are many.
We ask the voting public to carefully consider each candidate for elected office with the benchmark question being, “Does the person seek the office or does the office seek the person?”
“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”
Daryl Branscombe is president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (www.coalitionnb.ca). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.