New Brunswick politicians have the chance to seize the path to prosperity and autonomy in fall election

Joseph Quesnel: New Brunswick prosperity and autonomy on the line

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has been making headlines nationwide over the last few years. It has often been for the right reasons – advancing the province’s interests against a centralizing federal government, standing up for parents against secretive education officials, and pushing back against the unnecessary carbon tax.

New Brunswick residents will be going to the polls by this fall. This provides provincial parties with an opportunity to showcase their commitment to advancing prosperity and autonomy in the province.

Despite the opinions of certain urban commentators, mainstream media outlets and even pushback from ministers within the governing party, returning parental consent to the issue of gender identity and pronouns in the provincial education system has proven popular both in New Brunswick and across Canada. The province’s policy on identity and pronoun use is balanced and sensitive to age differences.

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Parties running in the provincial election should pay attention.

New Brunswick led the resistance against radical gender theory experiments in Canadian schools, inspiring other provinces like Saskatchewan and Ontario. It became ground zero in the struggle against unaccountable education officials promoting harmful ideologies to students.

The upcoming election could potentially expand these educational reforms beyond gender and pronoun concerns to include a thorough curriculum review. The next governing party should commit to eliminating critical race theory and intersectionality from classrooms and educator training. New Brunswick’s schools should prioritize core subjects and promote unity over division.

The next provincial government should continue to assert its autonomy over healthcare decisions. New Brunswick has pushed back on federal edicts before. The province was penalized for deciding where it wished to provide abortion services in the province against Ottawa’s coercive interpretation of the Canada Health Act.

Like other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick pushed back against the federal government’s Net Zero goals. Premier Higgs indicated a willingness to stop the collection of the carbon tax but buckled when shown this may place businesses at legal peril.

New Brunswick pushed back against Ottawa’s obsession with decarbonization at all costs. Last year, New Brunswick pulled out of the government’s plan for the Atlantic Loop, an overly expensive project that attempted to connect the province to Hydro Quebec’s hydroelectric grid to reduce the province’s use of coal.

Unfortunately, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia still play along with Ottawa’s goal of eliminating coal in the grid on their timeline. Rather than follow the lead of other provinces by remaining on Ottawa’s hamster wheel of carbon neutrality, New Brunswick should embrace a policy of putting New Brunswickers first and ending the war on coal. New Brunswick should join in all legal challenges to Ottawa’s centralizing energy policies.

To promote Atlantic prosperity, New Brunswick parties should abandon and reject Ottawa’s Net Zero goals along with its arbitrary and unnecessary targets. New Brunswick should embrace a policy of consumer energy choice. Households should be able to use energy that is the right price and comfort for them. The province should prevent municipalities from adopting policies restricting energy choices.

On the matter of energy, rather than follow Ottawa’s futile pursuit of wind and solar, New Brunswick’s next government can embrace the province’s destiny as a natural gas developer and exporter. The province boasts North America’s thickest shale gas reservoir, and recent attempts to negotiate shale gas development agreements with Indigenous communities could have generated significant revenue, benefiting struggling Indigenous communities.

In 2014, former premier Frank McKenna estimated that developing New Brunswick’s shale gas sector could generate more than $7 billion in royalties and tax revenues for the province. At the time, the province had an annual budget of just over that amount, so this represented an incredible source of revenue for the province.

The province has the advantage of possessing an Atlantic-facing seaport that many believe could be transformed into an energy export hub. Recently, Higgs expressed regret the Energy East pipeline was not built, mentioning how New Brunswick could have helped Ukraine by shipping Canadian natural gas to Europe to reduce dependency on Russian oil.

Despite the challenges and decisions ahead, New Brunswick’s political parties still have the opportunity to align their policies with a vision of prosperity and autonomy for the province.

Joseph Quesnel is a senior policy fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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