Economy is 'cornerstone' of throne speech, Alward says

The Alward government is promising to make the province's struggling economy its central focus in the next year by investing heavily in innovation.

Alward promises record investment in innovation

Premier David Alward talks about innovation and job creation 4:49

The Alward government is promising to make the province’s struggling economy its central focus in the next year by investing heavily in innovation.

The province’s jobless rate now stands at the highest level in more than nine years and the projected deficit has nearly doubled in the first six months of the year to $356 million.

The sobering economic news served as a backdrop to the throne speech, which was delivered on Tuesday.

"Rebuilding and re-energizing our economy is the cornerstone of your government’s plan to rebuild New Brunswick," said Lt. Gov. Graydon Nicholas, who read the province’s throne speech on Tuesday.

The throne speech outlined several initiatives that will be implemented in the next year that are designed to stimulate the economy.

The provincial government is planning on rolling out a three-pronged strategy, which will include the creation of a research and innovation council and an expansion of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Premier David Alward spoke to reporters on Tuesday about his government's throne speech. (CBC)

The government will also work with groups willing to invest in innovation, industry and the academic sector to spur on more research and development initiatives.

The throne speech signaled an intention to pump more money into the innovation sector.

"The research and innovation council will provide guidance on public policy and oversee one of the largest provincial investments in innovation that our province has ever seen," the throne speech says.

The throne speech does not say how much money will be invested in this strategy.

Alward said the innovation investments will be important, but he wouldn’t say how the strategy will lower the 11.6 per cent jobless rate in the short term.

"In terms of the jobs today, I wish there were silver bullets out there," Alward told reporters.

"What I can tell you is that I have full confidence in the business community of New Brunswick that they will continue to invest in the province of New Brunswick."

The cabinet is going to strike a ministerial committee on jobs and the economy that will have a mandate to create new economic opportunities.

"This committee will monitor economic performance and recommend adjustments to government direction and policy as required by developing innovative economic policies and programs that stimulate and improve business and employment opportunities," the throne speech said.

Shale gas future

The provincial government will also be tackling the contentious issue of shale gas development in the next year.

The throne speech says the Alward government will be using the two reports, written by Louis LaPierre, a biologist at the University of Moncton, and Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province’s chief medical officer of health, to develop an oil and natural gas blueprint.

"If the estimates for the potential amount of natural gas are accurate, it has the potential to heat every home in our province for several hundred years and to provide a significant competitive advantage for our economy," the throne speech said.

The throne speech said the provincial government will "identify and act on the opportunity for greater scientific work to be done relating to shale gas exploration."

Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard will make an announcement on the natural gas blue print later this week, the premier said on Tuesday.

Agriculture sector

The provincial government is also putting a stronger emphasis on the agriculture sector as a part of rebuilding the economy.

The throne speech highlights the government’s plan to help identify more land to expand the blueberry industry in northeastern New Brunswick and its intention to promote the bioscience and value-added food sector.

Along with the agriculture opportunities mentioned in the throne speech, the provincial government is also eyeing the possibilities of developing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

"Further expansion of shellfish aquaculture presents a solid economic development opportunity for the east coast of the province as export demand for fresh New Brunswick oysters grows," the throne speech says.

"Your government will continue to promote New Brunswick seafood products in strategic markets worldwide to grow and diversify export opportunities for our seafood sector."