N.B. business, labour groups react to budget

President and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, Susan Holt, says she was disappointed with the "weak" labour and skills strategy in the 2014 federal budget.

N.B. Business Council president says federal budget is a mixed bag for the region

The president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, Susan Holt, says she was disappointed with the "weak" labour and skills strategy in the 2014 federal budget.

"I think the measures to support strengthening the labour force, closing the skills gap and supporting education were really light if not non-existent," she said.

Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, agrees, calling it a bad-news budget for young workers.

"We're not seeing any job growth by any means you know the federal budget really lacks any vision about how to stop the economic slide of the middle class here in Canada."

Holt says she was expecting to see a national education strategy put forward which is especially important in New Brunswick.

"We have illiteracy rates that are higher than the rest of the country and we have challenges fitting the people that we have in this province into the jobs that we have available," Holt said.

"So appropriate investments in the system, community colleges, other post secondary education institutions ... universities and connecting that into industry is important."

Colford says he is also disappointed in the lack of pre-budget consultation by the federal government.

He says he's contacted the office of Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore several times since August in an effort to schedule a meeting.

"It's, 'We'll get back to you,' but apparently we don't take a priority when it comes to the federal government," Colford said.

"The issues that matter to workers on the east coast doesn't matter to this government."

According to Moore's website, he hosted a pre-budget meeting in Sussex in January with local business leaders to discuss what they wanted to see in the federal budget.

Holt sees bright spots for business in budget

Holt says she was pleased to see more money allocated to the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program, which provides funding to "outstanding and high-potential" companies and entrepreneurs that are expanding.

"Bringing that investment up to $100 million, I'm optimistic that New Brunswick's leading accelerator, Launch 36, may be one of the beneficiaries of that money," Holt said.

Launch 36 is an Atlantic Canadian program that aims to take new technology companies to the next level with the help of mentors.

"That could be a significant investment to stimulate our economy and support start-ups here in both New Brunswick and the broader Atlantic Canadian region." 

Holt is also optimistic about the references in the federal budget to reducing trade barriers between provinces which she believes will allow the region to be more competitive nationally and internationally.

"Having different regulations in every jurisdiction in Canada, whether it's things like roads and trucking, whether it's tariffs, whether it's certifications and what you need to be a dental hygienist in New Brunswick versus Nova Scotia," Holt said.

"They create extra work, they limit productivity, so if we could be more effective and harmonized in our regulatory environment then our businesses will be able to operate more productively and compete more effectively against other parts of the world."


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