Four of New Brunswick's political parties launched their campaigns Thursday for the September provincial election, hoping to woo voters with their plans and pledges.
The first stop for the Progressive Conservative bus was a remote Corridor Resources fracking well pad near Penobsquis, which David Alward used to highlight his support for shale gas development and other natural resources.
"Our team is the only party saying yes to $10 billion in short-term private sector investment. And I want to repeat those words: private sector investment through natural resource development," he said.
Shale gas was controversial during Alward's first term as premier, with countless protests and road blockades across the province. But he's hoping people will want the jobs and money he says will come with development.
Alward says if the opportunities of the shale gas industry are missed, the province's proud quality of life would be "torn down."
"A no to shale gas development today is a yes to higher taxes tomorrow to pay for Brian Gallant's reckless big spending program," he said.
"If we say no to jobs and a stronger economy, who will be there to build our communities? Who will staff our local fire departments? Who will volunteer to coach minor hockey, baseball, soccer and basketball teams? Who will lead our Scouts, Girl Guides, 4-H cadets and school groups to become the leaders of tomorrow?" he said.
Alward also challenged Liberal Leader Brian Gallant's call for a moratorium on the industry.
"Does that mean that Brian Gallant literally wants to shut down the pump here and the affordable gas that makes the potash mine just over there run?"
"If my opponent wants to shut down jobs here and the hundreds of jobs this site fuels, that's his choice, but he should at least have the guts to tell New Brunswickers the truth in plain language and with no smoke and mirrors," he said.
Liberals criticize arbitrary cuts
Gallant brushed off the Tory attacks during his party's campaign launch, which started at his campaign headquarters for the riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe.
"It's not surprising," said Gallant. "What have they been focused on for the last four years? Cutting arbitrarily, and fracking. Where has that got us? Three thousand nine hundred less jobs than we had in July 2010," he said.
"Under the Alward Conservatives we have seen a fixation on cuts. Unfortunately, they cut in a very non-strategic way. They didn't realize that when they were cutting they could depress the economy even more," he said.
“They didn't realize they would hurt ordinary New Brunswickers who were finding life less affordable. And they didn't realize that despite the fact that they were doing these cuts they wouldn't be able to balance the books."
Gallant said a Liberal government would change economic development. The province needs to diversify and be strategic, he said. The Liberals would support four major energy projects: an LNG export terminal, an oil export facility, the Energy East pipeline, as well as Sisson Brook and other new mining opportunities, he said.
Gallant also promised to better co-ordinate job creation efforts, measure the successes and failures of those responsible for creating jobs, and ensure accountability is brought back to create the environment he said is necessary to help businesses start up and grow.
Other Liberal priorities include tourism and immigration, education training and literacy, a tax increase to top one per cent of income earners in the province and a reversal of 2012 business tax break, Gallant said.
'New Brunswickers deserve better'
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is hoping voters will opt for change over the two traditional parties.
"What they lack is the ability to make that change real," Cardy said during his campaign launch, which was held at his party headquarters on Regent Street in Fredericton.
"They lack the ability to give New Brunswick the government it deserves because they continue to listen to special interests and people in their backrooms who will constantly draw them away from what the public wants and direct them towards decisions that only benefit a very small number of people. That's what we're going to change because New Brunswick deserves better," he said.
"We're here to talk about realistic, practical change for New Brunswick."
The NDP is committed to creating the best education system to give New Brunswickers the tools they need to become highest trained workers in the world and citizens of best place in the world to live, said Cardy, who is running in Fredericton West-Hanwell.
Some of the party's other priorities include eliminating patronage from government, fixing the health care system, lifting rural communities out of poverty and giving an equal voice to all communities, he said.
"There is now a real choice. After 150 years of Conservative and Liberal stagnation, our province is back on the road to success, to prosperity, to equality."
Vote for change
Green Party Leader David Coon is using the same message of change, in hopes of winning the party's first seat — the one he's vying for in Fredericton South.
"Already political history has been made in this province when David Alward has decided he would not meet me in the [CBC] televised debates," Coon said during his campaign launch at the party's headquarters on King Street in Fredericton.
"New Brunswickers are fed up with their political parties. New Brunswickers are inspired by the vision that the Green Party is bringing to New Brunswick."
"People clearly are saying they're done with voting with the other two parties, going back and forth like a pingpong ball, and they're looking for something new. A new vision. Someone who's got a plan and a party that's got strong principles they will stick to," said Coon.
Instead of letting big corporations control the future, the province needs a new political reality that's more transparent, fair and democratic, he said.
"Voting for the Green Party is voting for a hopeful vision for the future and a new economy that puts people and communities first."
The party's platform will be released on Sept. 3, said Coon.
"If we change, everything changes." he said, leading the crowd in a chant.
The Peoples' Alliance, an even newer party, is also contesting this election and is expected to deliver a similar message during its campaign launch on Friday at 6 p.m. at Kris Austin's campaign headquarters in Minto.
The provincial election will be on Sept. 22.