New Brunswick

Education focus of Gallant government's mid-mandate throne speech

The Gallant government's third throne speech lays out education as "number-one focus" of upcoming session.

Gallant government lays out plan for second half of term

New Brunswick's Lieutenant Governor Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau delivered the Gallant governments second throne speech today in the legislature. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The Gallant government says it will take steps to improve the education system in the new session of the legislature that started Wednesday.

"Education will be the No. 1 focus of government for this session," Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau said as she read the Liberals' third Speech from the Throne on Wednesday afternoon.

"Better educated people are better prepared to find and succeed in jobs, growing the economy. And better educated people are more likely to make healthy choices and avoid chronic illnesses and hospital care."

The speech promises to "increase the amount" it provides parents to help pay for child care, though there are no specifics on the amounts or on the criteria.

That makes it impossible to measure whether the funding will rise to what the Liberals promised in the 2014 election -- a doubling of the amount spent helping parents by the end of their mandate, from $15 million to $30 million.

"We're not going to confirm that at this point," Premier Brian Gallant told reporters after the speech. "We're still working out exactly what it will look like, but what we can tell you is we'll be making daycares more accessible and even more importantly more affordable for parents."

Education will be the No. 1 focus of government for this session.- Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau

He said the estimated total cost of $62 million the Liberals provided during the last campaign was required by law under transparency legislation passed by the previous Progressive Conservative government.

But it wasn't a promise to spend that amount, Gallant said.

"The costing has never been the promise of what would have been invested," he said. Rather, it was an estimate of "what it could cost."

Wednesday's throne speech also makes no mention of another 2014 Liberal promise on child care: to create 6,000 new daycare spaces.

The government explained the lack of action on those promises in the spring, saying an independent child care review report was late. The report was finally released in August.

But there's still no word on creating new spaces in the throne speech. Instead, there's a promise to better train child care workers so they can meet new training standards.

A government spokesperson said 2,084 spaces have been created since the Gallant Liberals took office in October 2014.

"We've done a great job creating more daycare spaces for parents in the province so far," Gallant told reporters, "and we're going to continue to work on that to make sure we hit our mark of 6,000. Hopefully we'll be able to exceed it as well."

Premier Brian Gallant travelled to a Quispamsis daycare in the 2014 election to make the promise about new daycare spending. (Brian Gallant/Facebook)
There's also a vaguely worded commitment to "explore initiatives to reduce the gap in young learners, and increase competencies that will enable pro-schoolers to be successful in school and in life."

The speech also touts education measures that have already been announced, including the government's 10-year education plan released in September and its free-tuition program for low-income students at universities and community colleges unveiled earlier this year.

The 10-year plan, announced Sept. 1, focuses on literacy, numeracy and early childhood development. The Liberals have already said they'll spend $19.5 million this year on implementing the plan.

Wednesday's throne speech also repeats the recent announcement that the government will move the French immersion entry point back to Grade 1 and improve second-language education for adults, and will improve the teaching of trades and software coding in school.

Other highlights of the throne speech include attracting more farmers to the province, implementing legislation allowing medically assisted death and reducing small business tax to three per cent. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
While the speech says education will be the Liberals' "number-one focus" in the new session, it also says the economy will be the "top priority" and says a better-educated workforce will produce stronger growth in the future.

The speech also says the government will:

  • Respond to recommendations in a recent report by a committee of MLAs on climate change, including a carbon pricing system, a new emissions cap, and a phase-out of electricity generation through fossil fuels by 2030.
  • Implement the legalization of medically assisted death "in a sensitive manner, ensuring all proper safeguards are in place."
  • Follow through on a promise to reduce the small business tax to three per cent.
  • Try to attract new farmers, both from within New Brunswick and abroad, to take over farms now owned by farmers close to retirement age.
  • Make reducing obesity and smoking rates a priority in 2017.

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