New Brunswick

Election Day 8: 'Blue economy,' climate change and green energy top agendas

Day 8 of the election campaign saw party leaders talking about the ocean-based 'blue economy,' climate change and green energy.

PCs vow to expand ocean-based potential, Liberals defend carbon tax plan, NDP deem power rate freeze 'foolish'

PC Leader Blaine Higgs says the province's coastlines and waterways can be an important resource for job creation and a tool to help meet carbon emission reduction targets. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

The New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives say they will expand the province's ocean-based "blue economy" if elected next month.

That would include focusing more effort on fisheries exports, tidal power and the marine transport industry, said PC Leader Blaine Higgs, describing it as an "untapped" "trillion-dollar global market."

"The Liberals have failed to take advantage of the economic opportunity represented by our enormous coastline," he said Thursday during a campaign stop in Bouctouche at Pays de la Sagouine.

"Team Higgs will make it a priority, which will create jobs and attract tourism to coastal communities around the province."

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His was one of a handful of election promises made by political party leaders on Day 8 of the campaign.

The Liberals focused on their plan to combat climate change, while the NDP talked about transitioning the province to green energy.

The Green Party discussed the inroads they've made across the country and the "groundswell" of support they've seen in New Brunswick heading into the Sept. 24 election.

Higgs said a PC government would instruct NB Power to work with coastal communities to develop proposals for offshore renewable energy projects and create incentives for ocean-based research and product commercialization at post-secondary institutions.

It would also promote New Brunswick's coastal communities to businesses and investors around the world to attract more marine transport business and grab a greater share of the tourism market, he said during the morning announcement.

Later, Higgs attended a meet-and-greet with local candidates at the Bouctouche Mall and some private meetings before heading back to his home in Quispamsis for the night.

Liberal Party Leader Brian Gallant started his day in Edmundston before heading to the Delta Fredericton to make his platform announcement.

"A re-elected Liberal government's plan to protect the environment will force big businesses that are large greenhouse gas emitters to pay their fair share, will phase out electricity generated by coal by 2030, and will make sure New Brunswick consumers do not pay one more cent at the pumps or on their power bills," he said.

It came after days of criticism by Higgs, who has vowed not to impose a "job killing" carbon tax, to fight one in court that is federally imposed and if he loses, to rebate consumers or lower taxes by an equivalent amount.

The federal government has said the provinces must impose a levy on carbon, with a goal of reducing emissions to 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 to comply with the Paris climate treaty. On Jan. 1, 2019, Ottawa will impose its own carbon tax, which it calls a "backstop," on provinces that don't meet its standard.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant dismissed the PC pledge to rebate New Brunswickers if the federal government imposes its own carbon tax as not really being a plan, given that Ottawa has already said residents would receive rebate cheques. (CBC)

"We are the only party with a plan to avoid new costs for consumers," said Gallant.

Since April, 2.3 cents of New Brunswick's 15.5-cent-per-litre gas tax has been shifted into a climate fund to be spent on environmental initiatives. That share will increase every year over five years to 11.64 cents

Although Gallant has previously refused to broach the possibility his plan would be rejected by Ottawa, he said Thursday he would "fight" any imposition of a federal carbon tax "backstop" on New Brunswick.

The Liberals would also push ahead with the more than 100 action items in their 2016 climate change plan, ensuring the province embraces clean technologies and green jobs and helping New Brunswick households become more energy efficient, he told reporters before travelling to Maugerville, Moncton and Dieppe.

Rate freeze 'irresponsible,' says NDP

NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie, who was in Saint John for a second day Thursday, criticized another plank of the Liberal platform — a four-year NB Power rate freeze for residential customers and small businesses.

She called the election promise "irresponsible."

"Ignoring the advice of the Energy and Utilities Board is very foolish. We saw what happened in Ontario when the government put politics ahead of good advice. Power rates in the long run will go up substantially unless there's a good solid plan behind what you're doing."

NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie said New Brunswick has plenty of tidal, hydro, wind and geothermal capability and should be able to transition to a green economy 'very quickly.' (CBC)

She contends the NDP has put forward forward such a plan. Investing in green energy infrastructure, tapping into wind, solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal and nuclear power, will reduce electricity prices "significantly," she said.

Given the province's "wonderful resources," "we should be able to transition to a green economy very quickly and very effectively if we have the political will to do it."

An NDP government would also invest in other green infrastructure, such as public transit and electrical vehicle charging networks across the province, said McKenzie, who was accompanied by Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

They toured the Social Enterprise Hub, an uptown office where non-profit groups and social enterprise businesses share resources and collaborate on community initiatives, visited King's Square and the City Market, then went canvassing in the Saint John Harbour riding with volunteers.

A meet-and-greet with party volunteers was slated for 5:30 p.m. at the NDP office.

Greens feeling confident

Green Party Leader David Coon was accompanied by federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May for a second straight day and met with reporters on the front lawn of the legislative assembly Thursday morning to discuss the campaign to date.

May said she is "quite confident" Coon will be re-elected in the riding of Fredericton South and return to the legislature with a caucus of Green MLAs.

Coon is currently the party's only member in New Brunswick, but May, who has also been campaigning this week with Memramcook-Tantramar candidate Megan Mitton, and attending fundraiser events, said she is seeing a "groundswell" of support for the party in the province and across the country.

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she's 'excited' about the future of New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon and about the future of the party in the province. (CBC)

She noted when she was first elected federally in 2011, there hadn't been any other Green candidates elected in Canada. Today, there are eight sitting Green party representatives.

"I think New Brunswick will show a big breakthrough," she said, crediting in large part Coon's "hard work" and "spectacular record."

Coon also believes this could be a "pivotal" election for the Greens. People are " tired of the flip-flopping back and forth between Liberals and Tories. They don't see that much difference between them," he said.

"So they're looking for an alternative and they're trying to determine now where's the place they can put their vote, who can they trust their vote with, who's going to treat their vote respectfully."

The Green Party's slate of candidates increasingly represents the makeup of the province, he said. More than half of them are women, three are Indigenous, there are millennials and even an octogenarian.

Coon and May were later scheduled to visit the downtown Garrison Market to meet with local vendors, then attend a memorial concert at 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in honour of the two fallen city police officers.

Fredericton Police Force Constables Robb Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43, were shot and killed on Aug. 10, along with civilians Donald Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.

Accused gunman Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 24.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin spent Thursday campaigning door-to-door in his riding of Fredericton-Grand Lake.