Higgs recites successes but offers few new policies in state of province address
Premier announces expanded support for tourism, affordable housing, newcomers to NB
Premier Blaine Higgs played the hits, but offered little that hadn't been heard before in his latest state of the province address.
The speech, hosted by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening, consisted largely of an itemized list of government accomplishments since Higgs was first elected in 2018.
Higgs' speech touched on several areas including the economy, healthcare, education and the environment.
More newcomer programs
One new announcement was a new immigration navigator service that will be implemented by Opportunities NB in the coming weeks.
The premier also cited the province's population recently exceeding 800,000, adding this was done in large part because of migration to the province, both from inside and outside Canada.
"It doesn't just mean more people to fill jobs," said Higgs.
"It means more money for better schools, better health [care,] better education."
Higgs also promised more money would go towards affordable housing in rural areas to help facilitate newcomer migration outside the province's three major population centres.
He addressed the ongoing war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis it has caused, adding that many will be coming to the province.
"In the weeks and months ahead we'll be welcoming many Ukrainians, and I know we'll help them find comfort."
Reconciliation and systematic racism
Higgs also complimented his government for work that has come under recent scrutiny: its relationship with Indigenous people and racialized New Brunswickers.
Advocates have criticized the province for not speaking out more forcefully on issues of systematic racism and for not instituting an Indigenous-led review of police violence in the province.
But Higgs said he's working to better understand the plight of BIPOC communities and create new relationships.
"We are not proud of our history," he said. "I recently participated in a blanket exercise and believe it's critical to learn about our past and how we can change our future."
Higgs said the province is seeing results on business development in Indigenous communities, including a First Nation owned NB Liquor pilot project.
"There are many other opportunities under discussion that are progressing through regular meetings that we're having with the chiefs."
New tourism program
On the heels of two pandemic summers during which the province paid people to visit, Higgs offered a new, less incentivized program to increase tourism.
"We [are] launching a new campaign next week, targeting New [Brunswickers] to encourage them to share their experience, and invite friends and family to discover the great things New Brunswick has to offer."
Higgs followed that announcement with the declaration that everyone in attendance had received a park pass.
"Use it, invite guests, enjoy and promote our rivers, our trails and parks," he urged the crowd. "Snap some pictures, tell the world about New Brunswick!"