Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Legislative Assembly: Higgs sticks to his priorities in 2023

Premier Blaine Higgs managed to advance his priorities during the fall session, despite a bumpy start to the session amid rumors of a snap election.

  • Michel Corriveau (View profile)Michel Corriveau

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Whether it is labor relations, nuclear power, education or housing, the Conservative government of Blaine Higgs has firmly maintained the approach he has favored since coming to power in 2018.

Despite some turmoil at the start of the session caused by rumors of an early general election, the government was able to use its majority to pass controversial bills.

The Conservatives took everyone by surprise by presenting Bill 17, which will impose a transformation of the pension plan for bus drivers, educational support workers and nurses and employees in care homes, members of the Union Canadian Public Service. Dissatisfied with the progress of the current negotiations, Blaine Higgs decided to ignore an agreement signed with the unions to impose his way of doing things.

The bill, adopted at the end of the session thanks to a gag motion, sparked discontent in union circles, where confidence is at its lowest since the start of the current mandate of the Higgs government.

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On December 12, around a hundred union members gathered at the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly to loudly denounce Bill 17.< /p>

According to the Prime Minister, the legislative change will give […] the possibility of having a sustainable regime, equally financed, and equitable for taxpayers and employees.

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But this time, as in 2021, the Prime Minister was inflexible towards union members. This approach also caused one of the largest strikes in the public service in New Brunswick.

You signed an agreement in which you committed to a process that you abandoned, and now the unions in this province can no longer believe that they will be able to negotiate freely and fairly with you, deplores Liberal Leader Susan Holt.

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Susan Holt, leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party.

This week, the unions promised other actions, to denounce the Conservatives' way of doing things.

The union raised the possibility of appealing to the courts.

Since his arrival at power, the Higgs government has not announced any new French-speaking schools, despite the significant needs. This trend therefore continued in the capital budget which was tabled during the last parliamentary session.

Fredericton announced the construction of four new schools. They are, once again, all English-speaking.

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Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, Bill Hogan.

We take the entire province. We look at where our needs are completely. And on the English side, we have schools that are much older, explained Education Minister Bill Hogan on November 30.

The government maintains that needs are assessed based on a grid, which is however not public. A similar grid allowed the construction of an English-speaking school in the constituency of the former Minister of Education, Dominic Cardy, and the interruption of renovation work underway in several French-speaking schools.

An Education Council raised the possibility of going to court.

Faced with the evidence, the government has recognized that there is indeed a housing crisis. In 2022, Fredericton has also imposed a rent freeze for one year, while promising measures to deal with the situation.

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The Minister responsible for Housing, Jill Green, announced maximum assistance of $2,750 for tenants who are at risk of 'be ousted.

The crisis worsened, and the government refused to renew its rent freeze. It took more than a year before Minister Jill Green presented her strategy to deal with the situation last June.

Durant session, the minister presented a rental assistance bank, promised in the strategy. This bank, whose creation was well received, has a budget of $3 million, and will only be in place for two years.

I am very pleased that this assistance will be available to eligible tenants before the holidays, said the Minister responsible for housing, Jill Green, on December 7.

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The Minister responsible for Housing, Jill Green.

The government also announced aid of $200 per month for people receiving social assistance.

For nine years now, I have been asking for an increase for people living on social assistance, says Green Party leader David Coon.

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David Coon, leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, the government announced that planned investments in social housing planned for 2023-2024 have not been made. Fredericton promises, however, that they will be over the next three years.

Unsurprisingly, the conservatives continued their efforts to promote the development of electricity production from nuclear power, in particular from modular reactors. These efforts were initiated by the Liberal government of Brian Gallant.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development, Mike Holland, presented a bill to allow NB Power to purchase electricity produced by modular reactors, even if this electricity costs more to produce.

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Mike Holland, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development.

We will double our nuclear capacity with our small modular reactors to meet growing demand in energy, said Minister Holland.

The minister also presented his strategy on energy development at the very end of the session. In addition to nuclear power, it also proposes an increase in wind and solar energy, as well as an increased effort with regard to energy conservation.

Premier Higgs' decision to demand a review of Policy 713, on sexual orientation and gender identity in the province's public schools, provoked intense debate last spring and until 'in September. Major dissensions arose within the conservative troops, leading to a cabinet reshuffle. The calling of early elections was even mentioned.

However, the issue was very little addressed by the different political parties during the parliamentary session of fall.

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The Premier of New Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, exchanged about fifteen minutes with opponents of the revision of the politics 713, last month in Fredericton.

In a partisan publication, we learned that the Prime Minister planned to campaign on this issue.

  • Michel Corriveau (View profile)Michel CorriveauFollow

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