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New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. Image: YouTube video capture

Throne speech sees few new initiatives from Higgs government

By Brad Perry Oct 17, 2023 | 4:24 PM

There were few new commitments from the Higgs government in its latest speech from the throne on Tuesday.

Much of the hour-long speech, delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy, focused on the government’s accomplishments.

It pointed to some of the challenges facing New Brunswick: addictions and mental health, access to health care and housing, and rising costs of living.

“In this session, your government will unveil new spending and targeted measures to address these challenges and will remain vigilant in evaluating federal policies and implications on New Brunswickers,” said the speech.

The government said it will continue to focus on five priority areas: energizing the private sector; vibrant and sustainable communities; dependable public health care; building a better education system; and the environment.

Among the legislation expected over the coming months is a “spike protection mechanism” for the 2025 taxation year.

The government said this will ensure “continued permanent protection” for property owners by capping property tax increases at 10 per cent for all qualifying properties.

Also being considered are “additional improvements” to income tax and property tax legislation to ensure the province “remains attractive and competitive.”

Finance Minister Ernie Steeves has previously suggested that tax cuts could be on the table in the coming weeks.

The government also pledged to double the capacity for drug rehabilitation with 50 new residential beds. The program will provide four to six months of detox and rehabilitation programming and could serve 100 to 140 people each year.

It also plans to introduce new legislation that would allow judges and hearing officers to order treatment “in extreme cases” for those struggling with addiction and “unable to meet their own basic needs.”

“To help them, an intervention is required, one that includes a compassionate approach, and this legislation would set out the parameters on how it takes place,” said the speech.

The Higgs government said it will also increase the visibility of police officers in rural communities, and disrupt the illegal sale of drugs, cannabis and tobacco products.

It also committed to releasing its “integrated energy strategy” to provide a pathway for the province to transition to a cleaner energy future.

The speech only contained one brief mention of the province’s school gender identity policy.

Changes to that policy earlier this year led to a revolt within the Progressive Conservative caucus and prompted the premier to muse about a possible snap election this fall.

“As we work together, your government is committed to creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students, while still respecting the role of parents,” said the speech.

You can read the full speech by clicking here.