FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative and Liberal party leaders vowed on Friday to increase the province's population if they are elected to govern on Sept. 14.
Tory Leader Blaine Higgs said if re-elected, his government would continue its five-year plan to attract more people to the province and keep them there. Campaigning in Fredericton, Higgs said New Brunswick's population increased by more than 4,000 people last year and that growth was driven almost exclusively by new Canadians.
Statistics Canada estimates the province's population to be roughly 780,900 people.
"We are seeing people move back and that is exciting," Higgs said, alongside a number of his party's candidates. "Around this province I'm being told about real estate activity, about people interested in New Brunswick, about people wanting to invest here."
Higgs said New Brunswickers are looking for a stable government. "One-hundred-twenty-thousand jobs will become available in the province over the next 10 years. It is critical that we have a workforce that is ready to fill those vacancies."
In January, Higgs said his government's goal is to attract 10,000 people per year by 2027. On Friday, Higgs said he wants to increase the number of French-speaking immigrants by two per cent a year. By 2024, he said he wants 33 per cent of newcomers every year to be French-speaking.
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers also pledged to increase the number of New Brunswickers as he released his party's full platform Friday in Moncton.
Vickers said he would create a COVID-19 economic recovery task force and maintain the COVID-19 all-party cabinet committee until the crisis is over. "Working together with our businesses we will help the economy recover more quickly."
The platform attacks the record of Higgs' government, saying the economy has been ignored, people have been divided and the environment put at risk.
"We will aggressively pursue new ideas and opportunities to build a new economy for New Brunswick in sectors like technology, cybersecurity, the green economy and small modular reactors," Vickers told reporters.
He said a Liberal government would work with parents and teachers to better educate the province's children.
Also in the Liberal platform is a promise to hold a public inquiry into systemic racism within the province's policing and justice systems towards Indigenous people. And it includes a pledge to negotiate a contract with nurses "that is fair, respectful, ensures workplace safety, and targets salaries that are competitive."
The three Green party members who won a seat in the 2018 election travelled to the Memramcook Institute Friday morning to voice their support for arts and culture.
"The arts are a huge and significant part of our economy," leader David Coon said. "We've got to help artists and cultural workers get through this pandemic, just like we need to help small businesses and non-profits get through this pandemic."
Coon said a Green government would maintain the Memramcook Institute as the cultural and historical asset that it is, and provide funding to ensure its continued role in the local community and for all Acadians.
Advance polls will be open Saturday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press