A look at some of the major New Brunswick election campaign issues

The Canadian Press
August 20, 2014 12:27 PM

FREDERICTON - A look at where the major parties stand on some of the issues that will be front and centre in New Brunswick's election campaign:

Forestry: The governing Progressive Conservatives announced in March that the forestry industry would be allowed to harvest an additional 660,000 cubic metres of softwood per year, a 20 per cent hike from existing levels. Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said the move would make the industry more competitive and create hundreds of new jobs, although it was criticized by environmental groups and others for being unsustainable. The Liberals have questioned whether planting and silviculture programs are sufficiently funded to keep pace with the higher harvest levels. Green party Leader David Coon said the new cap goes too far and will cause vast damage to Crown lands.

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Shale gas: The issue of hydraulic fracturing in the province has become divisive as the Tories press ahead with the development of a shale gas industry. Last October, a protest against the industry near Rexton turned violent as police officers arrested 40 people and six police vehicles were burned. Premier David Alward argues that not allowing continued exploration for shale gas would be perilous for the province's economy. The Liberals want a moratorium on fracking for gas, while the NDP says there needs to be a single regulator for the oil and natural gas industry to eliminate the myriad of departments and agencies that regulate various aspects of the industry now.

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Energy East Pipeline: Under TransCanada Corporation's proposal a new pipeline would be built into Saint John, turning the city into a key export point. Irving Oil has plans to build a $300 million marine terminal near the city to accommodate the pipeline. There is environmental opposition to the pipeline but Alward has backed the project, saying its is a way of stemming the flow of workers from New Brunswick to the oilpatch. The Liberals also support the project.

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Jobs: The government points to its forestry strategy and its efforts to develop a natural gas industry as key elements in its bid to boost jobs in a province with an unemployment rate that stood at 10 per cent in July, the second highest jobless rate in the country. The Liberals say it is important to continue helping traditional industries like agriculture, fisheries, mining and forestry succeed, but more emphasis also has to be placed on generating more jobs in the knowledge-based economy.

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Finances: The government is forecasting a deficit of $387.3 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The Progressive Conservatives had promised to balance the books by the end of their mandate, but will not meet that target. To help fight the province's gloomy finances, the Liberals are promising to boost revenue by $63 million a year by rescinding a business tax break the Tories brought in and bringing in a new tax bracket for the province's highest income earners. The Liberals say it will take six years to balance the budget. The NDP is promising to hold the line on taxes for two years while it holds a provincewide consultation to develop a new economic strategy.

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Abortion: The recent closure of the Morgentaler Clinic, the only private facility to offer abortions in the province, has triggered protests over New Brunswick's rules governing access to abortion. By law, a woman who wants an abortion covered by medicare must have two doctors certify in writing that it is medically necessary and the procedure must be carried out by a specialist in one of two approved hospitals. The Tories say there is no need to change the rules while the Liberals say they would review them. The NDP are promising to repeal the law. Green Leader David Coon says the law is unjust and should be changed.


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