Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Premier David Alward Banks on Natural Resources as Election Begins

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Premier David Alward Banks on Natural Resources as Election Begins

Article excerpt

Economy big issue in New Brunswick election

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FREDERICTON - David Alward is counting on voters to back his plan to develop New Brunswick's natural resources as a path to prosperity when the Progressive Conservatives make their case for a second term in office when the province's election campaign officially begins Thursday.

The 32-day campaign is expected to be fought on which party can improve the economic fortunes of a province that is mired in red ink and sported the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 10 per cent in July.

Alward has faced a backlash as he tries to develop the province's natural resources through a new forestry plan that increases the amount of wood that can be cut on Crown land and the creation of a shale gas industry.

Despite the opposition, Alward has pressed ahead, saying that not proceeding with shale gas exploration would be too risky for the province's economy.

"We're saying 'Yes' to developing our shale gas resources, and we're saying 'Yes' to developing natural resources in a responsible way," Alward said this week.

First Nations chiefs in the province have gone to court seeking an injunction to block the forestry deal, and testing work for shale gas by a company in the Rexton area became the scene of a riot last year when the RCMP enforced an injunction to end a blockade at a compound where exploration equipment was stored.

Before the campaign formally began, Liberal Leader Brian Gallant focused many of his promises on the economy and cutting a deficit forecast to be $387.3 million this fiscal year.

Gallant said his party would find at least $250 million in savings from the provincial budget and redirect the money into areas that would create jobs and grow the economy.

"We need to fill the skills gap," Gallant said. "That's one of the biggest complaints of businesses in the province, so we need to invest strategically in education, training and literacy."

The Liberals have been critical of the Alward government's failure to honour a promise in the last election to balance the budget by the end of its mandate.

The Tories now say they can have a surplus in three years, while the Liberals said Wednesday it would take them six years to balance the books. …

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