Commentary in The Daily Gleaner by Jennifer McKenzie, New Brunswick NDP Leader


Since becoming leader of the New Brunswick NDP, I’ve been working hard, travelling around the province listening to the concerns of New Brunswickers. More and more, I’m hearing from families that the cost of living is forcing them to make tough decisions at the end of each month.

Families who work for low wages face impossible choices — buy clothing or heat the house, purchase groceries or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. In many cases, it means that the adults in the family are working long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities. They have little time to spend with their families, much less to help their children with school work or to participate in community activities.

Young people are struggling to pay today’s high rent prices and higher tuition prices at the same time. Too many seniors can no longer manage both the heating bill and the rent. All while the government just keeps asking us all to pay extra – for university tuition, for basic supplies in seniors care, for fees for provincial parks and more.

The frustration of working harder only to fall further behind is one to which many New Brunswickers can relate. Too many New Brunswick families are taking home a smaller share of the economic pie despite working longer hours, getting more education and contributing to a growing economy.

The government just doesn’t get the everyday reality for many New Brunswick families.

Many families in our province are struggling to make ends meet, and the decisions by successive Liberal and Conservative governments are making that worse.

The two old parties keeps asking New Brunswick families to pay extra … for NB Power, for HST, for property taxes, for fuel taxes, for tuition for college and university, and the list goes on and on. Even food prices have been rising higher and higher with no end in sight.

The cuts to health care and education by successive Liberal and Conservative governments also mean that we’re forced to pay extra far too often. Like hiring private nursing help when health care and seniors care fall short; paying extra for class fees; or hiring a tutor when a child can’t get time with an educational assistant or one-on-one help in the classroom.

New Brunswick workers and businesses are doing their part – growing our province and delivering good news for our economy – but the Gallant Liberals aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Instead of focusing on what matters to New Brunswick families, the government has wasted far too much of our money on their own misplaced priorities.

While the two old parties looks out for their friends and insiders while they dismiss the real concerns that keep coming forward, my NDP and I will team will keep listening to New Brunswick people and focusing on what matters most to them.

The Gallant Liberals have been wasting an incredible opportunity to diversify our economy so we can end the boom-and-bust cycle and ensure our prosperity is sustainable for the long term.

Natural-resource jobs and the money that resources put into New Brunswick’s economy should have been a boon, but consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments haven’t even kept royalty rates the same. They have reduced the rates paid for our resources time and time again.

We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We want more eggs and more baskets. We’ll deliver good, mortgage-paying jobs by encouraging growth in knowledge-based fields such as research, science and technology, clean energy, and in arts and culture, including film and television.

The NDP wants New Brunswick to do well, and we want New Brunswickers do well. It’s time for a government that looks out for us.

Jennifer McKenzie is the leader of the provincial New Democratic Party.