Commmentary by Rosaire L’Italien, Interim Leader of the NB NDP in the Daily Gleaner

This past weekend New Brunswickers everywhere were celebrating New Brunswick Day, and the values for which New Brunswick has become known around the country. Values like linguistic and cultural diversity, our tolerance and welcoming spirit, our mutual respect and social justice, and the great progress which we have achieved together.


There are many reasons to be a proud New Brunswicker, there is far more that unites us than divides us and, for that we can all be very proud. But we still have much work to do to build a better New Brunswick that works for everyone, not just the few at the top.


This has become clearer than ever in the wake of this year’s property tax assessment scandal. Thousands of everyday New Brunswickers saw their property taxes skyrocket with incorrect assessments and no adequate explanation. Meanwhile there are some large corporations who have the resources to focus on and fight rises in their tax assessments haven’t been reassessed since the 1970s. If they were reassessed at the same rate as the average New Brunswicker then this province would have a ton of new revenue.


This is a failure not of the average citizen, but of the leadership by our elected officials. Leadership is about taking responsibility and we haven’t seen our Premier and our Ministers answering for this. As a result we see large corporations gaming the system while the average mom and pop stores are being hosed.


By failing to fix the tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and embracing these radical corporate tax giveaways, the Gallant Liberals are putting the private interests of the wealthy few ahead of everyday New Brunswickers who are struggling to get ahead. This significantly undermines the government’s ability to provide funding for urgent priorities such as healthcare, education, affordable public housing, public transit, infrastructure and other important public services.


The NDP has pledged to review all aspects of our broken, incomprehensible and unfair property tax system in a process that would include municipal organizations, cities, professional property assessor and appraiser associations and other stakeholders.


The property tax assessment is symbolic of how the Liberals and Conservatives have governed our province. For 131 years New Brunswick has voted for the red and the blue parties into government over and over and over again. The lack of leadership in both of these parties is not simply a bug in this current government, it is a feature of both of these political parties; they are both simply old and tired and desperately need new ideas to guide this province forward. Just look at where they have left us; New Brunswick has one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, some of the lowest literacy rates, the highest obesity, the oldest and fastest shrinking population, and all the while seeing wages shrinking while beset by a rising cost of living.


Now we have a new problem in which an alarming report came out last week which said that NB’s jobless rate was going down, but not because there are a whole bunch of new jobs, but because people are exiting the work force, either by retiring or simply giving up on seeking employment. This is an alarming trend for the future of this province, which needs to be a priority.


We have seen some unacceptable treatment of our seniors who built this province, like last week the Manoir Notre-Dame seniors home restricting toilet paper use to people who live there. This is symbolic of the way that our seniors have been treated. We in the NDP recognize the value our seniors bring to our society and the unique contributions they can make. That’s why we will work with seniors to enhance and strengthen the role they play in our communities while ensuring they receive the care they need in later stages of life.


We can do better! We have a beautiful province that is blessed with loads of untapped natural resources, most significantly our people, which have the potential to turn us into a powerhouse if only they were properly nurtured and supported.


The Liberals and Conservatives focus on corporate bailouts and photo opportunities. They like that system because it gives them the chance to cut ribbons and make big promises – but the reality of their failures are all around us. It’s a system that works for Liberals and Conservatives but it doesn’t work for New Brunswickers.


It is time for change! After 131 years of Liberal and Conservative governments we have a pretty good sense of the direction of them, and feel that the NDP can do better. We have for years put up with the struggling economy and endless scandals under the Liberals and Conservatives. Instead of focussing on the priorities that matter to New Brunswickers, priorities such as health care, good jobs, education, fixing our roads – they have cut them.


New Brunswickers can count on the NDP to stand up for a better, more equal New Brunswick where no one is left behind. Let’s continue to work together to build a better country and a better future for our children and grandchildren.