Why Growth Matters
For a long time, New Brunswick’s economy lagged behind the rest of Canada.
In 1960, per-capita personal income in New Brunswick was 40 per cent lower than the Canadian average. In 1976, 15.5 per cent of New Brunswickers earned low incomes. The province has regularly suffered from unemployment rates higher than the national average.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, New Brunswick made slow but steady progress in growing its economy. But, like the rest of the world, New Brunswick ran into the wall of the 2008 global financial crisis. Stock markets crashed, major capital projects were put on hold, the Canadian dollar fell and exports suffered. The recession hit New Brunswick hard. Between 2008 and 2014, real gross domestic product (GDP) in New Brunswick declined by 0.1 percent, while next door in Nova Scotia it rose by 5 per cent and in PEI grew by 9 per cent.
The recession exacerbated the looming demographic issues facing the province – today nearly 20 per cent of New Brunswick’s population are senior citizens, and that percentage will continue to increase for the next two decades. Correspondingly, the number of New Brunswickers under age 45 in the workforce continues to decline, putting increased pressure on the province’s labour markets.
These demographic realities put a sharp focus on the need for sustained economic and population growth.
The good news is that New Brunswick has achieved growth over the last few decades. We’ve tightened the gap with other provinces and today the difference in per-capita income between New Brunswick and the Canadian average is only 11 per cent.
Since 2014, average weekly earnings have increased by 2.7 per cent, compared to the Canadian average of 1.8 per cent. In 2015, the province grew at its fastest rate since the recession and retail sales have increased steadily.
2017 was a good year for New Brunswick. The province achieved real GDP growth of 1.5 per cent in 2017 and the Department of Finance is projecting that the province will grow by 1.0 per cent in 2018. The economy is growing stronger and exceeding expectations with robust growth in exports, new home construction and increased consumer spending resulting from employment and income growth. New Brunswick saw 5,400 new full-time jobs created in 2017, more than enough to offset the loss of 4,000 part-time jobs.
That growth has come through the hard work of New Brunswickers and the active engagement of the provincial government.
It’s a good start, but New Brunswick needs more growth.
A New Approach To Economic Development
New Brunswick is a small part of a large and complex global economy. We are not competing only with neighbouring provinces for investment, we are competing with the world.
That requires a new approach to economic development.
In response to this, your government introduced Opportunities NB (ONB) as the province’s lead economic development organization. It is mandated to foster the growth of local export-oriented industries, attract business investment into growth sectors and support the growth of new start-ups. It is led by a private sector board of directors made up of Canadian business leaders, including a number from New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick Jobs Board has been established to focus and co-ordinate economic development and job creation. The Jobs Board Secretariat is a small team of professionals set up to support the Jobs Board. The Secretariat will manage the implementation of the New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan and support cross-departmental co-operation on economic development and the fostering of policies and programs to strengthen the conditions for growth in the years ahead.
The New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan focuses on opening New Brunswick to the world. Government will embrace the increasingly global nature of the economy and seek to attract our share of global investment, talent and new ideas.
New Brunswick’s entrepreneurs are key. There are thousands of them all around the province, and they are the backbone of economies from Campbellton to Woodstock, from St. George to Saint-Léonard. Using our five pillars, we will ensure government policies and programming creates the conditions for entrepreneurs to build profitable businesses. Specific areas of focus include:
- Connecting entrepreneurs to capital
This continues to be a source of concern for many entrepreneurs. If New Brunswick is to achieve significant growth, it will take substantial new investment capital every year. There are many sources of funding, and government will do a better job of matching entrepreneurs with private sources of capital.
- Connecting entrepreneurs to community-based support services
A healthy and vibrant small business sector has access to mentors, expert advice on issues such as productivity and competitiveness as well as other support services. Many of these are already widely available, but there is a role for government to ensure broad use of these services to strengthen local economies.
- Fostering a positive environment for high-growth potential “Gazelle” start-ups
Government will build on the success of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the province’s start-up incubation and acceleration infrastructure to attract more dynamic entrepreneurs.
- Supporting business succession planning
Thousands of business owners are heading into retirement in the coming decade or so. Government will develop a strategy to determine its appropriate role to ensure this generational transition maximizes value for the economy and sets the foundation for a stronger future.
The New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan is composed of five pillars. These pillars, however, are not intended to be silos operating in isolation from each other. Each pillar must be supported to reach our goals. Each pillar provides a framework for policies, programs and strategies to be developed and implemented. They are also the lenses which potential opportunities will be reviewed through to ensure the greatest success.
Working together, we will achieve New Brunswick’s potential.