On January 18th, the New Brunswick Lung Association met with the Honourable Ernie Steeves as part of a private pre-budget consultation for 2021-2022. Below is a list of topics and rational that the New Brunswick Lung Association recommended for the upcoming fiscal year. The public is invited to comment as well, follow this link to submit your own suggestions, or get some inspiration from our points below!
NB Lung's Pre-Budget Suggestions for 2021-2022
Protecting the environment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a critically important process that aims to protect New Brunswick environments and people from the negative impacts of industrial development projects. The New Brunswick EIA Regulation is very out-of-date and not aligned with modern best practices used elsewhere in Canada.
New Brunswickers want to ensure that industrial developments will not compromise their health, their environment or the social fabric that makes New Brunswick such a great place to live and raise a family.
The NBLA led a committee to review the EIA Regulation. We have described the need for change, the benefits that could arise from stronger legislation, current weaknesses and areas where the Regulation is out of date, and have made recommendations that will modernize the process. Our recommendations are enclosed with this letter.
A healthy biodiverse environment is foundational to the resilient health of New Brunswickers. Pollinators and soil microbiota are essential to our food supply. Wetlands cleanse water. Plants release oxygen. A biodiverse ecosystem is resilient against the effects of climate change. Biodiversity is at risk in our province. Government should prioritize its protection by expanding connected protected natural spaces, increasing riparian protection buffers (with no exceptions), and limit glyphosate use.
Addressing the impacts of climate change
In New Brunswick, climate change impacts are putting our health and safety at risk: we are experiencing flooding, sea level rise, more frequent and intense storms, longer heatwaves, forest fires, and more disease carrying insects. A low-carbon economy is essential to meeting our 2030 and 2050 targets that will protect how and where we live, our quality of life, and the prosperity of all New Brunswickers.
New Brunswick should prepare for a swift transition to the low carbon economy. Investing in training programs for tradespeople in renewable energy and home energy efficiency retrofits will enable the province to capitalize on forthcoming Federal investments in these areas, and stimulate the local economy.
Zero emission vehicles are a key component to a low carbon economy. Government fleet should be transitioned from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles (EVs) as they are replaced, with a goal of an eventual fully electric government fleet.
Since 2015, NB Lung has been engaging New Brunswickers to increase uptake in EVs and we are a key stakeholder on the EV Advisory Group. Repeatedly, we hear from the public that the main barrier to individuals purchasing EVs is the lack of financial incentives in this province. Not only does this make the price point inaccessible for some, but it is also preventing New Brunswick car dealerships from obtaining vehicles from the manufacturers, as the inventory is being selectively distributed to provinces providing rebates.
Investment to make you healthier
New Brunswickers continue to struggle with access to primary medical care. An effective, long-term recruitment and retention strategy for doctors and nurses urgently needs to be implemented.
To address the growing vaping epidemic in our province, stronger regulations must be a government priority to protect the immediate and long-term health of New Brunswickers.
In our changing climate, we are experiencing an increase in frequency and intensity of hot days that put people’s health at risk. Heat warnings and communication from Public Health of simple strategies to keep cool (such as taking a cool bath to get relief from the heat) have little to no cost and are an effective tool to prevent heat illness and death.
Private sector investment to support a stronger, more resilient economy.
Government should align private sector investment into transitioning to a low carbon economy. With federal initiatives forthcoming to support energy efficient home retrofits, New Brunswick needs to be positioned to fulfill the demand for both skilled labour and materials. The demand for energy efficient retrofits will be sustained for many years as we move toward carbon neutrality.
Supporting the growth of vibrant and sustainable communities
Our small communities are key to a vibrant, sustainable New Brunswick. Government can support the growth and vibrancy of our small communities by ensuring access to high speed internet. Physical connection between communities can be improved by government initiated small scale mass transit. In many instances, passenger vans would be a sufficient vehicle to achieve this (i.e., mass transit need not be limited to expensive highway bus networks).
Given the existential threat of climate change, and the urgency of required actions, climate change considerations should be a requirement of all decisions made by local governments.
Tools and resources for our education system
As an employer, we have seen that writing skills in our province are poor. To support the prosperity of our province in both the short and long term, government needs to improve standards in both teaching and assessment to improve writing and reading comprehension. The strength of our future workforce, and indeed the economy, hinge on these critical skills.
Bilingualism should be supported in the classroom at all learning levels. Ideally, starting in early learning centres. A wide array of language applications for smart phones and computers are available for free and could be implemented in a classroom setting. It is well known that early introduction to other languages leads to greater success, and we can do more to integrate both languages in the classroom.
What we have learned from the pandemic
COVID-19 has taught us that many New Brunswickers are just barely getting by and/or are falling through the cracks of our social support net. Reliance on food banks soared. Volunteers were unable to serve the needs of our most vulnerable populations. Children who relied on school meal programs went without. Seniors suffered from isolation. Access to mental health services involved more barriers. These areas are critically important to our society, and long-term, resilient solutions need to be identified.
We have also seen the benefit of consistent targeted messaging from government officials to encourage the public to take preventative actions and adapt. This approach can equally be applied to the climate change and vaping risks to the public.
Services to be moved online to reduce cost/increase flexibility
We expect that government will conduct a review of services that were moved online out of necessity during COVID, and identify which services were able to maintain an equivalent level of service while incurring cost savings. In absence of that data, we postulate that many of the services offered by Service New Brunswick could be moved online to increase flexibility/accessibility while also reducing cost.
Virtual visits with doctors was a welcome outcome of the pandemic for many New Brunswickers. While not a cost saving measure, this service increases accessibility to medical care for simple issues by taking less time out the patient’s day, while keeping them away from doctors’ office waiting rooms that represent a potential risk of acquiring an infection (COVID or other communicable disease). We hope to see a continuation of this service post-COVID, where appropriate.
New Brunswick is missing out on a significant revenue source as large corporations are not required to pay their fair share. We need stronger regulations to prevent offshore tax sheltering, and appropriate property taxation.