Feature

7 N.B. Business Leaders Share Their Thoughts On Important Election Issues

Kelly Lawson (Image: Submitted)

With the New Brunswick election less than a week away, many people across the province are thinking about how they plan to cast their ballot on Monday (if they haven’t already).

There’s a lot of things to think about, with all the political parties offering different views on things like immigration, environment, education and of course, the economy.

We asked some folks in New Brunswick’s private sector about the issues care about in this election:

Kelly Lawson, Founder and Owner of Ella

Lawson is concerned about how candidates plan to address New Brunswick’s fiscal situation on various fronts.

“We are the poorest province, we are the slowest growing province, the population is shrinking, the costs are going up,” says Lawson.

“I care about a government that will bring back the tuition rebate that kept graduates in our province, and I want a government that is willing to examine all aspects of tax fairness, including how we incentivize or obstruct small businesses and startups from thriving in our province.”

Addressing climate change and increasing the province’s population are other key issues for Lawson. Growing the province’s urban centres is another.

“Most importantly, I stand behind my Mayor Don Darling in wanting a provincial government that will help grow our cities, creating some sustainability in how New Brunswickers live,” says Lawson. “We don’t have a sustainable future without growing cities. According to 8citiesnb.com our cities have solutions and we need a government that will act in support of these.”

Anne McShane, Owner of The Feel Good Store

Anne McShane, owner of the Feel Good Store.
Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle

As a small business owner in Saint John, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, McShane says implementing a living wage is an issue that’s important to her.

“I’m super supportive of a living wage for all. The one piece I feel is missing in this conversation is the provincial government’s piece beyond policy. I’d like to see the basic personal tax exemption amount increased to account for a living wage,” she says. “If we all believe in providing a living wage, and I think we do, I think the government should support this in decreasing the tax burden on this basic living wage. It would meet businesses in the middle and show real skin in the game by policymakers.”

McShane says giving the province’s municipalities flexibility and more autonomy is another big issue.

“A consistent issue I hear often has to do with bylaw enforcement and management of issues on a municipal level which are often handcuffed by provincial policy,” she says. “More flexibility to allow municipalities to improve operations and resulting urban quality of life is definitely welcome. This includes everything from Motor Vehicle Act issues to derelict building management.”

Kevin Kilbride, President of Therma-Ray

Kevin Kilbride (Image: Submitted)

The CEO of the Fredericton-based radiant heating solutions company says workers compensation is one of the big issues he cares about this election.

“The rates are increasing substantially and will continue to do so for the next few years when in fact accident rates have fallen,” says Kilbride. “The legislation that removed the tribunal panel and put the decisions in the hand of a group of lawyers has been a terrible mistake.”

Another big issue is a carbon tax.

“To what end will this be beneficial? If you look at the Kyoto Protocols, Atlantic Canada is already below those levels, we’ve met it then some,” he says. “The reason is that we don’t have big industry like the other provinces yet we’ll be expected to pay more to subsidize the other provinces. Where’s the incentive? What is the net effect?”

Then, of course, there is support for business, not just through tax breaks, but by other means.

“Businesses need help in training employees because you can’t find any. Everything revolves around sales yet very few companies big or small have methods to train salespeople,” says Kilbride. “Many companies need help in that area or help in knowing how to hire good salespeople. It isn’t a case of making some tax announcement, or initiative, there is work to be done to allow business to access support tools. I haven’t heard any parties address this one.”

Robyn Tingley, Founder and CEO of GlassSky

Robyn Tingley (Image: Submitted)

Tingley is one of the founders of Women for 50%, a new group of New Brunswick women leaders who joined together with the goal to increase female participation in the 2018 provincial election. So it’s no surprise that getting more women to participate in the democratic process is the big issues she cares about this election. In the last election, only eight women won seats in the legislature.

“This is among the worst in the country – not a record any of us should be proud of, and not one that represents the citizens who make up our province,” says Tingley.

“Women bring unique insights to key issues we are facing – senior care, education, poverty – because women are the ones primarily dealing with these issues first-hand, day in and day out.”

This time around, there are 93 women running for seats.

“We got these women on the ballot; we now have to vote for them. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves, do we want a government that truly reflects the citizens they represent? A government that can look at problems from different perspectives and come up with innovative solutions?” says Tingley. “Half of New Brunswick’s population is women. It’s time our elected officials look more like the voters and the people they serve. ”

Jeremy Jackson, Vice-President of Marketing and Program Development at Killam REIT

Jeremy Jackson (Image: Killam)

As a vice-president of a property management company, Jackson is among many property owners and managers speaking out about double taxation.

“We want a very strong and healthy and vibrant economy for New Brunswick. And we want it to attract new business and new developments, and we want to ensure opportunities that the young people of New Brunswick are going stay and prosper in that province,” he says. “That helps all of us. We are all about wanting to make New Brunswick stronger, it just helps our business and our communities be stronger as well.”

“Clearly, anything that’s going to make the economy stronger that’s going to attract new business and that’s gonna attract new development, we’re all for that,” he says. “Double tax rates work against that.”

Erin Flood, CEO of GoDo

Erin Flood.
Image: Submitted

As a data specialist, Flood says she’s looking for candidates that speak and make promises based on facts.

“It’s no longer acceptable for politicians to stand up and make promises without data and evidence, or narratives to explain to citizens exactly how these promises will work, and be executed on. We’ve come into a time of mistrust in politics, and it is the candidate’s responsibility to rebuild that network of trust,” says Flood. “Furthermore, their narrative should speak to how they will build a sustainable province thinking to the future, rather than the short-term, immediately gratifying investments that we often see in these four-year election cycles.”

She says she hopes that candidates in this election will consider how they might strengthen the current relationship between the public and private sector.

“These two sectors cannot be opposing forces, and by leveraging the expertise that we have in the provinces private sector, I believe the public sector stands to benefit a great deal in a number of ways and vice versa,” says Flood.

“I hope that we will see more focus on supporting new and existing business in the province; a continued investment in early education, poverty reduction; and very importantly, an increase in investment in welcoming our newcomers.”

James Crosby, President, Crosby’s Molasses
William, Jim and James Crosby

William, Jim and James Crosby. Image: submitted

Crosby is concerned about the state of the economy and government finances that make it hard for entrepreneurs to take the necessary risks to help grow the economy and create jobs.

“As a small business operator, my biggest concern is about the strength of our economy and our ability to remain competitive while operating from New Brunswick,” says Crosby. “I’m concerned that if we don’t get our debt under control, future governments will be looking to further increase taxes. The young people of our province are leaving because there aren’t enough job opportunities. We need to create a more supportive environment for business because it’s our appetite for risk that drives growth and creates jobs.”

He also says business costs need to be brought under control in a number of areas.

“It’s difficult to find the capital to innovate and grow when the cost of doing business is rising…labour, energy, taxes et cetera.”

Finally, Crosby says tax cuts in the U.S. and tariffs have hurt the country’s manufacturers.

“With recent changes to U.S. tax policy, Canadian manufacturers have lost an advantage,” he says. “I’m also deeply concerned about the Canada- U.S. trade dispute and believe that food ingredients and packaging should be removed from the retaliatory tariff list.