There are two versions of New Brunswick.
One is occupied by Premier Blaine Higgs and those in his orbit.
The second is where everyone else resides.
How else can you explain a recent statement from the Premier in the Legislature. While debating his government’s recent budget, Premier Higgs called New Brunswick “the have-not province that has it all.”
In his world, money is the key. New Brunswick has had back-to-back surpluses totalling nearly a billion dollars. For the Premier this validates his approach to governing and politics, hence the comment that New Brunswick has it all.
One could argue, the economy takes precedence over everything for this government. This is evident in the statement from Finance Minister Ernie Steeves to CBC regarding the budget, “Last year COVID was such a fear and that was certainly negative, and you know what? Things turned out wonderfully,” he said. “Not for everyone sick with COVID. I’m not saying that. But financially it turned out well.”
So in Higgs’ New Brunswick, surpluses in the economy means a job well done, everything is going well. It should be pointed out most of the surplus is due to funds from Ottawa to the province, not financial wizardry from Steeves or Higgs.
In the New Brunswick where the rest of us reside, things are still weighted towards the have-nots. Despite the near billion dollars in the provincial coffers:
- Thousands of New Brunswickers don’t have access to a family doctor
- Wait times at emergency rooms continue to climb
- Offload times for ambulances are ballooning
- Housing prices are skyrocketing
- Affordable housing is scarce
- COVID-19 infection rates are high
This is just a partial list of issues facing the province and its people. We do not have an adequate number of healthcare workers to staff our hospitals. Healthcare workers and teachers are facing burnout at an unprecedented rate, but at least the numbers on a spreadsheet look healthy.
In Higgs’ world, you also don’t have to learn from your mistakes. Remember when he and other politicians chicken danced at the end of COVID-19 protections in the summer. Well, we did it again in early March despite all signs pointing to lifting all measures being a mistake.
In the everyday New Brunswick world, the lifting of protections has resulted in increased pressure on the healthcare system, education system and the need for some protections to return.
In the Premier’s world trickle-down economics are viable: Give tax breaks and public money to the rich and it will help those in the lower economic rungs.
In the regular New Brunswick world, we know that decades upon decades of evidence proved this approach never worked. The rich continue to accumulate and hoard wealth while making it more and more difficult for those in the lower economic rungs to achieve any sort of upward mobility. Proof of this is in the inflated prices for houses in New Brunswick, making it difficult for the average New Brunswickers to own a home as well as the massive rent increases from numerous landlords over the past two years.
New Brunswickers don’t have the option of living in Higgs world, we’re firmly planted in reality. We need our elected officials to understand and occupy the same space.
Susie Proulx-Daigle is the president of the New Brunswick Union.