FREDERICTON (CUP) — New Brunswick Premier David Alward talked about a lot of things during his state of the province address in Fredericton on Jan. 30, but post-secondary education wasn’t one of them.
Alward mainly spoke about the importance of developing the province’s natural resource sector: the fossil fuels industry, developing mining projects and a forestry plan.
“Developing a domestic oil and natural gas industry is the right thing to do because it will provide jobs and opportunity for our people and our local businesses right here at home,” Alward said in his speech.
He also spoke of the importance of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the province.
“At the heart of our innovation strategy, we want to encourage start-ups and intellectual property development, create the right environment for those brilliant people to flourish and then help export these ideas all over the world,” Alward said. “And we can do it all in jobs here at home.”
The role of post-secondary education (PSE) and universities in any of the government’s plans were not mentioned in the speech. But Alward did talk about expanding the province’s One Job Pledge program, a program where the government subsidizes the salary of a newly created position for a post-secondary graduate for one year.
“This initiative surpassed its initial goal of creating 650 jobs, and is nearing the revised target of 850 jobs,” Alward said. “And so we’re not looking to challenge ourselves and each New Brunswick employer further by expanding the program’s target to 1,000 jobs.”
Liberal leader Brian Gallant said the party doesn’t agree with how the provincial government is approaching innovation, saying universities need to be more involved in it.
“You have to invest in the fundamentals and that’s what we’ve been proposing. That’s what we’re pushing,” Gallant said.
If elected premier in this year’s provincial election, Gallant said he would cut parental contribution in provincial student loans and work to link students with jobs and opportunities in the private sector.
Pat Joyce, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA), said the premier’s speech didn’t capture what they’ve seen from the province in terms of PSE.
“We’ve seen the province adopt a new Labour Force and Skills Development Strategy that has a lot to do with post-secondary and its role in developing the labour market. And that wasn’t really well-reflected in [Alward’s statement],” Joyce said.
“But while we know government is doing some positive things for post-secondary it wasn’t a major topic of focus, which is unfortunate.”
Joyce said they would have liked to hear more about the government’s current review of student financial aid and well as the work being done the new strategy.
“I think it means that for everyone, post-secondary needs to be a bigger priority and that’s something that we’re pushing,” Joyce said.
From Feb. 4 to Feb. 7 the NBSA will be hosting a provincial advocacy week, where students will be meeting with MLAs and members of all parties to talk about PSE strategy.
“We’re looking forward to meeting with folks next week and moving forward with each of the parties on advancing their PSE platforms,” Joyce said.