News

Jennifer McKenzie Announces Support for $15 Minimum Wage

“Today I announce that the New Brunswick NDP will join the campaign for a $15 minimum wage “ said Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the New Brunswick NDP in an announcement in Saint John today. New Brunswick families deserve a fair wage and a decent living. That’s why an NDP government would increase the minimum wage by $1 a year for four years until it reaches $15 an hour.”

 

“We cannot prosper and thrive in New Brunswick if each and every one of our workers can’t feel safe and secure at work and able to get ahead financially. Other provinces are now moving to recognise the harm to all of society when we have too much income inequality. Ontario and Alberta have now joined a North American movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage. Its time we did too.”

 

The New Democratic Party will also address the world of working men and women and help to make real improvements in their working conditions and incomes in the upcoming election.

 

“Today I announce that an NDP government would conduct a comprehensive review of employment standards in the province with the clear objectives:

 

To improve the working lives, working conditions , and well being of all New Brunswick workers;

 

To increase the coverage of employment standard legislation to those currently excluded by the legislation;

 

To introduce common employer provisions to make franchisors responsible for the working conditions of employees of franchisees;

 

To end the practices of split shifts , call ins without pay and never knowing when you are scheduled to work’”

 

“We will run on a package of labour reforms that will help improve the lives of women and reduce youth out-migration” say the leader,   “I want to make the voices of women a priority in our political discussions and working women are disproportionately represented in low paying precarious work.”

NDP Statement on Campbellton-Dalhousie By-election

Today Don Arsenault, who was one of the top ministers in the Gallant Liberal government, has resigned, forcing a by-election in Campbellton-Dalhousie, less than a year before a general election.

 

“The resignation of one of Premier Gallant’s top cabinet ministers, who would rather take a private sector job than stay in this Liberal caucus, is further evidence that the Gallant Liberals are in a state of disarray” said NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie.

 

“Too many New Brunswickers already believe that politicians do not serve their best interests. We need an ethical, moral government that puts the people’s interest ahead of their own,” said Ms. McKenzie. “For over a century the Liberals and Conservatives have been in government. It will take a new party to clean up the old boys club in New Brunswick. The NDP is ready to bring about that change.”

‘We Want More Eggs And More Baskets’

Commentary in The Daily Gleaner by Jennifer McKenzie, New Brunswick NDP Leader

 

Since becoming leader of the New Brunswick NDP, I’ve been working hard, travelling around the province listening to the concerns of New Brunswickers. More and more, I’m hearing from families that the cost of living is forcing them to make tough decisions at the end of each month.

Families who work for low wages face impossible choices — buy clothing or heat the house, purchase groceries or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. In many cases, it means that the adults in the family are working long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities. They have little time to spend with their families, much less to help their children with school work or to participate in community activities.

Young people are struggling to pay today’s high rent prices and higher tuition prices at the same time. Too many seniors can no longer manage both the heating bill and the rent. All while the government just keeps asking us all to pay extra – for university tuition, for basic supplies in seniors care, for fees for provincial parks and more.

The frustration of working harder only to fall further behind is one to which many New Brunswickers can relate. Too many New Brunswick families are taking home a smaller share of the economic pie despite working longer hours, getting more education and contributing to a growing economy.

The government just doesn’t get the everyday reality for many New Brunswick families.

Many families in our province are struggling to make ends meet, and the decisions by successive Liberal and Conservative governments are making that worse.

The two old parties keeps asking New Brunswick families to pay extra … for NB Power, for HST, for property taxes, for fuel taxes, for tuition for college and university, and the list goes on and on. Even food prices have been rising higher and higher with no end in sight.

The cuts to health care and education by successive Liberal and Conservative governments also mean that we’re forced to pay extra far too often. Like hiring private nursing help when health care and seniors care fall short; paying extra for class fees; or hiring a tutor when a child can’t get time with an educational assistant or one-on-one help in the classroom.

New Brunswick workers and businesses are doing their part – growing our province and delivering good news for our economy – but the Gallant Liberals aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Instead of focusing on what matters to New Brunswick families, the government has wasted far too much of our money on their own misplaced priorities.

While the two old parties looks out for their friends and insiders while they dismiss the real concerns that keep coming forward, my NDP and I will team will keep listening to New Brunswick people and focusing on what matters most to them.

The Gallant Liberals have been wasting an incredible opportunity to diversify our economy so we can end the boom-and-bust cycle and ensure our prosperity is sustainable for the long term.

Natural-resource jobs and the money that resources put into New Brunswick’s economy should have been a boon, but consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments haven’t even kept royalty rates the same. They have reduced the rates paid for our resources time and time again.

We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We want more eggs and more baskets. We’ll deliver good, mortgage-paying jobs by encouraging growth in knowledge-based fields such as research, science and technology, clean energy, and in arts and culture, including film and television.

The NDP wants New Brunswick to do well, and we want New Brunswickers do well. It’s time for a government that looks out for us.

Jennifer McKenzie is the leader of the provincial New Democratic Party.

Gallant’s Uninspiring Throne Speech

Commentary in the Telegraph-Journal by Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the New Brunswick NDP

The Liberal Government delivered a singularly uninspired and unfocused Speech from the Throne last week at the first sitting of the Legislature, in the final session of their mandate. The lack of applause from anyone but the Liberals themselves was deafening.

Liberals cite three priorities for the coming year as being the economy, health care and education, which they say are the three main priorities of New Brunswickers. Even if so, their record in all three areas is nothing to crow about.

Tens of millions of dollars have been given in the name of creating dubious short term or non-existent jobs at corporations like Sears and TD Bank, the latter of whom recorded a $2.4 billion profit in the first quarter of this year. Any growth – which they like to give as a compound rate over three years to make it seem inflated – is as a result of factors well outside of their control, like federal infrastructure spending (and why are there so many Nova Scotia and Quebec work crews on our roads?) or a strong U.S. economy and U.S. tourists fleeing to Canada from Trump.

On health care, they fare far worse. Gallant capitulated into a deal with his federal counterparts that does not account for the fact that we are the oldest and fastest-aging province in Canada. This means that our health care costs will rise faster than anyone else’s, without a corresponding increase in our health care transfer funding line. Each year the province will be squeezed tighter and tighter on the largest line item in the province’s budget. No wonder they want to hide behind handing over the management of home nursing to Medavie, a private company. Things are going to get progressively worse in coming years and Gallant’s Liberals wish to have their backsides well-covered.

In education, high illiteracy rates continue to dominate the headlines and post secondary enrolment rates continue to decline.

Now let’s get to the unmet promises that got them elected. In the last election, Gallant promised that every New Brunswicker would have a family doctor by 2018. Where are we on that file? There are two months left until 2018 and we get vague promises of working with the Medical Society to get more family doctors in place?

Gallant also promised to get the property tax system sorted out. Well, that went well didn’t it? Cities like Saint John are left holding the bag and being forced into austerity-style cuts. Who gets hurt by austerity? The poor, the vulnerable, the aged.

It is indeed ironic that anti-poverty initiatives are underway in Saint John while the Liberal government has so badly mismanaged, and continues to mismanage, the property tax file. As Mayor Don Darling and his council so clearly pointed out in their motion, the tax system is broken. Just the taxes alone missed on the Canaport LNG property – where the province hired an American pro-industry firm to do the property value assessment – could have wiped out food bank use in Saint John and beyond every year from now on.

Two measures in the throne speech deserve support: amendments to labour laws to permit binding arbitration to settle a first contract and the intention to bring in amendments to occupational health and safety laws, which make violence in the workplace an occupational hazard. These are both long-overdue changes. They are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of changes needed to protect workers in this province, issues that will be addressed head-on by the NDP in the coming election.

It is extremely difficult to watch a government pretend that it has progressive intentions at the very last minute – when its actions to date clearly show that it does not. The tragedy is that progressive policies are indeed the ones that can save this province, attract and keep youth here, and lead us into prosperity. But they have to be part of a comprehensive and cohesive plan not a scattergun, last-minute plan to get re-elected.

Today there is an obvious need for a real alternative to the two-party system in New Brunswick and to put an end to the complacency and entitlement we see in our elected officials. To break the destructive pattern, New Brunswick must turn to a party that believes in good government and a strong public sector, and that doesn’t look to the private sector to run government. I intend to present the NDP as that alternative as a ready-to-govern option in every part of the province.

This election must be about what kind of future we want for our youth. We must create an economy and a society that our youth believe in and want to stay for. It’s time for change.

Jennifer McKenzie is leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party.

Jennifer McKenzie Commentary on Throne Speech

The Gallant Liberals have an abysmal record on healthcare which includes capitulating into a deal with their federal counterparts that does not account for the fact that we are the oldest and fastest aging province in Canada. Likely to shield themselves from the effects of this as healthcare costs rise, they have privatized and continue to privatize parts of the healthcare system we hold dear, like Extra Mural and Tele-Care. Only an NDP government would be assured of keeping our healthcare system public.

Vague promises of working with the Medical Society to get more family doctors are much different from the very explicit promise he made in the last election that every New Brunswicker would have a family doctor by 2018. There’s two months left until 2018 and far too many New Brunswickers are still without a family doctor.

I applaud the decision to finally implement First Contract Legislation which has been an NDP policy for years, however, the implementation of this bill is now urgent because of the healthcare privatization initiatives that this government is implementing.

Violence in the Workplace Legislation is also urgent now due to government neglect of this issue. Too many women and men experience violence in the workplace and have to wait three days to qualify for compensation. As New Brunswick is one of the last provinces to implement this legislation, how can this government call itself a pro-worker government when it only gets around to implementing Violence in the Workplace Legislation in the last year of its mandate?

Of course, the NDP completely supports more investments in childcare. During the 2014 campaign the Gallant Liberals also proposed greater investments on childcare than this throne speech offered. In fact, Brian Gallant called it a “no-brainer” pledging 6,000 new childcare spaces and $62 million to help low income parents afford childcare. These throne speech promises pale in comparison to the Gallant Liberals’ own campaign promises, offering only a fraction of what they promised to do to get elected in the first place.

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