The competition for votes between local New Democrats and Greens was evident in Sackville on Sunday as New Brunswick’s NDP leader expressed pride in her party’s platform commitment to a Carbon Reduction Fund.
“Our environmental plank is greener than the Green’s by a mile,” Jennifer McKenzie declared generating applause and cheers from a small group of NDP supporters at Goya’s Pizza on Main Street.
Later, during an interview, McKenzie acknowledged that her comment was “a little bit of rhetoric, I was speaking to a friendly crowd,” but she added that the NDP’s is “the only environmental plank from all the parties that is fully funded.”
The NDP Carbon Reduction Fund would tax pollution that contributes to climate change generating almost $400 million in revenues.
McKenzie said a third of the money would be returned to low and middle-income earners as a rebate, another third would be invested in job-creating, renewable energy projects, with the remaining funds dedicated to programs such as making homes more energy efficient.
“The environmental plank was one of the last ones that we put out and it was developed within the youth wing of the party,” the NDP leader said, adding that young New Democrats looked at various plans around the world before developing a made-in-New-Brunswick version.
McKenzie also said that her party led the way when it promised a $15 per hour minimum wage in November of last year. (The Green election platform proposes to raise the current $11.25 minimum wage by $1 per year until it reaches $15.25.)
“We thought no other party would ever steal that plank,” McKenzie said, adding that the NDP were ahead of the Greens in proposing aid to post-secondary students including a 25 per cent reduction in tuition fees at publicly-funded universities. (To read what the Green platform says, click here.)
The NDP leader also expressed pride in her party’s promise of a universal pharmacare program that would cost the province $250 million per year. McKenzie says that ideally, the federal government would contribute another $250 million.
“We’re basically saying to the federal government, ‘look it’s time if you want to have some investment in seniors in this province, this would be the perfect way to do it,'” she said. “We would go ahead with it without the federal government, but the best-case scenario is the province is 50 per cent, the federal government is 50 per cent and we move forward as quickly as possible.”
Booze, fat and sugar
McKenzie also took aim at the Liberals and Conservatives for trying to woo voters with fewer restrictions on alcohol and junk food.
On Saturday, the Liberal leader Brian Gallant promised a number of measures to “modernize liquor laws” including allowing more convenience stores to sell beer, wine and liquor.
A few days earlier, Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs said a PC government would scrap the nutrition policy that, among other things, bans the sale of fatty or sugary foods in school cafeterias.
“I think it sounds a bit desperate,” McKenzie replied when asked about the Liberal and PC promises.
“They’re looking for a populist kind of dollar-a-beer policies and the NDP has been very careful to stay above that, to talk about the things that matter to people that will make a real difference in their lives and to talk about our platform as a whole and how it will transform our economy and transform our society to one that is greener and more progressive,” she said.
To read a 2015 report from New Brunswick’s chief medical officer on the health, social and economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption, click here.
To read a 2012 report from the chief medical officer on the costs of obesity in New Brunswick, click here.
To read an earlier Warktimes story about liquor stores vying for sales along the TransCanada Highway, click here.