Question Period: Capital Budget and Green Infrastructure – December 16, 2015

The following is the preliminary Hansard transcript of the Question Period on December 10, 2015 recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

Mr. Coon: This week, the government will table its capital budget for debate. Here is the good news: The Prime Minister has indicated that, under his leadership, $20 billion will be invested in social infrastructure over the next decade for things like affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, and early childhood learning centres. These are all the kinds of social infrastructure that we desperately need in New Brunswick. Has the Minister of Finance placed a higher priority on investing in social infrastructure, given that the Prime Minister has made it one of his priorities?

L’hon. M. Melanson : Le fait que nous avons maintenant un partenaire à Ottawa est une bonne nouvelle. Nous avons finalement un partenaire à Ottawa qui pourra investir avec nous dans notre province afin de faire en sorte que des dossiers comme celui que mentionne le député puissent progresser. Comme le savent bien les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick et l’opposition, nous avons décidé, en tant que gouvernement, d’investir stratégiquement dans les immobilisations ici, au Nouveau- Brunswick. Premièrement, nous voulons stimuler l’économie ; deuxièmement, nous voulons avoir des infrastructures adéquates. Le dossier de l’habitation au Nouveau-Brunswick fait certainement partie de tout cela. Les grandes lignes du budget d’immobilisations seront déposées demain. Lorsque nous aurons des discussions formelles avec le gouvernement fédéral au sujet de ses intentions en matière d’investissements, nous pourrons répondre à la demande avec notre programme
d’investissements stratégiques, selon notre capacité de payer.
Mr. Coon: More good news: One of the priorities of the Prime Minister is to make substantial
investments to improve public transit in Canada’s cities, to strengthen our communities, to grow their economies, and to cut carbon pollution. Historically, the provincial government has not supported transit in our cities, unlike most provincial governments. In light of this, is the Minister of Finance now open to investing in public transit in our cities?
Hon. Mr. Melanson: Contrary to the member’s statement, we have invested in public transit. We have done it in a few areas of the province, and it is certainly something that we support. It is the right thing to do when it is possible. Again, with regard to the strategic investment initiatives that we have built into our capital program, these will allow us, as a government, to invest strategically, in partnership with the federal government. In a true partnership with the federal government, we will be able to stimulate the economy in the province and create some jobs but also respond to some of the needs that we see in our province in terms of housing—there is a great need there—or helping out the most vulnerable in our society. We are very pleased to be presenting a capital budget tomorrow. We are also very pleased that, with the Strategic Infrastructure Initiative, we will have the flexibility to do so.
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the third party, this is your final question.
Mr. Coon: Again, the Prime Minister has committed to spending $6 billion in sustainable
infrastructure to fight climate change and protect us from its consequences. New green
infrastructure is needed to cut carbon pollution, and we need more carbon-resilient infrastructure to withstand the kind of flooding that has plagued New Brunswick with the increase in rainstorms and storm surges. Does the Minister of Finance see an opportunity to help New Brunswick make the transition to a low-carbon economy by tapping into these funds?

Hon. Mr. Melanson: That is a good question. In the first fiscal year, we invested in the home energy retrofit program. Tomorrow, we will see what there is for the coming year.
Again, our Strategic Infrastructure Initiative will allow us to react to or act on what the federal government brings forward. We are still waiting for those specific criteria. We are still waiting to have a formal conversation with the federal government with regard to some of the initiatives it wants to bring forward, and we will certainly be at the table to discuss them. We will be at the table to get as much as we can on behalf of New Brunswickers, to address some of the issues the opposition member is raising and, certainly, to address the needs of New Brunswickers with regard to infrastructure and potentially green infrastructure.