New Brunswick becomes the first province to sign on to national program that will create new opportunities for vulnerable communities and laid-off workers

Fredericton, NB

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, joined by New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, today announced that the Government of Canada will provide New Brunswick with $30 million as part of a new national Community Development Trust designed to help provinces and territories assist communities and workers suffering economic hardship caused by the current volatility in global financial and commodities markets.

“The Government of Canada will assist vulnerable communities and laid-off workers by investing $1 billion in the Community Development Trust,” Prime Minister Harper said. “This is a major new national initiative under which our Government will support provincial and territorial efforts to build a stronger, better future for communities and workers who have been hurt by international economic volatility.”

The Prime Minister and the Premier made the announcement at the Marwood lumber mill, just outside Fredericton. New Brunswick’s forest industry has been particularly hard hit by exchange rate fluctuations and turmoil in the U.S. housing sector.

“These are indeed difficult times for the forest industry, workers and communities right across Canada. Forestry has long been the engine that drives the New Brunswick economy and the recent downturn has hurt our province,” Premier Graham said. “We must find ways to diversify our economy and move away from the concept of one industry towns. We are hopeful that today’s announcement will help us achieve those goals and we are pleased that the Prime Minister and his Government have made this commitment.”

The New Brunswick Government has identified several measures that will help move the province toward this goal, including:

  • Supporting economic adjustment in hard-pressed communities such as Dalhousie, Bathurst, Miramichi and others.
  • Funding research and development related to innovative uses of engineered wood, biofuels and energy efficiency.
  • Analyzing the New Brunswick forest industry’s competitive position in world markets.
  • Examining opportunities for supplying natural gas to northern communities in order to lower industry energy costs.
  • Accelerating opportunities in the mining sector.

The Community Development Trust will be funded out of the 2007-2008 budgetary surplus. The Trust will have a three-year lifespan starting as soon as Parliament approves the required budgetary legislation. A base amount of $10 million will be allocated to each province and $3 million to each territory. The balance of the funding will be allocated on a per capita basis.

“The program is aimed at one industry towns facing major downturns, or communities plagued by chronic high unemployment, or regions hit by layoffs across a range of sectors,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Among other things, it will support job training to create opportunities for workers in sectors facing labour shortages and community transition plans that foster economic development and create new jobs, and infrastructure development that stimulates economic diversification.”

“Working together, Ottawa and all the provinces and territories can turn the economic challenges we face today into economic opportunities for all of us tomorrow,” the Prime Minister concluded.