Mel Norton’s campaign for the Provincial Conservative leadership continued Friday at UNB Saint John, where he met with students to discuss policy and to encourage greater political engagement among young people.
At the event, Norton spoke candidly on a range of issues from financial assistance for post-secondary students to economic development.
When asked about his approach to post-secondary education, Norton stressed the importance of ensuring that university remains accessible for all New Brunswickers.
Norton praised the Liberal Party’s new Tuition Access Bursary for increasing accessibility, but criticized the program for being poorly thought out.
He also lamented the decision to fund the new initiative by cutting the tuition rebate program and tuition tax credits, two programs which he claims help keep skilled workers in the province.
“We did have a program with the tuition tax credit that provided an incentive for people to come to New Brunswick and stay New Brunswick because you received a tax credit to stay in the province,” said Norton.
Norton told students that, if elected leader of the Tories, he would push for a more balanced approach to post-secondary financial assistance that would combine elements of the Tuition Access Bursary with the now defunct tuition tax credit and rebate program.
This would increase the proportion of students eligible to receive provincial funding for post-secondary education.
Beyond education policy, Norton also touched on the role of economic development in both attracting and retaining skilled workers in New Brunswick.
Specifically, he outlined an economic development plan that would see reductions in business tax, combined with a more aggressive effort to nurture US trade.
Moreover, Norton also cited the importance of developing New Brunswick’s energy sector through both conventional projects like the Energy East pipeline and by supporting the province’s burgeoning renewable energy industry.
While questions of educational policy and economic development were undoubtedly a priority for students, Norton also took time to emphasize the importance of the provincial Conservative Leadership Convention in shaping the direction of New Brunswick and the necessity of student participation in this process.
“We encourage every student regardless of political stripe… to get involved with [the PC Leadership Convention], because this process is truly about the future leadership in New Brunswick,” says Norton. “The students that are at this university…are truly the future and current leaders of New Brunswick … and we need that input.”
The Leadership Convention will be held on October 21 and 22 at the Aitken Center at UNB-Fredericton, as well as various sites around the province.
People who would like to vote for the next NB Progressive Conservative leader must register to vote at www.pcnb.ca before October 7.
Students can vote on the UNB Saint John campus in the Whitebone Lounge on October 22.