Premier Brian Gallant spoke in broad, electoral strokes at the state of the province address on Jan. 25, highlighting the free tuition and child care programs as wins for New Brunswick post-secondary education and the economy.
“I am very proud to say that I am the premier, we are the government, that has invested the most in education in the history of our province,” he said on stage at the Fredericton Convention Centre to a crowd of 1,000 government officials and business people. With a provincial election looming, Gallant’s speech was a clear acceleration of the Liberal Party’s campaign.
“We’ll be unveiling some details soon, we’ll be doing more when it comes to debt avoidance in the province as well,” Gallant said in an interview after the event.
Gallant touched on how education is key, but “it can’t be our only focus” to building New Brunswick’s economy.
“We’re very pleased with the free tuition program so far, there’s been great uptake and we believe not only will it help ensure our students are able to go to university and college, they’re also going to have less of a debt afterwards,” he said.
Gallant also spoke of the daycare assistance program as beneficial for post-secondary education in the province. “
To be able to receive the free child care or the middle-class child care support a person would have to be either studying or working, so we also believe this is going to be a great way to have more people to be able to go to university and college to pursue their studies.”
Gallant said two of the challenges facing New Brunswick are an aging population and the protectionist views in the United States. The United States makes up 90 per cent of N.B.’s exports. His economy-focused speech put business as the central focus of the provincial government.
Jade Yhap is a master’s student in technology management and entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick. He attended the address as part of UNB’s young entrepreneurs table.
“I graduated with my bachelors just before the tuition rebate came out, however, the next year after my wife actually ended up using it because it saved us a bunch of money. She could stop working two jobs and work just one and get herself through school,” he said.
Still, Yhap, a Fredericton native, thinks there is room for the provincial government to improve the free tuition program, especially if they applied it to master’s students as well.
“Although we have a large population of undergrads, we have a large population of graduate students as well that are working on researching all sorts of different things that could help the province overall. It could be in biomed or things that we do in technology management or it could even be things in forestry,” Yhap said.
“But if they’re not getting funded to do that sort of thing either, they’ll probably leave the province.” The announcement on debt relief is expected to come in the next few weeks.