COMMENTARY – Between Government Vision, Challenges on the Ground and… Elections

Anthony Azard
Chief Executive Officer
Cap-Acadie Chamber of Commerce

January 26, 2024

Premier Blaine Higgs’ State of the Province address was an opportunity to highlight achievements from the government’s perspective in key areas such as economic development, health and education, while outlining future commitments. As an active member of the business community, I applaud these essential efforts for the well-being and prosperity of our province. Every day, I have the privilege of interacting with businesses and non-profit organizations who share their successes, opportunities, and challenges with me. However, Premier Higgs’ speech lacked any connection to what the business community is currently experiencing in Cap-Acadie and New Brunswick. It’s crucial to take a closer look at the challenges we’re facing, particularly in southeastern New Brunswick, a region that has experienced exponential economic growth.

This growth, while positive, has revealed problems such as housing shortages and an overburdened healthcare system. These issues have a direct impact on the quality of life of citizens and the ability of businesses to attract and retain qualified employees. The lack of affordable housing, in particular, is a major obstacle for many families and can hinder the attractiveness of our region for new talent and investment. We must remember that Cap-Acadie can’t meet the demand for housing, which forces us to apply the handbrake on the growth of our businesses that can’t house the workforce.

In an inflationary context, the announcement of direct financial assistance to low-income families, in the form of $300 cheques, may be seen as a welcome short-term measure. However, this initiative raises concerns about its electoralist nature, especially as the election approaches (sooner or later) in 2024. While it may offer temporary relief to some families, I fear it will contribute to inflation without addressing deeper structural problems. While Premier Higgs blames the federal government for contributing to inflation in the country, he won’t help his cause by sending a cheque to low-income families. A more strategic approach would be to focus efforts on long-term solutions that address the root causes of these challenges, such as more aggressive investment in affordable housing.

As a representative of the business community strongly positioned to advocate on behalf of our members, we are ready to play an active role in finding these solutions. It is essential to create partnerships between the government, the private sector and non-profit organizations to develop innovative strategies that promote sustainable economic growth while meeting the social needs of our population. Moreover, as never before, the Chambers of Commerce, including Cap-Acadie, are defending social issues on all their platforms.

To move forward, it’s crucial to adopt a vision that recognizes the interdependence between economic development, housing, health and education. By working together, we can overcome today’s challenges and build a future where New Brunswick is not only economically prosperous, but also inclusive and equitable for all its residents.

While the State of the Province Address offered a glimpse of the progress we’ve made, it’s important to remain vigilant against measures that could be electioneering. It’s time to focus on implementing sustainable solutions that will ensure our province’s long-term prosperity. We remain committed to contributing to this effort, and to working closely with all stakeholders to realize the vision of a dynamic and resilient New Brunswick.


Anthony Azard has been Chief Executive Officer of the Cap-Acadie Chamber of Commerce since 2021. Previously a journalist, then a manager in the New Brunswick media industry, Anthony Azard is a redoubtable non-profit leader. A strategist in positioning and growing organizations’ resources, Anthony takes the issues facing the Cap-Acadie business community and its region to heart.

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