Q: New Brunswick ranks eighth out of the 10 Canadian provinces in terms of population and territory. When size is normally an asset, how does this affect attracting FDI?
A: The biggest advantage I see is the fact that because we’re small, compared with others, we’re able to get everybody in the room when we need to work together with different levels of government, different players and stakeholders, to get things done. We can really figure out how to overcome challenges and seize opportunities in a timely fashion, and I don’t think other provinces with larger populations enjoy as much nimbleness as we have in New Brunswick.
Q: Canada is known for its openness to immigrants, increasingly in contrast to the US. Is this something your government is involved in?
A: The immigration in our country is a federal jurisdiction, but we do have government partnerships that work very well for us. One we are very excited about is the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project. This is a federal programme in which the four Atlantic provinces [in Canada] are going to be able to increase their immigration levels, in terms of the relative size of that increase for the country. It’s really a small percentage, but for a region such as ours that is a bit smaller than other regions, it is great news. It allows us to also have a very employer-focused initiative where we’re going to businesses and asking what specific skill sets they need, and we then go out to recruit people to go right into those jobs.
Q: What are the inherent assets that you believe enhance New Brunswick’s competitiveness in the current market?
A: First, we are positioned to be export oriented. We really have a fantastic geography. We are the hub between North America and the EU, and we see the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement [between Canada and the EU] as a huge economic opportunity. We have a great time zone, where you can work with North America and other parts of the world very efficiently. We’re very close to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Washington, DC and Philadelphia.
Second is our cost-competitiveness. KPMG did a study in 2016 finding that New Brunswick is the most cost-competitive jurisdiction in business in Canada and the US.
Q: In what industries are you hoping to see more growth and competitiveness?
A: We have a rich history in mining, and we are the most forestry-focused economy in Canada. But we are doing everything we can to play a big role in emerging industries, so we have a very driven ICT sector and the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence that’s being built in Fredericton with players such as IBM. We have the Canadian Cybersecurity Institute, developed at the University of New Brunswick, and we have very robust programmes to make our universities and colleges as adaptable as possible. All of this is helping us really foster, and be innovative in, emerging sectors.
Q: New Brunswick, like many parts of North America, is facing an opioid crisis. Do you find that this has been on the rise in your province and how are you working to tackle it?
A: We absolutely see it as a very important challenge that we need to work hard in overcoming. We have a very close working relationship with our relevant departments and the premiers of the other provincial and territorial governments. But we also have great organisations such as the New England Governors and the Canadian Eastern Provinces Premiers which convene annually, so we’ve learned from places such as Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, which have faced a more significant challenge in this regard. This has helped us know exactly how we should go about it, learning from the lessons that they were so gracious to share with us.