FREDERICTON — Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers promised Tuesday that if elected, his government would stop collecting its share of interest on New Brunswick student loans for residents who choose to live in the province after graduating.
Loan recipients would be left paying interest owed to the federal government, he said during a campaign stop in Moncton.
"The new measure is designed to increase post-secondary accessibility for current and future students," Vickers said. "But it will also have a positive impact on borrowers who are still paying off their student loans."
The Liberals' measure applies only to loans from the New Brunswick government. To qualify, a resident would need to attend school in the province or move back to New Brunswick when they are done their studies.
Eliminating the provincial share of student loan interest would cost the province about $7 million per year, Vickers added.
Because of interest payments, low-to-middle-income students and their families end up paying more for their education compared with those who don't need to borrow money, he said.
"We believe that getting a post-secondary education should open doors — not make life more difficult," Vickers said. "Instead of worrying about growing debts, our graduates should focus on building their life right here in New Brunswick."
Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs was also in Moncton Tuesday, promising to continue his government's efforts on protecting the environment. He said he allocated $36 million for climate change initiatives in the spring budget.
"Our government believes firmly that we can build economic wealth while also protecting the environment," the Tory leader said. "We just have to work smarter and be prepared to seize the opportunities."
He said his government would expand glass recycling and impose stricter controls on illegal dumping. A Tory government, he added, would also phase out single-use plastics over a four-year period.
"Our government is committed to the long-term goal of banning single-use plastic bags and plastic bottles in New Brunswick," Higgs said.
Green Leader David Coon campaigned in northern New Brunswick Tuesday, pledging to create a department of rural affairs and community development.
The new department, he said, would be responsible for creating and implementing a regional development policy, for supporting renewable energy production and for protecting agricultural land.
"New Brunswickers want to be more self-sufficient and we can," Coon said during a stop in Nigadoo. "All we need to do is tap into the creativity and vital energy that already exists in our communities."
He said the pandemic has highlighted a glaring problem of internet access in rural areas of New Brunswick. A Green government, he promised, would give internet providers up to a year to offer high-speed internet access to all New Brunswick citizens and businesses.
If the companies fail to do that, he promised to create a Crown corporation to provide internet access across the province. "The time for half measures is over," Coon said.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin spent the day in the Sussex area where he spoke about food security.
He lamented how the majority of what New Brunswickers eat is imported from other provinces and countries, which he said was made evident by empty grocery store shelves during the start of the pandemic.
"New Brunswick needs a long-term plan and a solution, so we do not have to be as reliant on other provinces and countries for much of our food supply," Austin said. He said part of the solution is to allow temporary foreign workers the right to move permanently to the province.
The provincial election is Sept. 14.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press