We're #1? The good, the bad and the debatable

Premier Blaine Higgs has said New Brunswick is the only province with a tax-sharing agreement with First Nations and he is bringing that to an end. But this province stands out other issues as well, some of them for the better. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Premier Blaine Higgs has said New Brunswick is the only province with a tax-sharing agreement with First Nations and he is bringing that to an end. But this province stands out other issues as well, some of them for the better. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

New Brunswick is unique in Canada, according to Premier Blaine Higgs, in having tax-revenue-sharing agreements with First Nations.

He argues that's one of the reasons the deals should not be renewed when some expire this month and others at the end of the year.

So is the province's unique stance a good argument for stopping it?

That question suggests other ways New Brunswick is a national standout, some of which have drawn varying degrees of pride and concern from the Higgs government.

New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that:

Is officially bilingual. 

The Official Languages Act was adopted in 1969 (a few months ahead of the federal government adopting the national version). It set out that English and French are the two official languages of New Brunswick and recognized the fundamental right of New Brunswickers to receive services in the official language of their choice from the provincial government.

New Brunswick Provincial Archives P57\71
New Brunswick Provincial Archives P57\71

Doesn't cover abortions in private clinics.

In New Brunswick, surgical abortions are covered by Medicare only if they're performed in a hospital. Abortion services, however, are only performed at three hospitals — one in Bathurst and two in Moncton. Those performed at a private clinic, such as the former Clinic 554 in Fredericton, would not be covered.

Jon Collicott/CBC
Jon Collicott/CBC

Oversees hospitals and nursing homes from separate departments.

It used to be that Health and Social Development were one big department that spent about half the entire provincial budget. In those days, says health consultant Ken McGeorge, the civil servants responsible for hospitals and long-term care were on the same office floor and would collaborate every day.

Meanwhile, the health research chair in aging at St. Thomas University isn't sure the separation matters, "given how poor nursing homes are elsewhere in Canada." More relevant to the quality of care, said Albert Banerjee, is being non-profit and able to secure additional funding for creative endeavours and additional staffing.

New Brunswick was the first province in Canada to:

Begin relaxing restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. 

After a little over a month of being largely forced to stay home with immediate family, two-household bubbles were introduced on April 24, 2020.

CBC News
CBC News

Introduce community planning legislation.

An Act Relating to Town Planning was enacted in New Brunswick in 1912, dealing with the layout of streets, buildings, open spaces and the provision of water, sewer and lighting.

Build an asylum for the mentally ill.

The "roots of Canada's mental health care" can be found in Saint John, writes UNB archivist Leah Grandy in Atlantic Loyalist Connections. An assylum for the mentally ill was built at the corner of Wentworth and Leinster streets in 1835. It was meant to use "more humane methods' of dealing with mental illness.

Provincial Archives Item P514\4
Provincial Archives Item P514\4

Legislate inclusion for students with a disability.

Changes to the Schools Act were passed in 1986. "It was remarkably progressive," said Donna Gates of Inclusion N.B., "and put New Brunswick ahead of any other province in Canada, and among leaders in the world."

Start an Extra-Mural health-care program.

For a long time it was the "go-to" province for other jurisdictions developing their own programs, said Claire Johnson, an assistant professor of health management at the University of Moncton.

New Brunswick ranks highest in:

Rent increases.

Average rents in the province were up 7.9 per cent over the last 12 months ending in October, according to Statistics Canada. That was significantly above the average national rent increase of 4.7 per cent over the same period, and second highest among provinces behind Prince Edward Island.

Pierre Fournier/CBC
Pierre Fournier/CBC

Diabetes rates.

According to Diabetes Canada, 35 per cent of New Brunswickers live with diabetes or pre-diabetes; 19 per cent are diagnosed cases of Types 1 and 2. Those rates tie with Newfoundland and Labrador above any other province.

Older population.

The proportion of the population aged 65 years or older in New Brunswick was 22.8 per cent in 2021, according to Statistics Canada. That was second only to Newfoundland and Labrador at 23.6 per cent, and it has big implications for the labour supply.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Spending restraint.

A study by the Fraser Institute last fall ranked Higgs number one among the premiers for fiscal management, based on keeping the pace of growth in government spending below the rate of economic growth, declining debt as a share of the economy and reduced taxes in last year's budget.