FREDERICTON – Expanded education programs, a larger hospital and more cultural attractions are all on the list of must-haves to help fuel the coming energy boom in New Brunswick. Many of the needed investments – from road to wastewater treatment to an expansion of the Saint John Regional Hospital – are focused on the Port City. But others – such as the need to train more energy professionals and skilled tradespeople – span the entire province.
The economic roadmap detailing how New Brunswick can reap the most benefit from the up to $44 billion in direct, indirect and induced investments in the province as a result of energy-related projects calls for the provincial and federal government to inject $1.4 billion into 16 areas designed to improved or add much-need physical and social infrastructure.
“This is an unprecedented effort to get ahead of growth,” said David Hardy, president of Hardy Stephenson and Associates, a Toronto consulting firm that specializes in studying the impact of large-scale economic projects. His firm conducted the Benefits Blueprint study, which outlined the potential economic boom to the province from the energy sector and suggested the 16 ways New Brunswick could maximize its benefits. Highlights from the study were unveiled on Friday afternoon.
The proponents of the increased public investment in the 16 areas point to economic data suggesting the figure represents just 10 per cent of the of the $14 billion in additional tax revenues Ottawa and Fredericton will reap if projects such as the second oil refinery in Saint John or a second nuclear reactor in Point Lepreau become a reality. Jeff Landry, manager of business development for Irving Oil, said finding enough skilled workers to build a second oil refinery in Saint John is one of the major hurdles facing the project.
“That’s probably the number one issue,” he said. Irving Oil is looking at all sources – from new graduates to repatriating skilled workers to immigration – to help supply the workforce it needs for the potential $7 billion Eider Rock refinery.
Irving Oil, along with Enterprise Saint John and provincial government, funded the Benefits Blueprint study. The company has not earmarked support for yet for any of the 16 initiatives, but that could change.
“We regularly contribute to things that are aligned with what we do,” said Landry.
Tim Curry, president of the Atlantica Centre for Energy, said the private sector’s major contribution to needed infrastructure will come from the taxes they will pay to the province and the federal government through the construction and operation of their energy projects. Curry said however there is likely also a role for private sector firms in investments to cultural and environmental recommendations made in the Benefits Blueprint study.
Bob Manning, chairman of Enterprise Saint John and of the Benefits Blueprint project, said companies could contribute to targeted environmental projects such as the clean up of Marsh Creek in Saint John as part of their energy projects.