SUSSEX, N.B. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped in rural New Brunswick Thursday to promote his government's new Canadian Workers Benefit announced in the recent budget, but a former MP for the area says Ottawa needs to do more to help people actually get jobs.
Trudeau met briefly with New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant in Sussex before holding a roundtable discussion with a handful of business leaders from the community known for farming and a major potash mine that closed two years ago.
The prime minister said the new Canada Workers Benefit will help people who are struggling and may not make enough to benefit from the middle class tax cut.
"The new Canada Workers Benefit allows low-income workers to take home more money while they work, encouraging more people to join the workforce and to stay in the workforce. It means that starting next year someone earning $15,000 a year could receive up to $500 more from the Canada Workers Benefit than they received under the old working income tax benefit," Trudeau said.
But former Conservative MP Rob Moore said the Liberal government isn't doing enough to actually help people find work in the first place.
"This is a farming area and they treated farmers like tax cheats with their small business tax changes. This is an area that is dependent on transportation and agriculture, and their carbon tax is going to make us a less competitive and more costly region. I think there's damage control going on," he said.
Moore said the Trudeau government is discouraging economic development, arguing that the Energy East pipeline project would have proceeded under a Tory government.
But Trudeau responded to the pipeline issue Thursday, saying the decision to halt the project was made by the company.
"We know that the only way to move forward on creating good jobs, on creating a better future for our kids is by protecting the environment and growing the economy at the same time. That's the only way to move forward responsibly," he said.
"The Energy East pipeline was a market decision made by a company that was having trouble filling the Keystone XL pipeline that had just been approved. There was no business case anymore according to the company."
The prime minister also addressed regional issues, such as the so-called black hole for Employment Insurance. Trudeau said he understands that some workers face a gap between the end of employment insurance and the start of seasonal work, and Ottawa has a plan to address the gap in benefits.
"On the EI black hole, we have two tracks that we're moving forward on. One is an immediate injection of money in the region to support folks who are facing the real challenges around seasonal work and around the gap in EI benefits," he said.
Gallant said he and Trudeau discussed a number of topics during their meeting, including the $75 million earmarked in the federal budget for a healthy aging pilot project in New Brunswick.
"We're going to be in talks over the next few weeks about exactly what the program will look like. We want to ensure the money will help seniors in New Brunswick and will be innovative in our approach that we can then show the rest of the country and maybe the rest of the world about delivering senior care," Gallant said.
Trudeau made a brief appearance on a Moncton radio show earlier in the morning and touted his government's emphasis on gender equality in the federal budget.
Speaking by phone, he talked about leave for new fathers as a way to help break the pattern of mothers automatically taking on the greater share child-rearing responsibilities.
"It will make sure there's more equal parenting and give women greater opportunities to succeed in the workplace," Trudeau told the radio hosts.
"It's recognizing that getting people who have been facing barriers or left out of the workforce and out of our economic success to be successful actually is a really big driver of growth and of opportunity for everyone."
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press