This policy brief highlights what the 2023 budget means for New Brunswick’s digital economy. The province’s annual budget is published in the spring of each year and outlines the government’s main spending priorities.
New Brunswick’s real GDP grew by an estimated 1.8% in 2022, driven by record population and employment levels, and significant growth in income, household consumption, exports, manufacturing, residential investment, and retail sales. While population is projected to grow by another 1.8% in 2023, the province expects both real GDP and employment growth to slow to 0.8%. Notably, employment gains from population growth will likely be moderated by a provincial economic slowdown, the province’s aging population, persistent labour shortages, and low immigration retention rates. Economic activity in the forestry is expected to decline, while economic activity in the tourism, fisheries, and manufacturing sectors is expected to slow. However, the province also notes that several projects in the energy sector will provide opportunities for medium-term growth: the development of small modular reactors, upgrades, and expansions at Port Saint John, the Mactaquac dam refurbishment project, a new federal research centre in Moncton, and the Antlantic Loop Project. Overall, revenues and expenses are projected to be $12.2 billion, while spending is projected to increase by 5.2%.
Policy and Programs to Support New Brunswick’s Digital Economy
While the digital economy is not a core focus of Budget 2023, several initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, accelerating New Brunwick’s green economy, and spurring innovation in agriculture are likely to generate demand for digital and clean technologies within the province.
New Brunswick’s budget places emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation, including $10 million for delivering energy efficiency and conservation programs. While not directly related to information and communications technologies, digitalization in the energy efficiency and conservation industries mean that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are likely to be technologically-enabled. Increasingly, energy efficiency and conservation initiatives require a range of digital technologies.
The province also plans to spend $1.7 milion to implement the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which will help agri-food producers adopt sustainable agricultural practices and enhance agri-food competitiveness. This initiative will facilitate cost-share programs to help alleviate costs associated with adopting sustainable agri-food practices, including efficiency-related technologies like precision agriculture. This investment is likely to accelerate sustainable agri-food technology adoption and digital agriculture roles across the province.
Lastly, the government plans to adopt the federal backstop for carbon taxation. Additional funding from this will be used to support climate change initiatives, reducing climate risks for New Brunswickers, and possibly spurring clean tech and clean energy adoption.
Supporting EDI and Workforce Development
Employment reached an all-time high for New Brunswick in 2022, rising by an estimated 2.8% to 375,000. At the same time, unemployment reached record lows, falling two percentage points to 7.2%. With employment at an all-time high and unemployment at record lows, labour shortages in the province worsened. In 2022, the year-to-date average job vacancies climbed by 19%, reaching 15,730 and led by the healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, retail trade, and construction sectors.
New immigration is New Brunswick’s main strategy for addressing labour shortages in the province. Notably, 2022 was marked by record levels of inward migration for New Brunswick. The province’s population is projected to grow by an additional 1.8% in 2023, primarily due to inward migration from other countries, and to a lesser extent, other Canadian provinces. To support inward migration to the province, Budget 2023 earmarks $1.6 million to be invested in provincial immigration programs and immigration support services.
This brief is part of ICTC’s policy updates series. ICTC provides timely updates on policy and political developments in Canada, including federal, provincial, and territorial elections campaigns, fall economic updates, annual budgets, and other major updates to policy and programs. Written by Allison Clark, Erik Henningsmoen, Mairead Matthews, Mansharn Toor, Justin Ratcliffe, and Todd Legere, with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy Team