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New Brunswick election touches on environmental oversight and jobs

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ST. GEORGE, N.B. - New Brunswick's Liberals are promising the introduction of enhanced environmental oversight measures in their bid to win next month's election, while the incumbent Progressive Conservatives are keeping their focus on boosting employment through the energy sector.

The Tories warned that a moratorium on shale gas development would mean foregoing more job creation and close to $200 million in short-term tax and royalty revenue.

"It will mean more people going out west to work in the very same industries we can build here in New Brunswick," said Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard in a statement released Saturday.

The Liberals highlighted new measures designed in response to the increasingly extreme weather in the province — from major flooding in 2011 and 2012, to the damage caused earlier this year by post-tropical storm Arthur.

"Our focus is on job creation," said party leader Brian Gallant in a news release. "But government must also assume its responsibility to protect our environment for the next generation."

Gallant said a Liberal government would ensure New Brunswick is better prepared to weather the effects of natural disasters through more tree trimming, improved public communication and timely post-event reviews.

The Liberals would also centralize conservation, inspection and enforcement functions into a single government department and earmark 100 per cent of the Environment Trust Fund for grassroots environmental projects if they formed government in September.

"We will ensure that the Environmental Trust Fund is used for grassroots environmental projects and provides opportunities for multi-ear project funding in order to ensure predictability for these organizations," he added.

Elsewhere, NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says as premier he would convene a roundtable with the province's aboriginal leaders to discuss issues affecting First Nations.

"An NDP government will make sure that all decisions on natural resource projects are subject to review, consultation and accommodation with First Nations," said Cardy.

The NDP leader also said he would simplify the process for food and product licencing and inspection through a New Brunswick Market Ready Program, as well as immediately reduce the cost of plates for farm vehicles to $10 annually.

New Brunswick voters will head to the polls on Sept. 22.

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