FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's two main political parties courted small businesses Wednesday in the provincial election campaign, promising relief for drug plan costs and better access to government work.
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant also promised to cut the tax rate for small businesses to 2.5 per cent, which he says would be the lowest east of Manitoba.
The Liberals see cutting the tax rate as a way of encouraging more investment by small business owners.
"We want to help them improve their businesses and create more jobs in their communities," he said in a statement issued in Fredericton. "This is part of our broader plan to diversify and strengthen our economy."
The Progressive Conservatives also focused on small business in their bid to win the Sept. 22 election.
Premier David Alward campaigned Wednesday in Moncton and promised legislation to protect subcontractors who win a piece of government projects and contracts from larger companies but wait too long to be paid. The legislation, he said, would ensure they get timely payment for their work.
"Small businesses shouldn't have to go to court to get paid for taxpayer-funded work they are doing for larger companies," Alward said in a news release.
"Big corporations may be able to wait 120 days for payment, but small businesses can't, and they shouldn't have to if the main contractor has been paid."
Gallant and Alward both supported changes in government purchasing policies to give small businesses more opportunities to win government work. The two leaders also want to make the provincial drug plan more affordable to small business owners.
Alward said the Tories would expand "Buy New Brunswick" purchasing policies to include Crown corporations, while Gallant said he would give companies in the province a better chance at government contracts through procurement scoring.
Gallant also said businesses with fewer than 50 employees would not be required to pay for coverage under the province's drug plan.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy, meanwhile, expanded his attack on patronage after promising last week to end the influence he says members of the legislature have on the awarding of government contracts.
The NDP also wants to eliminate the influence that cabinet ministers have in deciding which roads to pave, he said.
"If we want the best road system in the country, we need to let the experts develop a long term road strategy," he said.
"If we want to attract new business and support our current businesses, we need to offer the highest quality infrastructure. That can only be achieved by engineers setting priorities based on road conditions and projected use."