FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's two main political parties promised to improve the education system Tuesday as children headed back to class for another school year.
Premier David Alward of the Progressive Conservatives said the system needs long-term direction that's focused on students, while Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is promising a non-partisan approach to improving the education system if he becomes premier.
Alward said a Tory government would work with educators, academics, parents and the business community if the party is re-elected on Sept. 22.
Like Gallant, Alward also supports shielding the planning process from political interference, citing the former Liberal government's decision to delay the entry point for French immersion.
"Politicians shouldn't be making day-to-day or year-to-year decisions that affect the classroom," he said.
Alward said a long term approach to planning provides predictability for school district staff and teachers, and provides help with planning budgets.
Gallant said he would invite other political parties, teachers, parents and students to develop a 10-year plan that focuses on a number of issues, including improving literacy, reducing bullying and ensuring students are exposed to the trades.
"For too long, the priorities in our education system have been flipped upside down every time the government has changed," he said.
"A strong education system, leading to a skilled workforce, is a critical component of long-term job growth."
He said the plan would also address the affordability of post-secondary education and provide adults with the training they need to improve their skills.
New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy was in Saint John on Tuesday to announce a poverty reduction strategy.
He said it would address affordable housing, expand the role of the Ombudsman and develop a provincial transportation plan for people with disabilities.
"Doing these things will unleash untapped potential in New Brunswick's economy, because it will offer a better life for New Brunswick families and, in particular, their children," Cardy said.
The deadline for candidates to enter the election passed Tuesday afternoon.
Elections New Brunswick posted the official list, showing a total of 220 names that will appear on the election ballots.
The Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats are running candidates in all 49 ridings while the Green Party has 46 candidates, and 18 people are running for the People's Alliance of New Brunswick. There are nine Independent candidates.
Elections New Brunswick said the list of candidates consists of 149 men and 71 women.