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New Brunswick’s Liberal party is touting a plan to retain young people and draw expatriates back to a province that has struggled to expand its population.

“Unfortunately, for too long, we’ve had many of our young people leave the province looking for work,” Premier Brian Gallant said during a news conference Friday – Day 23 of the provincial election campaign.

“To continue to grow the New Brunswick population, we need to keep our young people here, bring people who have left the province back here, and welcome new Canadians to the province.”

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Mr. Gallant said the Liberals would expand programs that offer free tuition at public post-secondary institutions and free child care for low-income families.

He said they would double investments in the youth employment fund, which places young adults and youth with employers for training and mentoring.

Mr. Gallant said that if re-elected Sept. 24, his government would also create a “reverse headhunting” service to provide Canadians and New Brunswickers living outside the province a one-stop shop to help them find a job and move to New Brunswick.

The service would help arrange interviews, look for housing, identify child-care options and find a job for their partner. Job fairs would also be held across Canada to recruit people to the province.

The cost for the new program was not available Friday, but a spokesman for the party said all of the costing for the Liberal platform – which has not yet been released – will eventually be posted on the Elections New Brunswick website.

According to the 2016 census, New Brunswick was the only province in Canada that experienced a decline in population over the previous five-year period. The population dropped to 747,101 in 2016 from 751,171 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives announced on Friday that a Tory government would gradually decrease the double tax on non-owner occupied properties.

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Leader Blaine Higgs said the tax, which doubles the tax rate on buildings that are not owner-occupied, is unfair and discourages investment in New Brunswick.

“This tax is responsible for raising the rent for almost 80,000 New Brunswickers, and stifles property development provincewide,” Mr. Higgs said in a statement. “It makes our province less attractive than others for business development. Without it, rents would decline and property sales would grow.”

The Tories said they would reduce the double tax rate by 50 per cent over four years through gradual reductions. But the party said total elimination of the double tax is the goal.

Mr. Higgs also promised to conduct a comparative analysis of property-tax systems used in other provinces so that New Brunswick remains competitive in terms of attracting business.

The Canadian Press

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