Day One committments
This gimmick, similar to, but more aggressive than, Bernard Lord's 200 days of change in 1999, saw the following items implemented or, where not possible, started - and all since fully implemented - with in 24 hours of the swearing-in.
- gas tax axed to 1999 levels (-3.8¢/L)
- $2000 per first-year university student shaved off of tuition
- potential, but often non-existant, parental and spousal contributions no longer considered for student loans
- seniors' assets no longer raided when moving into nursing homes
- formal MOU with Saint John to ensure money will flow for harbour clean up
- more care provided for seniors in nursing homes
- reduction in nursing home rates
- more hours available for home care
- appointment of the first child and youth advocate - something required by law since April 1, 2004 - this post remained vacant for 2.5 years because the Tory government refused to obey the law, which they unanimously supported, without being allowed to amend it and restrict the advocate's powers
- launched reform of child protection system
- winter no-disconnect policy for econimcally challegned NB Power customers
- increase of minimum wage to $7.25 by July 1
- impressive insurance reforms which will eliminate discrimination against males, reduce territorial differentials and reduce rates by 13.5% by March 1
- improved relationships and open dialogue with First Nations communities
- created a Task Force to reach out to the not-for-profit sector, headed by an individual - Claudette Bradshaw - who cares about the issue and won't let the premier ignore its report
- engaged New Brunswickers on how to best approach the fiscal imbalance debate
- established a positive working relationship with an opposing party government in Ottawa
- began McKenna-style recruitment of business to New Brunswick - with the assistance of McKenna
I was particularly interested in the Premier's announcement in this piece that early next year he "will be launching a task force on self-sufficiency similar to the Byrne Commission in the 1960s". This is exactly what our province needs. After the Byrne Commission and through the early Hatfield years New Brunswick leaped ahead. Things stalled in the early 80s, but Frank McKenna's "can-do" optomism, aggressive economic development and sound fiscal management pushed New Brunswick ahead again in the 1990s. Unfortunately, under Bernard Lord, New Brunswick stalled once more. Shawn Graham has positioned himself in such a way that things will start moving again, but, if he is serious about pushing the envelope as radically as was done with Equal Opportunity, then New Brunswick could well be self-sufficient by 2025. I am looking forward to it.
UPDATE: As I predicted, and as previous evidence suggested would be the case, the province's books are not in good shape. As a result, it appears the HST heating rebate is dead, but the province is going to replace it with a mini-program to assist those most in need.