We started off question period with the absense of the premier for the first time since this session began. Opposition Leader Jeannot Volpé asked, as there was no designated deputy premier, who was the acting head of government to whom he should address his questions.
If it were me, as the premier obviously chose to name no deputy for a reason, I would have had the Government House Leader rise and indicate the depending on the area of policy that the question the appropriate minister would respond. Instead, however, Finance Minister Victor Boudreau answered and said that though there was no designated deputy premier, "I guess that makes the finance minister the deputy premier and I will answer the questions". Very interesting.
I was really disappointed with the Tories (am I sure you are surprised), but I suspect Scott will be too. I think it is fair to say that of the NB bloggers I am really the only die-hard Liberal and Scott is the only die-hard Tory (maybe Brent Taylor too?). The rest seem to fall somewhere in the middle. So if Scott does agree, then I would say the Tories need to give their head a shake.
First, David Alward, the Agriculture & Fisheries critic, made a member's statement about the LNG situation in the St. Croix. I think that an LNG terminal in that area would be a disaster on a number of levels and that we should fight it, as we are. New Brunswick, under the Liberals, has taken some action here. Under the Tories we had a lot of screaming and arm-flailing and letters to the prime minister but no real action. Under the Liberals, we have sought and been granted official legal status before the U.S. regulatory agency that must approve this project. If we are unsuccessful there, there is nothing more New Brunswick can do, and Shawn Graham admits that, however the government says they would support federal efforts to try to block it on the grounds that they would be sending ships through sovereign Canadian waters. This sounds sensible to me.
However, the opposition is all over Shawn Graham for stating he is willing to accept the process and will not do things that he cannot legally do. Woodstock MLA David Alward called him "irresponsible" for this and then said the broader concept of building relationships with Maine through the recent MOUs was "dangerous". Volpé led off question period - after getting Boudreau to say he was deputy premier - that it was sad that New Brunswick couldn't get a deal with Nova Scotia (on beer) but it was making deals outside of the country, he said "this is scary for New Brunswickers". What? Cooperation with our neighbours and trading partners is dangerous and scary? What world are these guys living in? This after Volpé told a few weeks ago that the Tory government didn't pursue big business investment because they prefered SMEs.
Alward then got another turn, this time in QP, and claimed that Shawn Graham was against New Brunswick by backing the U.S. over New Brunswick and made a ridiculous claim that in the past he backed Veneuzuela over N.B. during the orimulsion fiasco and that he was also against rural New Brunswick because of the Self-Sufficiency Task Force. Riiiiiight...
The "clash of ideas" continues as Bill 17 is still being debated at second reading - something that has been going on for a portion of 5 sitting days now and usually is only done for one. The largest portion of debate takes place in the next stage, committee of the whole house - where amendments can be introduced, etc.