Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If you build it, they will come

Maybe I am foolish or overly optomistic, but I've always thought that line from Field of Dreams is a very applicable statement to a lot of things in the world.

Scott has a post up about the Graham governments approach to self-sufficiency with heavy reliance on an opinion piece that ran in today's Globe & Mail by fromer Telegraph-Journal editor Neil Reynolds.

Scott has banned comments on his site, so I am forced to respond here on my own blog.

Scott is a strong proponent of supply-side economics, this article also seems to suggest that that is the way to go. SSE is the theory that if you cut taxes, you will both grow the economy and increase government revenue because people with more cash in their hands - due to lower taxes - will spend that money to buy goods and services (which creates jobs) and will put cash back into the public treasury (by the income tax paid by those whose jobs have been created due to the increased purchases and through consumption taxes).

Under the right circumstances, SSE makes some sense. However, the revenues lost from government in decreased taxes is never made up, in whole, by the indirect revenues that those monies create. If the government needs to spend money on infrastructure, then the government cannot afford to make tax cuts. I will concede however that lowering taxes, in the right way which is often not the most popular way nor the way governments lower taxes when they do, is a better job creator than government spending in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

In general, I agree that taxes should not be increased for a plethora of reasons. However, I think it is irresponsible to cut taxes when there is debt to be addressed - both real debt and "debts" such as lacking infrastructure.

From 1999 to 2007, New Brusnwicker's saw their tax rates decrease almost every year - by marginal amounts. However, though their tax rates went down, they probably didn't end up with more cash in their pockets most years. This is because the Tories, while cutting income tax rates dindn't actually cut income tax revenues in a number of years because they allowed bracket creep. In other years, they also dramatically (in some cases doubled) user fees through regulations without consulting the legislature.

I find it frustrating at times that my friend Spinks - as an example, he shares the view of many others - rails against the Liberals for shafting taxpayers, etc, etc because of the $50 million personal income tax increase when, in fact, it really isn't that much different than the increases we saw in many of the Lord budgets. The difference is that the Lord government would showcase a tax rate cut, and still take extra money out of your pockets while you were looking at that pretty gem. Graham's government has chosen to be honest with New Brunswickers and tell them flat out what they are doing; for their honesty they are painted as tax-and-spend Liberals, when in fact they are getting the same effect that Lord's crew did but are doing it through honest and direct means instead of cloak-and-dagger skullduggery.

In any event, I have gotten a little bit of track. The crux of the Scott MacKay/Neil Reynolds argument can be summarized in this quote:

Although it progressed too slowly, New Brunswick had moved in the right direction in the last decade. [in reference to the Lord tax cutting MO]
However, the evidence doesn't back that up. Mr. Reynolds talks about how the Lord method is the right way to go and the Graham way is the wrong way to go. As evidence, he says that New Brunswick's population is slipping - more and more every year. Huh? NEWS FLASH: Shawn Graham has been in power for 7 months; if Lord's plan was so great and working so well, why after 7 years of his stewardship were things getting worse?

We need a made for New Brunswick solution if we are to boost our economy and acheive self-sufficiency. Under the right circumstances cutting taxes could work, but that is not the circumstances we have in our province today.

Reynolds criticizes Victor Boudreau for saying, "this is a transactional budget which lays the groundwork for future transformational change." He called that meaningless bureaucrateese. I don't see it that way. The biggest challenge to the growth of the New Brunswick economy is not its tax structure (neither before nor after his budget) but it is its lack of infrastructure. We need to better prepare ourselves for trade and connectivity with the world. We need roads, seaports and airports to move goods and we need the internet to move services.

The tax increase this year was $50 million. That works out to just under $70/person - if it was shared equally, it would actually be more for the rich and less for the lower and middle class - but let's use it to illustrate a point. What can a person do with $70? Buy two cases of beer OR maybe a blender and a toaster OR half of a cheap bike OR 2/3s of a DVD player, etc. What can the government do with $50 million? Build 50kms of top of the line divided highway OR hire 500 doctors OR build a school or two.

New Brunswickers cannot afford to have their government trim the fat and cut taxes just ot the point where the province breaks even. We need a government that has the means to invest in the infrastructure necessary to grow our economy. Schools grow our economy in the long term. Well equiped and well staffed hospitals grow our economy by attracting immigrations. Roads grow our economy by making it more feasible to trade with the relatively far away major population centres.

A minor tax increase that doesn't change New Brunswick's ranking among other provinces (there are still just as many with lower taxes and just as many with higher taxes) is well worth it if we can make the improvements in infrastructure needed to make long term economic growth.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blogger seeks Liberal nomination


The following is a public service announcement brought by yours truly, nbpolitico.

Last week there was some coverage in the mainstream press and a lot of coverage among blogs of the story of James Curran, a blogger in the Niagara region who had clinched the Liberal nomination in his riding but was arrested hours before on charges of fraud.

I am hopeful that this will not scar Canadians perception of the relevance and credibility of bloggers, something that is growing more-and-more every day.

To that end, I would like to encourage you all to offer your support to Rachel Décoste who will be a candidate for the Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa-Orléans this coming Sunday.

Rachel, like me, was a Gerard Kennedy supporting blogger and you can find her blog here. I had the pleasure of meeting this impressive young woman at the leadership convention in Montreal and hope to see her become an MP in the not too distant future.

Rachel is a very intelligent woman. She speaks 4 languages. She is a woman when the Liberal Party and the Commons itself are in desperate need of more ladies. She is an engineer, a trade that is sorely under represented in parliament. And, even without all that, she would be a great candidate. She has passion, she has vision, she has big dreams for her riding and for her country.

And, moreover, for bloggers of all political stripes, I think it would be in our interest to see a grassroots, real blogger elected to the House of Commons.

Therefore, I invite all of you - even if you aren't Liberals - to drop by her campaign site and make a donation.

She is a competitive candidate for the nomination but she is in a tough fight. She is up against four men: two former MPs, a former president of the riding association and a city councillor who happens to be the son of another former MP. It is a tall order, but she has proved remarkable organizational skill and is probably one of two (at most three) viable candidates in this race.

As anyone who has worked on a campaign before knows, every little bit helps, and your support would mean a lot to me and to bloggers. I am sure it would mean a lot to Rachel too but this is an unsolicited public service announcement that I am making on my own intiative wihtout her direction or consent.

$5, $10, $50 or even $1100 (yeah right) ... make your mark and make it count.

Just a little background for you who are interested in donating:
  • donations less than $200 are private and your name will not be listed in financial disclosures - your anonymity is safe

  • under the new fundraising rules there are three "pots" of fundraising, though the limits were dropped from $5400 to $1100 by the Tories, it is actually $3300 per party. Under the old rules you could donate a blanket $5400 per party to any of its arms. Under the new rules, you can donate $1100 each to a central party, $1100 cumulatively to a party's ridings, candidates and nomination contestants, and $1100 cumulatively to leadership contestants in a given cycle.
Therefore, even if you have contributed $1100 to the Liberal Party of Canada, you can still give to a Liberal candidate like Rachel. Even if you have given $1100 to Conservative ridings and candidates, you can still give a candidate of another party, like Rachel.

Let's make a difference... help her out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A responsible response to power rate increases

I want to commend the Graham Government for their decision today concerning the increase in power rates.

A lot of people, including the opposition Conservatives, have been very wary of the widely expected increase that was announced yesterday and comes in just under 10%.

Last year, when NB Power asked for an increase of 11.4%, seeing an election on the horizon, the Lord Government announced a lot of surprising measures. Many of which they had specifically rejected before as irresponsible financially and bad in terms of policy. Most notable among these was the widely known HST rebate program and a cap of 8% for a rate increase, regardless of whether the Public Utilities Board thought it was warranted and in conflict with their previous orders for NB Power to break even. Everyone knew these actions were inconsistent with the principles of conservatism and with the past statements of the Lord Governmemt and were made solely because they had a minority government (Tanker was still sitting as an independent).

This year, NB Power has asked for an increase of 9.6% (one which would probably have been unnecessary or at least lower if not for the irresponsibility of the Tory intervention last year). Spinks has wrongly suggested that this is the government's fault and should be seen as the same or similar to the income tax increase and rightly pointed out that this will mean more revenue for government (in terms of the HST collected on the hgiher power rates).

The government response has been tempered and logical. Rather than irresponsible policy u-turns, the Graham Government is going to invest the increase revenues of $37 million into new programs which will be developed to ease the burden on low income earners and to prevent it from driving businesses out of the province.

The fact that this increase will not change the fact that New Brunswick has the lowest electricity rates in Atlantic Canada and that the government is going to take any monetary benefit it gets from the increase and give it back to the consumers seems far more reasonable than the Tory reaction which was to cripple NB Power by slashing its needed revenue and launching a flawed HST rebate program which they never implemented, planned or developed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An interesting coincidence?

A friend of mine in Ottawa pointed this out to me and I had to share it with you thought it is a bit off topic.

There are four daily newspapers readily available in Ottawa, the front page of three of this has this image of the Virginia Tech murderer, as given from example on the Ottawa Sun:

The image on the fourth daily, the Ottawa Citizen, was of this eerily similar pose of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien:

According to the caption this is a file photo. Interesting that they would have chosen to run this picture when a similar pose by a killer was being run on the wire and inevitably on some of the Citizen's competitors papers.

I am told on every street corner in Ottawa, you see three pics of the killer and then one of the mayor in the paperstands all sharing the same pose.

Sounds like a pretty sick dig at the Ottawa Mayor by the Citizen...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Ladies and gentlemen, we all owe Jeannot Volpé a sincere apology.

Whether you like the Liberals or not, like the Tories or not, hate 'em, whatever. I think the whole world is unanimous in the opinion that Jeannot Volpé sucks as opposition leader.

Well it seems our opinion was unfair.

Volpé doesn't suck, it appears, his poor performance is not his fault.

He would be doing a fine job and the Liberal government would probably have fallen by now if it wasn't for those darn kids Wally and Joan. They've been spying, according to Volpé, and reporting the plans of the opposition to the government.

I think Joan McAlpine-Stiles put it best when, as paraphrased, she said "if the Liberals were able to predict Tory tactics in question period, it's probably because Volpé has been asking the same questions for the last three weeks."

How pathetic can he get? I have said before that I've been quite impressed with Bruce Northrup. I also heard Mike Olscamp in detail for the first time today during estimates and he seems like an incredibly bright guy and strong performer. I've also said before that I think Claude Landry is a pretty strong guy.

I think the whole front bench of the Tories should walk to the back row and let these newcomers take over. Then we might have some substantive debate in the House and the Liberals might see their 50 point lead in the polls narrow a bit.

Defection reaction

So the reaction to the double defection of Mr. Wally Stiles and Mrs. Joan MacAlpine-Stiles is pretty massive, as one would expect.

I was waiting for and pleased to see a story on their past strong oppositon to the Liberals. I was surprised to see that there really isn't anything substantive there. Other than their reasons for running for the Tories in 1999 - against a totally different set of Liberals - and some fighting of auto insurance in 02-03, there doesn't seem to have been as much bad blood as I thought.

Among bloggers...

As seems typical of any and all floor crossings, the blogosphere is largely opposed. Here is a sample of some of the reaction:

If they want to (cross the floor) that’s fine but go to the voters and get their blessing. The voters elected you as PC’s not Liberals. - Spinks

(W)hy don't we have the right to recall our elected politicians? I'm not saying that the people of the respective districts are not happy with this. I am, however, saying that if the electors are not happy, they should have recourse before 2011. - Rob commenting at Spink About it

I'm no fan of government wasting money nbpolitico, that is true but having democracy is never a waste of money. - Spinks responding to my comment that a by-election would cost a lot of cash, deprive the the ridings of a representative during the legislative process and possibly/likley return the same MLAs anyway.

"If (the defectors) were real Tories and true leaders, then one of them would have stepped up to the plate and run as a successor to Bernard Lord in the next New Brunswick Progressive Conservative leadership race (rather than quit over dissatisfaction with an interim leader)" - Scott, the sorry centrist

"Of all the reasons to cross the floor, claiming you were unappreciated ranks down there with "my former party is too tough on those who create child porn". Seriously folks, you're in opposition. Nobody appreciates you in opposition." - Eugune at To Be Annnounced

The defectors...

From the Telegraph-Journal page A1:

"It was probably the peace and quiet [while on vacation in February] where we could really think about our futures and how we could best represent our constituents in our respective ridings," [Wally] Stiles said. "That was probably the determining time where you say, let's do this and get this done, enough is enough."

[Joan] MacAlpine-Stiles said she was blown away shortly after the Liberals took power in October how accessible the cabinet ministers were and how attentive they were to her concerns, specifically on resolving the ongoing issue surrounding pensions of former Moncton city police officers.

"I don't think it was one person we specifically spoke to on this. When you are going to make a decision of this magnitude that impacts your futures, we kept this to ourselves," she said.


MacAlpine-Stiles and Stiles said they have never asked for a position and one was never offered. They both have said repeatedly the decision to switch allegiances was strictly on principle against the negative tone espoused by the current Conservative leadership.

"There hasn't been a focus, it has been more of a personal attack on the government members and that to me is, I can't be part of that," MacAlpine-Stiles said. "That was one of the determining factors. You don't try to make other people look bad in order to make you look good."


Stiles said he is most concerned about how people in his rural riding of Petitcodiac will take the news. The three-term MLA won with a massive majority on Sept. 18 and while he acknowledges his move will not be popular with some Tory stalwarts he said it may also win him some new votes in the future.

"I heard - my team has heard (in the last election) - look, 'I would really like to vote for Wally but I could not vote for Bernard Lord.' You don't know how many times I heard that. I think people's voting habits have changed, I think they actually vote for the person and not the party," Stiles said.

From the Times & Transcript page A4:

The couple had been spending a lot of time soul-searching, having felt under-valued by some of their fellow caucus members.

"The last little while we were almost treated like skunks at a garden party," said Stiles.

Neither politician wanted to give details about the way they were treated by some members of the Tories. However they both said they were treated as a "liability," rather than an "asset."

"You can't represent your people and feel that the party you're a part of is not doing constructive things but working on the negative side constantly," said MacAlpine-Stiles.

"You get to the point where you just can't "... that's not just what it's about, and you feel that you have to do something to change that and if you're not able to do that within your own party, then I guess that's when you make the decision."

From the Daily Gleaner page A1:

"The Liberals are blessed with a leader who is clearly focused on the future, and not the past," MacAlpine-Stiles said.

From their former colleagues...

Interim Tory Leader Jeannot Volpé said he was not shocked by the announcement. Volpé said he saw the writing on the wall when Stiles did not win a caucus position as Opposition whip, a post he held when the Tories were in government.


Volpé said the defection isn't a complete surprise, although he had expected the couple to wait until the end of the legislative sitting to make their announcement.

"I knew that it was coming, we saw quite a few signs that they were not happy since last fall," he said.
(see my comment on this later...)

Rothesay Tory MLA Margaret-Ann Blaney said she believed the floor-crossing was about money.

"I think they had the For Sale sign out. Wally Stiles said to me two weeks ago, 'I can't afford to be in Opposition.' So I think what they got was two for the price of one."

Government and Opposition backbenchers earn the same basic salary. The only way the two former Tory MLAs could earn extra money, aside from being named to cabinet, is sit on additional committees and collect per diems. However, committee assignments have already been handed out so it is unlikely MacAlpine-Stiles or Stiles will be in line for extra cash any time soon.
(the news article does a good enough job tearing MAB's comments apart, I'll not comment)

"When you have bad apples in a basket, maybe it's a good thing to dump those two bad apples," said Paul Robichaud, Tory MLA for Lameque-Shippagan-Miscou.

Robichaud said the caucus supports Volpé and there's no division between the Tory members.

He also said there were times the Tory caucus would meet and then hold a second meeting once the couple had left the room.
(uhhh if this is true, can you blame them for leaving?)

From their new colleagues...

Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne was one of the Liberal cabinet ministers who played a role in opening the doors to Graham. Byrne said it was clear to anyone who watched the assembly how the Conservatives were isolating the two MLAs and that became more obvious as they began speaking to them personally.

Byrne said the final deal was brokered Monday when the two Tories met with Graham and a few senior advisors. Once that meeting concluded, Byrne said the Liberal caucus was asked whether they would welcome the two Conservatives and he said the reaction was unanimous.

From academia...

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said Volpé and the Tory brass will have to accept some responsibility for the floor-crossings, which could hasten the process to elect a leader.

"What this might do is chasten the party establishment a little bit and force it to concentrate perhaps a bit more deeply on the leadership selection process and get that right and make sure that we've got renewal built into the mechanics of leadership selection," Bateman said.

From me...

I gave my preliminary thoughts yesterday. In general, I think that the idea of floor crossing is okay if it is done for noble reasons. Unfortuantely, so many of us have become so cynical that no one believes there are noble reasons for anything any more.

Here is the summary of the key points and inferences I've made from the above:

  • Like it or not, it is bad news when two of your caucus members leave your party, full stop. Volpé says he had seen this coming since the fall, why didn't he do anything to stop it!? He is really a failure as leader.

  • Paul Robichaud says they held the real caucus meetings after Wally and Joan left the room. If that is true, can you really blame them for wanting to leave?

  • Volpé says that Wally Stiles wanted to leave because he was not elected as opposition whip. I think Volpé is very confused because the legislative seating arrangement up until yesterday had Stiles sitting in the chair designated for the whip and he was listed on the government website as such as well. Moreover, this was published in the newspapers and was in a news release listing the Tory critic responsibilities back in October, that release has mysteriously disappeared from the PC website.
I think by the looks of it the reasons for their departure were sincere and, unless one of them is appointed to cabinet shortly, then they will have done it for no gain and I think that that is honourable.

I think it is pretty funny that even a floor crossing, which most people find widely distasteful, cannot even be properly criticized by this opposition. Three Tory caucus members commented and they all either made no sense in their criticisms (Blaney - they are doing it for money, but will not be paid more; Volpe - he was mad about not being whip, but he was the whip) or justified it (Robichaud - we had private caucus meetings from which they were excluded). I mean honestly.

I do think however that I have finally come up with a position on floor crossing which I think would be a good balance. We should allow recall of MLAs who cross the floor and perhaps under other circumstances. I am opposed to free wheeling recalls and automatic by-elections, but perhaps we can find a compromise with a combination.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Shawn Graham's majority just got a little bit more comfortable. Tory MLAs Joan MacAlpine-Stiles and Wally Stiles have crossed the floor.

I am blown away by this I must admit. The couple, both first elected in 1999, were married as MLAs in 2005. Joan served in Lord's cabinet from the beginning to the end including in a lot of high profile roles. She was minister of municipalities (99-00), business (00-01), family and community services (01-03, 05), tourism (03-06) and status of women (06). Wally was government whip for much of Lord's term - both before and after Tanker had the job - as well as caucus chair at one time. He also served as chair of the only important standing committee chaired by the government - crown corporations - and as chair of the special committee on auto insurance before the 2003 election. I've always had a lot of time for Wally Stiles and thought he was far more qualified to enter cabinet than the 2003 additions of Wayne Steeves, Brenda Fowlie and Tony Huntjens.

I am surprised though to see this because floor crossings are pretty rare in New Brunswick. Other than people going to sit as independents, I think the last floor crossing was when Peter Trites went from the NDP to the Liberals in 1987.

I am also surprised because Wally represents one of the safest Conservative seats in New Brunswick. It was one of 3 seats to go PC in 1991 and was the seat the then PC leader Dennis Cochrane chose because he thought he could win it even with the party in shambles. It went to the Liberals in 1995 but only due to a huge vote split with CoR, the result was Lib 2398, CoR 1673, PC 1650. Perhaps the two are planning retirement? Wally is very popular Petitcodiac, but he'll have to work a lot harder to win as a Liberal and he certainly won't get the 69%, 61% and 65% he got in 1999, 2003 and 2006 respectively.

The Liberals have gone from having 1 of 4 Moncton seats in February to 3 of 4 in April and from 2 of 7 Greater Moncton seats to 5 of 7. Very huge shift.

One must wonder if MacAlpine-Stiles is heading to cabinet soon due to the shortage of both women and Monctonians in the cabinet. I would imagine Chris Collins is a littel depressed this morning. She would be a natural fit for Local Government as she was a long time Moncton city councillor and held the job under Lord in the early months of his government. Thus she could join the cabinet without a need for a shuffle. Finance Minister Victor Boudreau doubles as Local Government Minister and could just shed this portfolio for her.

I will be curious to see the reaction to a floor crossing however, a lot of folks are turned off by them, while I am of two minds.

I am also very curious to see how Stiles, who was one of the most vocal critics of Shawn Graham's leadership abilities before the last election, eats his crow.

UPDATE: FYI Spinks has a post up on this as well. The thrust of his arguement is a call for a by-election to allow the voters to "ratify" their decision to cross the floor.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Fred Thompson will win the Republican nomination and has a very good chance of becoming president on January 20, 2009. Should Thompson face Clinton or Obama, I believe he is guaranteed the win, however should Southern charmer John Edwards win the nomination it will be a closer race.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


For those of you who haven't seen the announcement, there is a deal between Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion to help May gain a seat in parliament and defeat Peter MacKay.

The Liberals will not run a candidate in Central Nova where they got 10,349 votes in 2006, while the Greens will not run one in Saint-Laurent—Cartierville where the Greens got 1,810. Hardly a fair trade. The Liberal gain nothing, as far as I can see, from this deal. The Liberals were also negotiating from a position of strength. The only chance May had of winning in Central Nova was for the Liberals to back down. I can see the symbolism of the leaders not opposing each other, however we need more than symbolism.

What Dion should have asked for, and it would have been fair of him to do so, would have been for the Greens to not field a candidate in Ottawa Centre.

The Green focus is clearly to elect May as an MP, Dion has given her a big boost in this quest, but in exchange for mere symbolism. In the last election, the Green candidate in Ottawa Centre received 6,766 votes and the Liberal candidate lost by a margin of 5,153. A deal like this would have been a fair trade. The deal we saw is dumb.

Very annoyed.

Also, who wants to bet that a Liberal runs as an independent and finishes strongly. See the 2000 election in Random-St. George's, NL where the party forced the nomination of Tory-turned-Liberal Bill Matthews, the Liberal who was to win the nomination ran as an independent and finished a strong second. Rural folk in particular don't take kindly to being told they can't have a candidate and I doubt Liberals in Central Nova will take this sitting down.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Caisse populaire pretty popular with Tories

I understand that there is a fair bit of anger around the blogosphere about the "$60 million bailout" for the Caisse in Shippigan and the Tories seem to be riding that wave.

According to T.J. Burke today was the eighth straight day he took questions on the subject - I'm surprised it was not much more.

Today it was all Shippigan all the time and every single question during the 30-minute period was about this issue. The theme today was that Burke should resign for prejudging the RCMP investigation into the accounting of the Caisse.

I'd like to point to some of the facts which seem to be misunderstood first before getting to the heart of the cry for resignation.

1) It was not a $60 million bailout. There was only $31.5 million for the Shippigan Caisse, the rest of the money was to top up the Caisse stabalization fund which had been underfunded by the Tories which was in part why $31.5m had to be handed out over and above the ordinary budget.

2) Spinks in particular likes to point out that the income tax increases bring in about as much revenue as this expenditure. That is an interesting coincidence but it is not fair to claim that is why taxes went up. This is a one time expenditure but tax revenue will be up in all subsequent years, we got lucky this year - and stand to continue being lucky for a few more years - thanks to high zinc and other resource prices. The reason taxes are going up is to be prudent in managing a growing budget which will inevitably go in to the red if revenue doesn't increase.

3) The Liberals are not being fiscally irresponsible by giving a grant instead of a loan. The non-partisan provincial comptroller - appointed by the Tories - told both the Lord and Graham governments that a loan could not be given. The Caisse was on the verge of bankruptcy and giving a loan to an institution that doesn't qualify under proper loaning practices would have done severe damage to the provincial credit rating. The Liberals had three options: a) do nothing and be on the hook for $90m of deposits thanks to Tory legislation protecting 100%; b) provide an irresponsible loan and damage the provincial credit rating causing the cost of interest on existing debt to go up; c) provide a grant as they've done which is the option costing the province the least in the long run.

Now to the heart of today's QP.

Apparently last week Burke told the press that they wouldn't be in this situation if the Tories had not been incompotent and had dealt with the issue at far lower cost in 2004 when they first became aware of it.

The Tories claim that this is prejudging the investigation by assigning blame to the previous government and that Burke should follow in the steps of his "very close friend" Andy Scott who resigned as Solicitor General of Canada in 1998 for prejudging an RCMP investigation into the pepper spraying of protesters at a demonstration at the APEC conference in Vancouver.

The Tory comparison is pretty weak and any claim they had to Burke needing to resign is shaken by it.

Let us compare the situations.

Scott was the minister responsible for the RCMP and there was an ongoing investigation on which Scott made statements indicating precisely what its conclusion would be.

Burke is not the minister responsible for the RCMP (for matters in which the RCMP is engaged as a provincial police force, such as this, Public Safety Minister John Foran is responsible) and he was commenting in general political terms about actions or inactions of the previous government which would not be the subject of an investigation, if one is pursued (currently there is a complaint, the RCMP have not decided to investigate) into accounting practices inside of the Caisse over which the government has no direct influence.

So the Tories think that because Burke - who made some theatricle political comments about a situation that will not be the subject of an investigation, if one is undertaken, by a force that Burke has no authority over - should resign because Scott - who made direct comments about a then ongoing investigation by a force over which he had final authority - did.

I mean, come on guys.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Speaker lays down the law

Eugene McGuinley, like many speakers, came to office with high hopes of restoring order, professionalism and decorum to the often raccous debates in the legislature over which he presides.

I am a student of parliamentary procedure and am often greeted with surprise when I explain the power that the Speaker has. That is to say, he is essentially, all powerful.

When the House is in session, it is up to the speaker to enforce and interpret the rules. In New Brunswick, "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum and shall decide questions of order (...) No debate may be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House."

Among the power of a Speaker is to cancel a session of the House or to remove and/or punish a member if things get out of hand. That includes ANY Member from the premier to the leader of the opposition to a freshly elected backbencher. I've often thought that this should be something that is used more frequently so as to restore decorum.

In recent times, the only occassion I recall of a member being thrown out of the New Brunswick legislature is when Elizabeth Weir called Bernard Lord a liar and refused, after three requests, to withdraw the comment.

Today, when things got quite heated during question period, Speaker McGuinley interupted the proceedings to put the House on notice that he is going to start throwing people out if they are out of order. Good for him. I hope he follows through.

I am sure when MLAs start to realize the unfortunate prospect of having to explain to their constituents why they were thrown out of the House for being so unruly, particularly when going door-to-door during an election campaign, I think they may shape up.


The transcript for today's Question Period has come out and here is what the Speaker had to say:

Hon. Eugene McGuinley (Grand Lake-Gagetown), Speaker: I have called for order too many times, and it has been ignored here this afternoon. I am not going to tolerate that kind of conduct in the House. We want to be following parliamentary rules here. We want this to be run like a Parliament, not like a playroom. I am warning the member for Restigouche-la-Vallée that I will not accept that kind of mockery of the system. I have asked for order, and the member kept repeating his interruptions to the minister who was responding, to the extent that I could not hear and understand what was being said.

This is not a threat, this is a promise. If members on either side continue to ignore the rules of the House, that will not be tolerated. I will be asking members to leave the Chamber for the duration of the day when that happens. I have been very lenient. When the week starts this badly, thank heavens it may be a short week. What will it be like when the week ends? In fairness, I am letting you know that, from here on in, the rules are going to be a lot more strictly adhered to. I will not be afraid to impose sanctions on people who disregard the authority of the chair.