A bit of a non-routine day in the legislature today. Usually after the Throne Speech, the next day is just a quick run through of routine business followed by question period and an early adjournment. Today was a bit different.
Following condolences and introduction of guests (which I think they usually do on these days), Deputy Government House Leader Kelly Lamrock tabled a report of the House Procedures Committee to amend the standing rules. It was adopted unanimously. The report has not yet been published online but I will take a look when it is.
The Premier also tabled the Action Plan on Self-Sufficiency that was announced last week and gave some lengthy remarks on it, basically summarizing it and I believe also reinforcing some points that were made in the Throne Speeech.
In response, Opposition Leader Jeannot Volpé said he read it twice because on his first run he "couldn't find anything that would grow the province." He then went on to mock the use of non-definitive verbs such as study, examine, colloborate, etc that were used. He said there was nothing in the document to build the economy except the word "hope". He said the premier broke a promise to let students know about the future of "advanced education" in the Throne Speech. He concluded that there were no benchmarks to measure progress so it would be impossible to tell if there was any success.
Environment Minister Roland Haché also made a statement regarding designation of several wildlife protection areas. Trevor Holder made the opposition response.
Human Resources Minister Wally Stiles announced that an agreement was signed with the Community College Teachers Union. Dale Graham made the opposition response.
As usual, there were about 10 members' statements, all very political for both sides.
Question Period was extended from the ordinary 30 minutes to 45 minutes as is standard on the first day the House returns. The questions were:
- Volpé - how much New Brunswickers will save based on some federal changes
- Blaney, Dubé, Harrison, C. LeBlanc, Olscamp, Mockler (I may have missed some) - why don't we have an answer on post-secondary education, why aren't student leaders included on working group
- Two insurance bills by Justice Minister T.J. Burke, regarding the agreement with insurers to lower rates, in response to the auditor general's report, and to change the licensing process for insurers and clarifying the appeal process to the insurance board
- A pay day loan bill, also by Burke
- An agriculture bill, by Ag&Aq Minister Ron Ouellette, giving the Farm Products Commission more power to enforce rules
- An income tax bill, by Finance Minister Victor Boudreau, renewing the low income heating rebate program
- An amendment to the motor carrier act, by Transportation Minister Denis Landry, to clarify the responsibilities of the Transport and Public Safety ministers in terms of road safety
- The whistleblowers bill by Human Resources Minister Wally Stiles
- A bill amending the off-road vehicle act, by Public Safety Minister John Foran, giving ATV and Snowmobile clubs equal standing and better access to trails
- A bill changing enforcement of oil burners, also by Foran
- A bill giving protection to employees who are reservists leaving work to go into service by Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Ed Doherty
And then Government House Leader Mike Murphy advised which bills would be up for debate on Friday.