Monday, February 26, 2007

Robert Jones report

There was some talk of the CBC report about broken Liberal promises by Robert Jones that ran last week on some other New Brunswick blogs.

First, I hope this will put to rest claims of pro-Liberal/anti-Tory bias when Jones had a report last summer on auto insurance. Robert Jones is a good journalist and as far as I know the ONLY investigative journalist we have in New Brunswick today. This is no slam on other journalists; most of them are operating in environments where they are expected to file two, three, four + stories per day. They simply do not have the time to do detailed, researched reports. Fortunately, we have Mother Corp here in New Brunswick with the resources to let a journalist get his hands dirty and uncover real news with substantive details, instead of the standard which is to merely report on the "news" that the politicians create and want reported.

Jones' report was fair in my view, as his reports during the Lord years were fair though then critical of the Tory government as opposed to today's Liberal government.

I've called my party out before for breaking the HST promise, even though I thought it was good policy for it to be axed, because, like Jones pointed out, they didn't bother to apologize for it or to even admit they made it.

Jones also points out that the Charter for Change implied that you could get a $2000 grant to retrofit your house, period. He pointed out something I had not noticed: the actual policy is 20% of costs, up to $2000. Meaning you need to spend $10,000 to get the grant they promised. Unfortunate. I think that this is a better line of attack for the Tories becuase, though the Liberals backed away from their HST pledge, this was largely because of the inadaquate (and you might argue incompotent) planning for the program by the Tories when they were in power.

In any event, Bob Jones isn't biased and, I'd like to think, neither am I. Hence this report. I'm nbpolitico, stay classy New Brunswick.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Interesting day in the legislature

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.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's not easy being green

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is having a rough week. The man who won the Liberal leadership a few months ago with much excitement and supporting decked out in green, has "enjoyed" the following headlines over the past week:

Dion missed the boat on Kyoto targets
The Windsor Star - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Outfoxing Dion on his own green turf
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

What is Dion's (environmental) plan?
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record - Mon, Feb 19, 2007

Dion paints himself into green corner
Edmonton Journal - Sun, Feb 18, 2007

Dion could be crushed under the Kyoto battle horse
The Guelph Mercury - Fri, Feb 16, 2007

In the meantime, on other issues and in genral the headlines have been just as bad:

Dion third choice for PM: poll
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Dion has Stockwell Day syndrome
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Dion faces internal criticism
Montreal Gazette - Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Party needs more image, less Dion: Axworthy
National Post - Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Dion firm as mutiny brews on terror act
National Post - Sat, Feb 17, 2007

Ouch. This bit is the worst "Dion third choice for PM: poll". Correct me if I am wrong but this is the first time I would suspect since the 1980s that a Liberal leader's personal numbers were in third place. In those days NDP legend Ed Broadbent often finished first for choice of PM but I think that Mulroney may have been third. This could be the first time ever that a Liberal leader has placed third.

I don't put a lot of stock in polls are this point in a political cycle. There is a new opposition leader who the public does not know well and, as we've seen in elections like 1974, 1984, 1998, 1993, 2004 and 2006 when the writ is out the lead can change back and forth several times over.

However, the "Dion third choice for PM: poll" line is based on an Ipsos-Reid poll released yesterday and conducted from last Thursday to Sunday. Unlike a simple voting intentions poll, I think this poll contains some relevant data. It is about people's deep down feelings towards the leaders. Poll followers will remember that Harper's postive idea centric offensive during the first weeks of the 2006 election campaign (in December 2005) caused his personal numbers to build steadily before his party's numbers followed suit. People may not have made up their minds how to vote, but they are starting to make up their minds on their leaders and that will have a strong influence on their votes come election day.

The poll had some damning numbers. Dion did not win in any category.

Who will get things done:
Harper 48%
Dion 24%
Layton 23%

Who has what it takes to lead Canada:
Harper 46%
Dion 26%
Layton 25%

Who has a vision of Canada that you support:
Harper 40%
Layton 29%
Dion 27%

Who can you trust:
Harper 39%
Layton 31%
Dion 25%

Who knows when to compromise for the greater good:
Harper 38%
Layton 33%
Dion 25%

Who has values close to yours:
Harper 37%
Layton 32%
Dion 24%

Who is open to other ideas:
Layton 36%
Harper 32%
Dion 26%

Who is sincere in dealing with global warming:
Layton 39%
Harper 28%
Dion 27%

These are all of the "positive measures" they polled. Calgary Grit is quite right to point out that Dion's numbers should be low and that being low is normal for an opposition leader.

However it is very disconcerting to see this poll not only show Dion low, but viturally tied and in some cases way behind the leader of the NDP - who most would agree is hapless - in a lot of areas. Even in the overall "preference for PM" poll. This is not something that cannot be overcome, but this is a strong warning sign that needs to be addressed soon.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Basic clash of ideas

It is probably about to wrap up, but if you haven't been watching and have a chance, you should check out the legislature webcast. They are having the debate on the bill to bar use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) by children under the age of 16.

It is refreshing to instead of seeing politics, see a true clash of ideas. You can tell they are speaking from their hearts as we see the fundamental ideological argument of "government knows best" vs. "people know best".

Maine governor to address NB legislature

Follow up on their meeting and signing of a memorandum of understanding on education and energy cooperation last week, Maine Governor John Baldacci said he had spoken more times in the past four months to Premier Shawn Graham than to any premier in his four years in office. Cooperation between Maine and New Brunswick is certainly a good thing that I encourage, I think that on energy and education there is lots of room, but also in terms of tourism, transportation, economic development and natural resources.

Northern Maine has a very depressed economy while central-western New Brunswick has been booming and at times has had employment shortages. Lots of people from this region, especially nurses, cross the border to work in the USA. However few Americans cross the border to work in Canada, that is a perfect example of economic cooperation.

However, I am not sure how I feel about the Maine Governor being given the change to address the New Brunswick legislature. I am not sure how long it has been since an outsider was allowed the privilege, the last case I know of was Winston Churchill in the 1950s. I am going to see if I can find out more details.

While it is very good that Shawn Graham is being much more driven in building relationships with our neighbours than his predeccesor, I cannot imagine the Maine legislature granting him a similar privilege and I do not like the optics of us rolling out the red carpet to our American neighbours for fear that they will appear to be our masters.


The address will be shortly after the legislature begins its sitting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday notes

Even my shortened leg summary yesterday was too long and took a lot of time. I am going to stop trying to do that and will just bring you some good nuggets as they appear.

Scott has a great post up about self-sufficiency which I encourage you all to read. I have been disappointed by the lack of noise about Self-Sufficiency on the blogosphere and was very glad to see Scott chime in.

The New Brunswick Liberals are all about reform it seems. Every time Health Minister Mike Murphy gets in front of microphone he talks about "radical" reform to the health system. Education Minister Kelly Lamrock is now saying he'll be announcing education reforms in April. I hope it is not just change for the sake of change.

Today in the legislature the opposition bills are being adjourned as they were on Friday, but with the support of the Tories. Did they "learn their lesson" yesterday? I hope not as I still think they should be pressing for a vote on their bills.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday in the legislature

(click here for my guide to the daily proceedings of the House)

Unlike on Friday, my coverage of today's proceedings will not be nearly as detailed. Instead, I will briefly summarize the proceedings, paraphrase any zingers and offer my commentary in a much shorter post. I will continue to update this thread through the day as I did on Friday.

Statements by Ministers

Tourism & Parks Minister Stuart Jamieson (L Saint John-Fundy) made a non-political statement on the 10th anniversary of the declaration of a "provincial soil". David Alward (PC Woodstock) responded favourably, but threw in a dig about Francis McGuire and how he was against rural areas. I roll my eyes, there is lots of chance for that in members statements and question period.

Premier Shawn Graham (L Kent) announced the creation of a committee, chaired by Donald Savoie, to examine right to information and privacy laws and prepare a discussion paper which will then go to province-wide consultations. Pointed out that this was a platform commitment. Opposition Leader Jeannot Volpé (PC Madawaska-les-Lacs) responded briefly on topic and then went on at length about how the government was not undertaking proper consultations about the budget.

Justice Minister T. J. Burke (L Fredericton-Nashwaaksis) produced documents indicating that figures he had cited in Question Period on Friday was correct and that Jeannot Volpé's claims were incorrect. Volpé responded that at one point Burke had said "there was a 13.5% increase, not a 13.5% decrease" which sounded to me like Burke was just trying to emphasize the point considering in the same breath he said that there would have been a 5% decrease if the Liberals hadn't negotiated a larger 13% decrease.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ed Doherty (L Saint John Harbour) announced funding for the Tobique First Nation to create jobs including 8 addiction support workers. Rose-May Poirier (PC Rogersville-Kouchibouguac) approved of the investment, suggested similar investments be made in other First Nations, threw in a dig that she was opposed to Francis McGuire's views on rural New Brunswick and that more debate was not permitted on the opposition's Rural Economic Development Fund Act which would have helped not only First Nations but all rural New Brunswickers. Again, I roll my eyes.

Claude Williams (PC Kent South) rose on a point of order to complain that Burke's earlier statement had only been distributed in English. Government House Leader Stuart Jamieson responded that statements are only distributed if they are in both official languages and that Williams had received a copy of Burke's speaking points not meant for distribution, it was agreed that a translation would be made and distributed for the convenience of members.

Question Period

Volpé (4x) - Insurance (essentially the government should apologize for saying there would have been a rate increase if the Tories remained in office; as above, I don't think they said this)
[Answers: Burke (2x), S. Graham (2x)]

Paul Robichaud (PC Lameque-Shippigan-Miscou) (3x) - Francis McGuire (you can guess about what)
[Answers: S. Graham (3x)]
[Zinger: Robichaud said that McGuire, Graham, et al. do not care about rural New Brunswick. Graham said that the Lord Government oversaw the largest population exodus out of rural NB in history]

Tony Huntjens (PC Charlotte-Campobello) (3x) - LNG terminal in St. Croix area (saying the government has moved from total opposition to opposition only if there is an environmental impact)
[Answers: S. Graham (3x)]

Jody Carr (PC Oromocto) (3x) - Raising power rates (Liberal cuts to HST rebate, etc will make life difficult for the poor)
[Answers: Family & Community Services Minister Carmel Robichaud (L Miramichi Bay-Neguac) (2x), S. Graham (1x)]

Bev Harrison (PC Hampton-Kings) (2x) - Government responsibility and trustworthiness (said the premier admitted he was irresponsible as opposition leader, said Graham was a flip-flopper, New Brunswickers cannot trus the premier) -- these sorts of questions are completely without merit, it results in Graham making a meaningless partisan speech about his accomplishments and then a return opposition speech and back and forth, this annoys me
[Answer: Graham (2x)]
[Comment: Bev Harrison is awful in question period, he speaks with out emotion, hesitates, doesn't connect his points]

Government House Leader Jamieson rose on a point of order, said in his 15 years in the legislature he had not heard the likes of the insults coming from Volpé and Harrison and that the speaker should review the tapes and ensure they are speaking in the spirit of the traditions of respect for other members and for the House. Percy Mockler (PC Restigouche-la-Vallée) said that Education Minister Kelly Lamrock (L Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak) was mean to them too and the speaker should review those remarks.

Speaker Eugene McGuinley (L Grand Lake-Gagetown) gave a speech on the importance of decorum and how disappointing it was to hear some of these things. Said he had already asked members to avoid intemperate remarks and some of this was going on today again. Said New Brunswickers expect members to cooperate and maintain decorum. He will review tapes if he has misunderstood or is unclear on what has been said, and come back if and when required.

New Business

Finance Minister Victor Boudreau (L Shediac-Cap-Pelé) introduced a bill to implement retroactively the gas tax cut the government announced the date it took office.

V. Boudreau introduced a bill to renew the film tax credit.

V. Boudreau introduced a bill to implement retroactively the lowering of the HST to 14% in conjunction with the GST cut from to 6%.

Trevor Holder (PC Saint John Portland) introduced a bill that would cause at least 1/3 of money from the Environmental Trust Fund be spent on education about global warming in schools.

Keith Ashfield (PC New Maryland-Sunbury West) introduced a bill that would require an environmental impact assesment when explosives are used in quarries.

Old Business

Bill 10 (tax credit for firefighters)
  • Wayne Steeves (PC Albert) [startling revelation: firefighters are not just men, they are women too! He mentioned this shocking point several times...];
  • V. Boudreau [Zinger: The former public safety minister, responsible for firefighters, is introducing a bill that was so important he didn't both anytime in the past 7 years; said they will support the bill in principle but it may not be possible to give it final passage because of the financial pressure left by the previous budget];
  • Carl Urquhart (PC York) [editor's note: this guy looks amazingly like U.S. ambassador David Wilkins]; Public Safety Minister John Foran (L Miramichi Centre);
  • Human Resources Minister Hédard Albert (L Caraquet);
  • Cy LeBlanc (PC Dieppe Centre-Lewisville);
  • Supply & Services Minister Roly MacIntyre (Saint John East);
  • Alward;
  • Jamieson;
  • Harrison;
  • Lamrock... [debate interupted by the expiry of time and adjournment of the House]
My comments: This was quite cute, I see that I misjudged my Liberal friends. They seem to have been playing a clever ploy. They adjourned debate on the Conservative bills on Friday, as the Tories used to do, much to the complaints of the opposition. Today, they carried forward on debate ad naseum much to the complaints of the Tories who said the government was not allowing debate to move on to their other bills nor to the opposition day motion. Kelly Lamrock quite rightly pointed out that not only did the Tories adjourn debate constantly in the last legislature, they also tried to change the rules to block the opposition from introducing bills and the few times the opposition would have been allowed to do so debate would have been extremely limited. The hypocricy of the Tories is quite extraordinary and I am glad/relieved to see the Liberals were just looking to exploit that.

Carl Urquhart, MLA (PC York) [left] and His Excellency David H. Wilkins, Ambassador of the United States of America to Canada [right]: seperated at birth!?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Congrats to the Danglers!

The World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock are a cause close to my heart, so I wanted to congratulate them on the 6th annual tournament which seems to have been a huge success. It even featured the first ever visit of a prime minister to Plaster Rock.

The Boston Danglers - made up of ex-pat Canadians - has made had their fourth consecutive victory. Well done!

What about democracy?

I encourage you all to read this article. As I mentioned in my ridiculously large summary of Friday's legislative proceedings, "I am a little miffed about this as the Liberals often complained during the past sittings of the House that the Tories always adjourned the debate on their bills preventing them from having to vote and take a stand on the issue. I would hope that the Liberals would have the decency to at least vote. I'll give them some grace as maybe it is their intention to bring these bills back for debate as opposed to leave them in limbo as the Tories used to do."

It appears from the article that the grace period is over. Deputy Government House Leader Kelly Lamrock says "[i]t happened more than 100 times with Liberal bills when we were in opposition and that's fair". No, it is not fair. Just because the Tories did it doesn't make it right. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The CBC reports Lamrock's argument as "the opposition had its chance to present the bills, and when it became apparent that none would pass, there was no sense in wasting more time on them." That is a relatively fair point. However, I think that the Tories deserve a vote on these bills, just as I thought the Liberals deserved a vote on their bills when they were in opposition.

This is what happens when bills are adjourned as happened on Friday. A member of the government moves "that the debate be now adjourned". They vote and it passes, as a result the debate will not resume until the person who moved it adjourned stands and resumes it. However, the bill is not passed or defeated, it is just placed in limbo.

It would take just as much time for a member of the government to move "that the question be now put", which would result in a vote and, if that passed, a immediate subsequent vote on the bill. The Liberals would still be able to expediently move through the agenda of the House but instead of locking the Tory bills in suspended animation, they would vote against them and defeat them.

The policy, began by the Tories, and now continued by the Liberals, is a sad combination of a) being too chicken to take a stand on hard issues being brought forward by the opposition; b) shutting down democracy.

Not cool.

PS - The Tories nominated Chad Peters for the Moncton East by-election and the NDP is set to nominate former party president Hélène Lapointe on Saturday.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday in the legislature

(click here for my guide to the daily proceedings of the House)

Statements by Ministers

Premier Graham (L-Kent) - Going to Bangor later today to sign MOUs on energy and education. Said in their 5 months in office the government had been working on its three Es - education, energy and the economy. Said he had also spoken with NL Premier Williams about hydro projects; and that New Brunswick being a geographic centre between Quebec, PEI, NS and the U.S. makes New Brunswick a great potential to be an energy hub. There will be progress with Newfoundland for an agreement on this hydro project. He said he was the incoming chair of the Council of the Federation and would be hosting the premiers in New Brunswick in August, he has set environment and energy as the subject. He also said he would be meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow at the World Pond Hockey Championship in Plaster Rock and they would have a formal meeting beforehand to discuss the fiscal imbalance.

Opposition Leader Volpé (PC Madawasaka les Lacs) - Glad the premier is meeting, said he "hope that he will be as knowledgable and as successful as the former premier." Volpé said the energy hub was Bernard Lord's idea and began in 2002 and said "thank you for keeping on building on his initiatives that he put in place years ago". He then went on for sometime about the record of Bernard Lord in forming strong relationships particularly with Quebec.


Natural Resources Minister Arseneault (L Dalhouse-Restigouche East) - Talked about cooperation between New Brunswick, Quebec and the federal government to combat poaching in the northern New Brunswick which was successful because the poachers were crossing the Quebec border where New Brunswick game officers have no authority. Arseneault said that this had been going on for two years and involved hunting with lights, unauthorized weapons and even running down deer with trucks.

Keith Ashfield (PC New Maryland-Sunbury West) - I agree, this is inexcusable and I hope those involved suffer the most severe concequences under the law. Complimented the qualifications of the staff of the Department of Natural Resources.


Energy Minister Keir (L Fundy-River Valley) - Gas regulation changes. Wanted to point out to the House that the government had fufilled that commitment and explained the changes. I will link to these here.

Bruce Northrup (PC Kings East) - Before September 18, the Liberals said they were going to scrap this and everybody knows that is the truth. Unfortunately for consumers, the price went up 4¢ today due to the weekly regulation. The government is in bed with the industry and the consumers are going to be hurt. [I would note that this was the first time Northrup spoke in the House and he spoke very well, I think he will be a strong MLA].


Labour Minister Doherty (L Saint John Harbour) - Unmployment numbers out, they've dropped to 8.1% from 8.9% the same time last year. With this government on the road to self-sufficiency it will remain in the 8% range. This government will focus on long-term planning for economic growth, recruitment and repatriation of people and went on for sometime on some other initiatives related to job creation.

Jody Carr (PC Oromocto) - Congratulate the minister on his new role, mocked a misspeaking by Doherty about achieving self-sufficiency by 2005. Carr said that low unemployment was all thanks to Bernard Lord and lower taxes. Said immigration and repatriation was a PC idea, then said other ideas, including newly announced ones, were in fact crafted by the Tories and "all ready to go" when the Liberals took office.


A lot of heckling began and the Speaker stood quite angrily and scolded the members restoring decorum more successfully than I have seen in sometime.

Question Period

Question Period

Volpe - For the Minister of Justice: On Wednesday the minister said that Volpé was incorrect in his statement about the Insurance Board. Is the Minister the same person today as on Wednesday or has he changed like his leader.

Burke - I am not sure if the opposition leader wants me to submit to a DNA test [as Volpe suggested of Graham on Wednesday]. Burke said he didn't say that Volpe was wrong, but that he didn't understand the file. And he then explained that many people were off of the facilities association, and that instead of a 5% decrease in rates, as forcasted, New Brunswickers will have a 13.5% decrease not an increase as the happened for years under the Tories.

Volpe - Says in a Sep 6/06 news release that there will be 11% decrease

Speaker - You must withdraw and should know you cannot call a member a liar.

Volpe - Started to say he would only withdraw his remarks if Burke apologized but when the speaker began to rise again he withdrew them. He said the Burke was implying that rates were going up under the Tories and that that is not true.

Burke - Unfortunate he would not have respect for the House and call a member a liar, that is why they are in opposition. The government done a lot of work to reduce rates.

Volpe - The minister of justice speaks about respect for the House, he is misleading the house, are you doing that for fun or because you don't know your file.

Burke - I am having fun representing all of the people of New Brunswick as their minister of justice. If Volpe would check with the consumer advocate - who they appointed - the advocate had criticized the Tory plan and says that the Liberal plan is better for New Brunswickers. Says the Liberal changes were good for consumers and were not forthcoming

Speaker - There will be times when debate will be heated, but I am asking you all to cool it down just a bit. There were intemperate remarks made. I am going this House a message, the leader of the opposition and all members, I do not want have to rise all the time and ask people to rephrase their remarks and come to order. We are here to do the work of the people of New Brunswick, I will not muzzle debate but you will have to be temperate in your remarks.

Volpe - Question for premier. I want to know if the premier is the same today because he does change on a daily basis. On Wednesday, he asked me "is he the same person who handed New Brunswickers a $400 million deficit and didn't mention it once during the election."

Graham - I am sorry the leader is having such a hard time and has already be chastized twice. I am not sure what his question is, but I am the same person.

Volpe - The premier keeps refering to the Grant Thorton report and this $400 million deficit. Has he read the report.

Graham - "Yes."

Volpe - Where in there does it say that in the report?

Boudreau - It does not say there was a deficit, but there will be a deficit unless changes are made. Quotes Volpe from shortly after the election when he said "we know things they don't, there will be a deficit".

Volpe - Yes former ministers on this side know more the government and we will for years. Is the minister aware that Health costs go up 7-10% per year.

Boudreau - Yes, that is on page 10 of the report. Whether you call it "financial pressure" or a "potential deficit it is the same thing. Has the former minister of finance read the report?

Volpe - Maybe the premier will answer - is someone over there aware that health costs go up 7 to 10%.

Graham - I am glad to answer because my ministers have confidence in me and I have confidence in them while it seems to be a one man show on the other side. Yes, I am aware of the challenges in the health care system. Did that minister not get the same briefing we got the day we took office that there was a potential deficit. If he did, why did he not mention it during the 2006 election.

Volpe - Your report only says health will go up $70-$100 million. Are you aware of these costs?

Murphy - We know that health costs are going up fast and that is not sustainable. We have unleashed innovative thinkers in the department of health since we took office and will be unveilling changes to make sure that we have the best health care system in Canada.

Volpe - See there is another minister who admits it. I wasn't hiding anything, they knew these costs were going up. They also forcast increased costs due to negotiations with labour, did they not know that wages go up?

Boudreau - I can see that we know what all of the leaders questions are going to be - from page 10 of the report. Yes we were aware that these costs are going up, but we assumed that there was some plan to combat increased costs, this government is working to address the shortfalls.

(I am going to stop trying to do this roughly verbatim - I am not getting any work done)

To sum up, Volpe says that everyone knew costs were going up, so it he was not hiding anything as the government claims. The government then responds with Volpe's quote that he "knew things that they don't" so he was hiding anything, the government also starts listing their accomplishments since taking office and indicate the Tories accomplished little. Volpe says that they have admitted that he wasn't hiding anything.

Paul Robichaud began asking questions about past statements of Francis McGuire which he implied were unfavourable to the north, and asked if the government would accept his report.

Graham stood to answer and asked how much time was left in question period, the opposition went crazy and the speaker stood saying "Now, boys and girls. I want order in this House. I heard the comment from a member that the premier was leading the speaker. The premier was not, he asked a question and I have checked with the clerk, there is time for one answer. Order. Thank you."

Graham answered the question fairly passionately, in one of the best I've seen him off of the cuff, in both languages, that there was a unique chance for transforming the province and that they had to do it for New Brunswickers to succeed and he called on all members of the house and all New Brunswickers to particpate in that process.

Opposition House Leader and former Speaker Bev Harrison - your rulings during QP should not subtract from the 30 minutes. Government House Leader said it was opposition heckling that prompted the rulings. Speaker asked for unanimous consent to continue question period, there was none.

New Business

Wayne Steeves (PC Albert) introduced a bill that would create a tax break for volunteer fire fighters of $250 for 75+ hours, $500 for 150+ hours.

Bev Harrison (PC Hampton-Kings) introduced a bill that would set fixed election dates starting Oct 18, 2010.

Jody Carr (PC Oromocto) asked for permission to amend his motion he'd given notice for on Wednesday because it contained unparliamentary language and would be ruled out of order when it came up for debate. Here is the original motion with parts Carr had successfully removed struck through:

Motion 3 by Mr. Carr, seconded by Mr. C. LeBlanc to propose the following resolution
on Tuesday, February 13, 2007:

WHEREAS the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick unanimously passed the Estimates of the Department of Finance for the fiscal year of 2006/2007 including the estimates allocated for the necessary $45 million for a full rebate of the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax paid on home heating costs; and

WHEREAS during the provincial election of 2006, the Liberal Leader promised to return the 8% Harmonized Sales Tax to the taxpayers of New Brunswick; and

WHEREAS the same Liberal Leader and current premier has now reneged on his election promise and created an atmosphere of distrust and marred the good name of all accountable and responsible members of this Legislature; and

WHEREAS the current Government’s new energy relief program only helps a small fraction of New Brunswickers at a cost of less than $10 million dollars; and

WHEREAS the remaining $35 million dollars of the budget for the Department of Finance is now being used to fund other poorly planned promises of the Liberal Party; and

WHEREAS the current government has shown little concern for those families and individuals who had budgeted on this rebate to help them through the cold winter months; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that this Legislative Assembly call upon the government to be truthful with New Brunswickers and further call upon the government to reinstate the HST Rebate Program and return the tax dollars to their rightful recipients, the taxpayers of New Brunswick.
Several tabling motions were also introduced.

Government Motions for the Ordering of the Business of the House

Government House Leader Stuart Jamieson (L Saint John-Fundy) moved a motion, and got unanimous consent to do so without notice, establishing the committees of the House. The committees on Health Care and Education were not appointed, not sure why.

Jamieson then moved, and got unanimous conssent to do so without notice, establishing the Legislative Administrative Committee (which runs the house - i.e. sets its budget, hires and fires, etc), the membership is:

Speaker Eugene McGuinley (L Grand Lake-Gagetown), Chair
Roy Boudreau (L Campbellton-Restigouche Centre)
Finance Minister Victor Boudreau (L Shediac-Cap-Pelé)
Jody Carr (PC Oromocto)
Opposition House Leader Bev Harrison (PC Hampton-Kings)
Government House Leader Stuart Jamieson (L Saint John-Fundy)
Dr. Larry Kennedy (L Victoria-Tobique)
Brian Kenny (L Bathurst)
Cy LeBlanc (PC Dieppe Centre-Lewisville)
Rick Miles (L Fredericton-Silverwood)

Business will move through second reading of bills and then to the throne speech if time was left.

Old Business

Bill 2 (power of tourism minister with respect to parks) - Both sides agree it is a housekeeping matter. No objection from opposition, but the now premier and then opposition opposed a similar bill because it took some power away from cabinet and give it to the minister individually. It passes second reading on a voice vote.

Bill 3 (changing old liquor user fee to a tax retroactively) - Public Safety Minister John Foran (L Miramichi Centre), says that this is the responsible for thing to do as the Supreme Court said directly that they could and then that the bar owners passed on the cost of this to their customers and that it is not a new tax and therefore doesn't violate the Taxpayer Protection Act. Wayne Steeves (PC Albert) and Jeannot Volpé (PC Madawaska les Lacs) oppose it. Volpe's argument is that this is not "standing up for people" as the Liberals ran on in 2003 and, typical to Liberals, the first thing they do is introduce a "new tax". Says that the Liberals have changed their mind when they moved to the government side of the house, unlike the "great leader that we had". "This group here will vote against any new tax." It passes second reading on a voice vote.

[The House adjourned for lunch from 12:30 to 1:30].

Bill 4 & 5 (gender neutrality to titles of bills) - The opposition criticized the government on both of these bills for them having been introduced under the previous government and not bassed due to "opposition obstruction". On Bill 5, Justice Minsiter T. J. Burke (L Fredericton-Nashwaaksis), responded to these criticisms saying that he wished that the opposition wouldn't play politics with routine business. Bruce Fitch (PC Riverview) then said that the government had been having a grand old time "cutting our ribbons", introducing old PC bills, cutting the HST rebate and letting Francis McGuire "drain the life out of the north of the province". Both passed on voice vote.

Bill 6 (giving government more power over leased crown land) - The opposition critic Keith Ashfield (PC New Maryland-Sunbury West) said they were not opposed to the bill, but had some questions for clarification to ask in committee. Then he took a dig at the Liberals by saying the Tories would scrutinize the legislation and be an effective oppositon asking substantive questions as seems to be their favourite pattern of attack. Volpe then stood to speak on some of the details of the bill which was rather mundane. It passed on a voice vote.

I stepped into a meeting and missed the debate on opposition Bills 7, 8 and 9. The house record shows all three had the debate adjourned.

I got back in time for the vote on Bill 9, which was 26-24. Missing from the vote were Premier Graham (off signing his deal with Maine one presumes), Agriculture Minister Ouellette and Tory MLA Margaret-Ann Blaney.

I am a little miffed about this as the Liberals often complained during the past sittings of the House that the Tories always adjourned the debate on their bills preventing them from having to vote and take a stand on the issue. I would hope that the Liberals would have the decency to at least a lot votes. I'll give them some grace as maybe it is their intention to bring these bills back for debate as opposed to leave them in limbo as the Tories used to do.

I guess the debate was quite heated as Education Minister Kelly Lamrock (L Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak) rose after the vote on Bill 9 to withdraw some of the remarks he made during the debate on Bill 7. He had called Jeannot Volpé a "shallow imposter", in reference to the fact he was trying to amend a Bill which he had introduced only 6 months before and, as Lamrock said in retracting the statement, he meant to imply that Jeannot was a different person now than he was then as he had been accussing the Liberals. He also withdrew the term "intellectual dishonesty" and replaced it with "intellectual delusion".

As per the comments section, the summaries to future debates will not be as substantive both to make it easier for me to keep up with my day job and easier for you folks to read.

A day in the House...

Today is the first day in which the House will go through a full standard agenda, I will summarize each item on the agenda for you to begin as a guide for those not familiar. I will be trying to post a summary each day the House sits, beginning today, and I will link back here as a guide.

Routine Beginning Business

Prayers / Condolences and Messages of Sympathy / Introduction of Guests / Congratulatory Messages

All of these items only take a few minutes or on the rare occassion up to about 30 minutes. The speaker, the clerk or sometimes a regilious minister begins each day with a standard prayer followed by all members partaking in the Lord's Prayer. Then MLAs have the opportunity to offer condolences to families of notable members of their communities, MLAs then may introduce any notable guests sitting in the legislature (it is not unusual for an MLA to request unanimous request to revert to this order later on in the day as notable people come in and out of the House) and Congratulatory Messages allows MLAs to congratulate people and businesses in their community and others for a notable achievement. Politics is forbidden in these statements and I will not ordinarily report on them.

Tabling of Documents

Presentations of Petitions, Answers to Petitions and Written Questions / Presentations of Committee Reports / Tabling of Documents

These items all involve the tabling of documents - either petitions or a government's written response to a petition or a written question (a question tabled with the clerk by an MLA), committee reports or other documents as tabled by ministers (usually annual reports for their departments, the reports of commissions or inquiries or sometimes a controversial document that has been discussed in the House. Again, I will not ordinarily report on them.

Statements by Ministers

A minister has unlimited time to stand up and speak on an issue. This is not an item that comes up everyday, it usually occurs when a minister wants to annnounce a major new program or in the case of a major or significant event affecting their jurisdiction. For instance the Minister of Labour usually stands every month to comment on the unemployment figures released by StatCan. The opposition critic may stand and respond for an amount of time not longer than how long the minister spoke.

Statements by Members

This is the preview for question period. There are 10 minutes set aside and no member can speak for more than a minute so you usually get between 10 and 12 MLAs speaking. This is WORSE than question period. Though the occassion member will use this to refer to something positive, particularly government MLAs, this is mostly used for rabid partisan attacks, however, unlike question period, there is no chance for a response or for an exchange of information. The media totally ignores this circus and so will I - except in the unusual case that something substantive is said.

Oral Questions

This is question period, it lasts 30 minutes. I think you know the rest.

New Business

Introduction of Bills / Notices of Motions

MLAs stand and introduce new bills or give notices of motions (48 hours notice is required). They may speak "briefly" on the substance of measures. No debate is permitted at this time. Bills are debated beginning the next day, motions are debated in a more complicated fashion. They are not debate necessarily in the order they are introduced. There are two sorts of motions: debatable and tabling. Debatable motions if introduced by a minister are brought up during "Orders of the Day" in the next sitting after 48 hours. Motions introduced by the opposition and backbenchers are debated for two hours each and one motion is debated each Tuesday and Thursday in the following order: two opposition motions, a government motion, another opposition motion, another government motion and then repeat the cycle. Tabling motions call on the government to present certain documents to the opposition, if the government does not do so within a time frame suitable to the opposition, they can debate the motion and try to pass it.

Government Motions for the Ordering of the Business of the House

The Government House Leader, or his designate, indicates which items already on the House's agenda will be debated later in the day.

Orders of the Day

This is essentially "old business"...

  • first second reading of any bills introduced the day before, this can sometimes take all day and then continue over into the next day.

  • on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we then proceed to a private member's motion for up to two hours (sometimes there are not two hours left in the sitting)

  • if time is remaining, they proceed to consider items in Committee of the Whole House, Government Motions or Third Reading of bills as designated earlier by the Government House Leader. (The Throne Speech and Budget debate also take place here)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Opposition reply to the Throne Speech

Volpé says there are three differences between the Tories and Liberals:

1.) The Tories got more votes from the people and will be a responsible opposition.

2.) The Liberals for made a "shopping list" with "hundreds of promises" proving that a government can get elected by "being irresponsible". Yet there were 152 promises in the Tory platform of 2003. A bit in consistent...

3.) Tories are fiscally responsible, they balance budgets by cutting taxes. I won't get in to that old argument, but Victor Boudreau has pledged up and down that the budget will be balanced despite the mess Volpé left him. What is the problem?

He then went on at length about the Tory record in government. In the midst of it he was missing a page of his speech and stumbled for a while then told a joke getting his caucus to applaud until he found the page.

Then he went on to criticize the Liberal government of 1987-1999. Citing statistics without context, as his party has been known to do, pointing out that the Liberals created only apporximately 3500 jobs/year when they were in office while the Tories created approximately 5000/year. He fails to mention that much of the Liberal time in office was during the worst recession since the Great Depression, while the Tories spent most of their time in office during periods of unprecendented economic growth.

He mentioned Francis McGuire a lot. And he talked about how bringing big business to New Brunswick was bad because you run too high of a risk of those businesses leaving one day and destroying communities.

He then went back to talking about the Bernard Lord record.

He also said that the only difference between the McKenna government and the Graham government was "the name of the captain sitting in the pilot's seat". That sounds to me like a pretty high compliment of Shawn Graham, though I am sure he meant that McKenna was an awful premier, though I don't think he would find many New Brunswickers that would agree.

He then continued to go back and forth between lauding Bernard Lord and ripping Frank McKenna.

Finally, after 42 minutes, he began to talk about the current government but only in the context of programs launched by the Lord government of which the Graham government will continue the implementation and did that for 9 minutes.

Among these items, he congratulated the Liberals for keeping private insurance, but then said the Liberals lacked integrity for doing so after promising to launch public insurance. I am sorry that the promise the Liberals had been consistently running with since the sping of 2003 - "public auto insurance if necessary, but not necessarily public auto insurance" - was too complicated for Volpé to understand.

After a total of 51 minutes of speaking, Volpé finally began what the Opposition reply is usually for: criticisms of the government's agenda and alternatives proposed by the opposition. He did this for 5 minutes...

  • He criticized the Liberal environment policy. Said it should not be about Kyoto and that they couldn't allow Irving to build a second refinery without allowing emmissions to rise and that the government was not clear in its overall agenda, it needed to propose something sound.

  • He said that New Brunswick is 50-50 rural-urban and the government had to recognize the economic potential in rural areas and that the Liberals had to give them the tools to grow their economies. He said that Francis McGuire was opposed to rural New Brunswick. He suggest the government should support their bill to create a Regional Economic Development Fund, which he said would build on the three regional funds they had set up while they were in power. He said Graham had to clarify his plans to "close the north of the province".

  • He said that the Liberals were not ready to govern and needed to have a more robust agenda. Said he was surprised that the government bills yesterday mostly merely changed names and the only substantive measure was a "new tax".
I am going to try to be positive. So, I was impressed with his taking the effort to use a lot of English and this English seemed improved upon from his time in government. Has he been practicing, is my memory not so good or was it because he was reading from a prepared text? I guess we'll see in the coming days.

Also on the positive side, though I was very underwhelmed by the speech, it was a very good speech for rallying the troops and I am sure any Tory that heard the speech would think it is wonderful. Unfortunately, though it does not do much for Liberals, NDPers and non-aligned voters. Perhaps this is a sound strategy, there will not be an election for 4 years and the Tories need to hold together through a long time in the opposition and through a leadership contest.

UPDATE: Semi-constructed Tory website uncovered!

Commenter jl, has shown us that the Tory website is coming along nicely and is available for public view if you know the right URL.

If you go to you are redirected to, which looks as follows:

If you go to (the French version of the site is also available in a similar state) however you will find this:

Included on this partially completed site is a list of all of the Tory news releases since the election, something I've been looking for some some time.

News roundup

Some rather silly comments from two Tory's reported in the press today. One sour grapes and one a bit bizarre.

Shediac deputy mayor Leo Doiron, two-time Tory candidate against finance minister Victor Boudreau, is complaining that Highway 15 was not listed among highways needing work in the Throne Speech saying that Boudreau said it would be a priority in his first campaign for the legislature in the 2004 by-election there.

Tory Health Critic, Claude Landry, who was formerly Executive Assistant to the Minister of Health under the Lord government, has said that he is "glad that the funding is finally coming" for cancer clinics in the north. Landry said "we've been waiting for it for a while", yet for the past 7 years it was his party that was in power and he was actually staffing the minister responsible for part of that time!

Opposition Reply today

Jeannot Volpé is about to undertake his response to the Throne Speech. I'll post some commentary on that shortly after he wraps up. Unfortunately, they will have have to be from memory because, to beat a dead horse, I'll remind you all again that the PC Party still, after nearly 6 months since the election, have no website.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day two in the legislature

For those not familiar with the legislative process, not much happens on the first few days of the legislature. No business is considered on day one except for the throne speech. Motions require two days notice and bills aren't debated until the day after they're introduced. So, this is how it works.

Day 1 - Throne Speech (no other business)
Day 2 - First Question Period (bills may be introduced and notices given for motions)
Day 3 - Opposition Reply to Throne Speech (no other business)
Day 4 - Debate of any bills that were introduced, then throne speech
Day 5 - see day 4
Day 6 - Premier's Reply to Throne Speech
Day 7 - normal business begins

So today we had the first Question Period which, as per tradition, was 45 minutes long as opposed to the usual 30 minutes. I must admit I was a bit impressed with Volpé's performance; he is a better opposition questioner than a government answerer. That said, I thought the substance of a lot of his questions were poor, but towards the end when they started bringing back some of Shawn Graham's words from opposition which seem inconsistent with his actions in government, they may be able to get some traction.

I was disappointed that Volpé asked every question and they were mostly in French while Graham answered every question and they were mostly in English.

Eight bills were introduced. Bill 4 and 5, courtesy of Justice Minister T. J. Burke, are warm and fuzzy. They change the terms "warehousemen" and "woodsmen" to "storers" and "woodsworkers" out of respect for women. Three other government bills cover giving the Minister of Tourism & Parks control over some more provincial parks (from the Minister of Natural Resources) and giving the province more leeway in creating and managing provincial parks; a bill to retroactively change a user fee in place for liquor purchasers from 1998 to 2004 to a tax as the Supreme Court recently ruled that it was illegal to have collected the money as a user fee; and a bill to prevent companies from using leased crown land as a security on loans and giving the province more control over roads through leased crown land.

Relatively boring stuff from the government.

The opposition introduced three bills.

One would amend the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act to cause ministers to get a pay cut if they don't balance the books, this is similar to a provision that exists in BC. This is theoretically, a clever bill for the opposition to introduce because it is difficult for government to vote against it without looking like they are not going to be good stewards of the public purse. However, it is a bit rich to see this coming, introduced by Jeannot Volpé, when Volpé authored the original legislation he is trying to now amend, without this provision, about 13 months ago and it only came into effect in September.

Another would set up the Rural Economic Development Fund the Tories promised during the campaign. It was this fund, when panned by Donald Savoie, that prompted Bernard Lord to claim that Savoie, a respected international scholar, should not make policy pronouncements because he organized Louis Robichaud's funeral and was therefore biased in favour of the Liberals.

The third would cap assesment increases of owner occupied properties at 3% per year also promised by the Tories in the election.

I was also pleased to see that a prediction made on this blog sometime ago by an anonymous commentor has turned out not to be true. The cynical commenter noted that the new government had promptly removed all of the blue logos from the government website that had been added by the Tories and predicted they would soon replace them with red. This government instead has kept partisan subliminal advertising out of government publications by using neutral colours as demonstrated by the backdrop used during the unveiling of the Throne Speech promised.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Throne Speech

The Liberal government brought in its throne speech today.

Highlights from my perspective:
  • budget - both capital and ordinary - will be introduced on March 13, well ahead of what is required by law

  • a "Prescription Monitoring Program" to avoid the overprescription of addictive drugs when users go to multiple doctors

  • finally, as was promised by the former Liberal government in 1999, and repromised and never delievered by the Tories over the course of 7 years, we will get Nurse Practioners which should do wonders for our health care system
Other than that, the highlights in the press release lead me to believe it is a bit light but I'll give it a more thorough review when I have time tonight.

What is the Tory reaction? Unless you live in Fredericton and were able to walk in to the legislative assembly and listen to the scrums or are a member of the press gallery, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. Why? Their website is still not up making it impossible for them to inform the general public of the flaws, as they see them. Also interesting that Bernard Lord, who hasn't been their leader for six weeks and hasn't been an MLA for one, still has his name egotistically emblazoned on their party logo.

Contested election for speaker

It was expected by me that the intended Liberal speaker, Eugene McGinley, would be elected today by acclamation. Instead, two Tory MLAs are standing as candidates against him - Tony Huntjens and Wally Stiles.

This is very interesting, especially where Huntjens was promised the speakership by Bernard Lord last year when he broke his earlier promise to return him to the cabinet and then broke his second promise when his majority was held hostage by rogue MLA Tanker Malley.

The Liberals have an interesting decision to make. If they elect a Tory speaker it will widen the size of the functional majority which is not overly large. However they risk getting a speaker, who like Bev Harrison, speaker from 1999-2006, would be very partisan in the role and rule in favour of his party whenever possible regardless of how the rules applied.

I will update as the results come in...


McGuinley elected on the first ballot. Presumably with the unanimous consent of Liberals which would give him the majority to push him over the top. Probably a wise choice, the benefit of moving from a 2 to 3 seat majority (and potentially a 4th seat after March 5) is probably not worth the risk of having a speaker thwart your agenda.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Don't like what Francis McGuire has to say? Do something about it...

My earlier posts about the Self-Sufficiency Task Force and particularly the comments of co-chairman Francis McGuire sparked a lot of heated and impassioned debate. And rightfully so.

I am a little disturbed however that after a full work week, only 73 people have filled out the anonymous survey the task force is asking people to complete. And only 26 comments have been made on the Task Force's discussion forum.

Let's get involved people. This is about the future of our province. It is worth a few minutes of your time. Get involved!

The race is on...

Despite some pathetic begging from his former colleagues, Bernard Lord resigned his seat on Tuesday. Today, Shawn Graham called a by-election for March 5, as I predicted. Some may cry foul for such a quick by-election call, but Shawn Graham has long been on the record as a proponent of quick by-elections and Lord set the precedent for quick by-elections when leader's resign. One day in the case of Camille Thériault and two days in the case of Elizabeth Weir.

I think most are in agreement that this will be an easy pick up for the Liberals. The factors in the Liberals favour:
  • The seat was Liberal from 1974-1998 and only went to Lord by relatively narrow margins in all but the 1999 sweep

  • The Liberals are in power and will be for probably 3.5 to 4 years and a Liberal MLA from Moncton East would almost certainly soon join the cabinet

  • Lord was elected on the "leader factor" which is gone in this case

  • The Tories did well in Moncton because of Lord's own popularity there, he has said that after a short time he will be in a job that will not permit him to campaign here

  • The Tories did well in Moncton because of the pro-Tory spin of the Times & Transcript which has become notably fairer to the Liberals in recent weeks

  • The Liberals have a very strong candidate
The Liberal candidate is Moncton city councillor Chris Collins.

The Progressive Conservatives have not nominated a candidate, but so far, the only declared candidate is Opposition staffer Chad Peters.

I've heard nothing about who the NDP may run. In 2003, a senior member of the NDP Jean-Marie Nadeau ran here, will he run again?

It will also be interesting to see if the Green Party, which has yet to officially form, will run someone as an independent.