IF YOU HAVE ANY STORIES, PICTURES OR VIDEOS? EMAIL THEM TO ME AT oldmaison@yahoo.com


BE MORE EDUCATED ON THE NEW FORESTRY ACT AT THE PLAYHOUSE ON SUNDAY NIGHT AT 7:00PM IN FREDERICTON!!!!!!!!







*** Cartoon Of The Day ***
J.D. IRVING TO BUY GOOGLE???????

Saturday, November 29, 2008

OLD SANTA CLAUS IS BACK IN SAINT JOHN!!! GOOD OLD DAYS ARE BACK HERE AGAIN!!!

Some people have a long memory!!! I must admit that I totally forgot about this story!!!

Remember this one? I received this email a few hours ago!!


Charles,

Last night I went to the Saint John Mayor's tree lighting. The Mayor, some Councillors; prayers (Councillor Snook) and songs. Dropped off for toys and food. Santa Claus (finally the real Santa was there). I believe you have pictures of Santa, the previous Mayor did not want; he choose a friend to play the part instead.
THE REAL SANTA was there last night and spoke to the crowd. People really enjoyed him. Trolley rides for the kids while they waited to speak to Santa. Hot chocolate for everyone. Also with the help of Santa's Elf, the children each received a book, reindeer hat, a picture of the reindeer and a candy cane.

Parents all smiles along with the children who were so excited. Pictures were taken by the parents as they child sat on Santa's knee.
Santa listened to each child and he spoke at length. The lineup to get to see Santa was all through the Market Square and out the door.

Proud of how organized and well attended this tree lighting was.

Just wondered why the News People never attended and covered it. No Telegraph Journal (they like to print negative things), no one with a camera for TV coverage either.) They certainly knew of the event.

Politics seem to play into many things and unfortunately the people and children of Saint John deserve better.

Proud of the efforts of our Mayor Ivan Court and the Councillors who attended- Councillors Court, Snook, Killen and Higgens. Sorry if I missed any other Councillor.

It does get very petty when our paper only advertises the event on a back page and does try to play down the event.

It was well attended but with more support we could of had more food for the Food Bank and toys for the children.

Uptown Saint John, Enterprise Saint John, Board of Trade did little to serve in real support; wonder if we cut off the tax dollars. Time to stop playing the petty games. It was time to support our Mayor.

There seems to be a huge disconnect.

I could name some people but that won't help matters.

Santa was every child's dream and a huge success.

My GrandChildren no longer live in Saint John but we still attended and enjoyed the families there and babies too.

Disappointed in everyone who tries to block the postive things that our Mayor continually does.

This one event is just one of many that the news people try not to cover. Politics again.

Hopefully these people get a chuck of coal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

DECEMBER 12TH IS HUG A RED HEAD DAY!!!!

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You long term readers know that I'm not afraid of nothing beside people with Red hair.

This came about when I asked people to sign a petition.

These people are quick tempered, stern and will tell you off.

The infamous day of KICK A RED HEAD DAY was terrible.

This blogger would never hit a Red head because I could get killed?

Since it was a shameful day? I'm pasting the youtube video in this blog.

This is ATV News journalist Andy Campbell.

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A stranger kicked him at Tim's Horton.

Click below for the youtube -


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Who's that strange man???

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Accident halts traffic on Westmorland Bridge in Fredericton!!

The bridge was in a total shut down from 5:30pm till 8:45pm!!!

The cops had a difficult job to do!!!

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Nobody got killed!!!

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This trucker was stranded in the bridge for close to three hours!!!


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Firemen cleaned the mess and the traffic was active at 8:45pm!!!


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Blogger Charles LeBlanc goes hunting and shot a few!!!

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I was busy yesterday so therefore I didn't have the time to protest at the Legislature.

I decided to go hunting for some MLA's but without my blowhorn.

It was 30 minutes before the House began. Will I have any luck?

I waited on the sidewalk because I know the routes these deers take.

Then suddenly I saw one heading towards me. He was the quiet type but with a heavy set.

I quickly took out my weapon for a shot and I got it!!!

It was Minister of Finance Victor Boudreau.


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Click below for the youtube!!!


target="_blank">Charles
Blog



The video only lasted close to a minute.

The animal quickly left the scene with a polite Good bye.

I went back to my hideout and I didn't have to wait long.

I heard this very over weight buck coming my way.

I set my weapon and guess who it was?

The Fascist Minister John Foran himself!!


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Closer he came walking very slowly as he was hurt. < Maybe someone got a shot of him earlier? >

He quickly made a sudden stop. He chatted with someone who was watching me across the streets for a few minutes earlier.


Click below -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog


Then with heavy legs and overweight, the giant Buck began walking toward me. I didn't know what to do but to go for my weapon. I hunted my pray until it was at my sight.

DARN BUCK NEVER SAID A WORD!!!

Click below for the youtube -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog



He quickly kept on walking to his kingdom without even noticing me. Did you noticed the echo when I shouted at the buck? Can you imagine a blowhorn??? < Even scares me!!! >

I went back to my hideout dejected!!! Then suddenly, I heard a buck screaming in the woods. My God??? He was a hyper little buck. Jumping and shouting!!!

This will not be a easy hit because he moves so fast!!! Very hyper!!! I had to move quickly but I had to be prudent because this one could kick very hard!!!

At a closer look, it was Justice Minister T.J. Burke!!!


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Luck is riding with me today!!! First the Minister of Public Safety and now the Justice guy!!!

Click below for video < Listen to the screaming >...lol


target="_blank">Charles
Blog


Yes, this hyper buck quickly left the scene but not before educating moi!! < I think? >

That last one exhausted me!!! I walked slowly to my hideout until I heard another hyper buck running in the woods. This one was quiet but moved very fast.

It was the King Buck himself!!! Premier Shawn Graham!!



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I had to move fast because the King Buck is very tricky with his answers. Will I get some answers?

Plus a bunch of Liberals in the video

Click below for the youtube -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog



Same answer I guess?

Time will tell!!

He told me to contact his assistant Bernard Theriault but I don't believe that would be a good idea to meet this very quick tempered guy!...lol


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I decided to call it quits but suddenly out of nowhere? I came face to face with a healthy Buck!!

Minister of Health Mike Murphy.


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The white hair buck was more concern about health care. But at the end of the video one Quebec security staff tried to intimidate this blogger.

Click below -

target="_blank">Charles
Blog


First time that a security guy came so close to me?

Maybe next time, it'll get more interesting?

Tomorrow is another day of hunting!!!

When is hunting season over anyway??

:P

The battle against Fascism will continue!!!


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Stay tuned!!!


P.S. I shot a few bucks a couple of weeks ago.

Rick Miles


liberal


In my humble opinion? This is the funniest one yet!!!

A back bencher has no power but maybe Rick found a new style to be heard???

Click below -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog




ADHD MLA Kirk MacDonald for once was silent!!!


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Click below -



target="_blank">Charles
Blog




Greg Byrne was my first victim!!! It didn't long for the word to spread that the blogger had a new style on the streets.


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Enjoy -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog



Of course one of the best was Abel LeBlanc!!!!


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Click below -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog



Cheryl Lavoie also got caught!!!


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Click below -



target="_blank">Charles
Blog



MLA Joan- MacAlpine-Stiles -



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Click below -

target="_blank">Charles
Blog



P.C. MLA Jeannot Volpe. This is a heated exchange!!! Good one!!!


rtr

Click below -


target="_blank">Charles
Blog

DID SOMEONE GET KILLED TONIGHT ON THE WESTMORLAND BRIDGE IN FREDERICTON???


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Originally uploaded by Oldmaison
Someone told me that a citizen got killed while walking on the Bridge?

Does anyone know the real story???

Let me know!!!


HERE'S AN UPDATE!!!

ACCIDENT ON THE BRIDGE BUT NOBODY GOT KILLED!!!!

Why are the words Bullshit and shit acceptable in today's media???

While listening to Global News last night? I heard the word- BULLSHIT!!!!

This afternoon I heard the word- SHIT on CBC radio!!!

Whatever happen to the BEEP BEEP BEEP sound???

Does my new blog sucks????

Charles,

your new website really sucks......to long to download!

WOW!!!! MAYOR BRAD WOODSIDE AND HIS COUNCILORS REFUSE TO STEP INSIDE THE FREDERICTON EMERGENCY SHELTER!!!!

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I don't know the whole story but I trust Brian Duplessis with his words.

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Brian appeared with members of the Staff for a meeting BEHIND CLOSE DOORS!!!

SURPRISE???

Anyway, the shelter needs $60,000 to help the less fortunate to survive the cold winter months.

I invited every politician at City Hall to visit the Shelter but not one single member showed up!!!!

What the hell is going on here anyway???

Let me guess? The City want the shelter to shut down so they can die on the streets or move to the new Family Services building on the higest peek in the North Side?

This is serious!!!

I'm blogging this one very fast!!! I'm out the door to interview Brian so I can get the facts!

Here's a youtube I did with Brian months ago.

Click below -

target="_blank">Charles
Blog


OK...I'M OUT THE DOOR!!!! STAY TUNED!!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BULLSHIT!!!!QUESTIONS PERIOD AT THE NEW BRUNSWICK LEGISLATURE!!!

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BE PATIENT!!! JUST SCROLL DOWN IF YOU LIKE THIS LITTLE BLOG...I'LL LINK IT ON THE SIDE BAR IN A FEW DAYS FROM NOW!!! I TIRED TO CUT IT BUT IT WON'T WORK!!! JUST BE PATIENT!!!!

You asked for it and now you got it!!! I really hate to blog all this BS in this blog but I will!!!

I'll change this particular with the new questions.

I'll post them in my link.

You people can debate the issues in there!!!!

For now...it'll take some space in the blog but it'll only be for a few days!!!

Enjoy!!!

UGH!!!!


ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
019 11:15
Mr. P. Robichaud: As is the tradition on the first sitting day of a new session, I am asking for the
cooperation of the government for an extension of 15 minutes to question period.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Alward: Good morning, Mr. Speaker. Before I begin, I would like to say that it is a pleasure
to rise today for my first question period as leader of the official opposition of New Brunswick.
Economy
We are all aware that New Brunswick is not immune to the current global economic crisis. Part of
the question of how hard our province will be impacted will rest with how this government chooses
to proceed in the short term. Like many New Brunswickers, I look forward to reviewing the
province’s economic update, as promised in yesterday’s speech from the throne. With that said, will
the Premier confirm today how large a deficit his government is now forecasting for this year and
what it is forecasting for the year 2009-10?
Hon. S. Graham: I welcome the first question from the Leader of The Opposition this morning, and
I do look forward to a new debate in the Legislature. I want to begin by saying that the global
situation changed dramatically on October 14. There were repercussions throughout the world when
a number of large financial institutions began to fail. That financial institution failure has now
moved on to Main Street, and we are seeing a number of large corporations dealing with issues of
access to capital and liquidity of funds.
As we have moved forward, our government has started a plan. That plan is the self-sufficiency
agenda. I have to say that by focusing on the three key priority areas of education, economic
development, and energy, we are well ahead of the curve. In fact, even though New Brunswick will
be facing difficult times, we are certainly in a much better position today than many other regions
in North America. This is because of the prudent and wide decisions our government made in
diversifying the economy early in its mandate.
Mr. Alward: We are clearly not in a better position today than we were in in 2006. After that type
of response, people certainly know more now that the Premier has answered that question. People
in this province are being told to tighten their belts. At the same time, the government has failed to
provide them with any indication of what the future holds. New Brunswickers and their businesses
needed an economic update weeks ago. New Brunswickers need to know that the government has
a plan to deal with the economy. Will the Premier confirm today the date on which he will provide
New Brunswickers with a complete economic update, as was promised in the throne speech?
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ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
Hon. S. Graham: What is important, as was clearly indicated yesterday, is that we need a
coordinated approach. The government of Nova Scotia adjourned its Legislature yesterday without
releasing a fiscal update. The government of Canada is currently in session and has not released a
fiscal update. What I can say is that we are working with Premiers across the country. We are
working with the government of Canada. We are taking a coordinated approach. In fact, early in the
new year, I will be meeting with the First Ministers and with the Prime Minister. We will be talking
about four key areas and about how we can weather this global economic storm by enhancing our
infrastructure, strengthening our financial markets, enhancing our competitiveness, and dealing with
labour market issues. Those are four key areas where we are working on cooperating. I can
guarantee you that prior to this House recessing for the Christmas break, an update will be provided
by the Minister of Finance.
Click below to read the rest!!!

Mr. Alward: The government of Canada is releasing an economic update tomorrow. What is clear
today is that the people of New Brunswick need to be reassured by their Premier on the state of their
economy, and also on the state of the province’s financial records. The Premier has done nothing
today to reassure. At the same time, we need to come together with business and community leaders.
The Graham government is staying idle on this; it is staying silent. In fact, we know that business
organizations and other groups have been seeking an economic forum with government for months.
The Chairman of the New Brunswick Business Council, Denis Losier, agrees that the government
cannot put together a long-term plan in isolation, and that it needs to get all the players around the
same table, working toward the same goal. In light of this, will the Premier show true leadership and
make a commitment today to immediately cohost with us a nonpartisan economic roundtable?
020 11:20
Hon. S. Graham: I want to make two points this morning. First, I think it was reassuring yesterday
for New Brunswickers to hear a very important message from a global leader, President Clinton,
when he visited our province. I think it is important to stress this fact. President Clinton said that we
need a coordinated approach now more than ever. He talked about critical investments in
infrastructure, but not just any type of infrastructure. He said that the first area of priority that
needed to be identified was transmission coverage. Governments should be looking at enhancing
green power technology such as wind power—which is currently under way in New Brunswick
under our leadership—as well as increasing transmission capacity. We are taking that step today.
Second, he talked about the importance of investing in electronic coverage. He said that we should
be rallying around the implementation of broadband access in rural parts of North America. I am
proud to say today that we are going to be in a position, in this session of the House, to announce
a program for 100% coverage for broadband access, a first in North America for any jurisdiction.
Third, yesterday, President Clinton said that we should be looking at investments in electronic
patient records. Two years ago, we embarked upon this path, and we are well on our way to
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ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
delivering investments in infrastructure and electronic patient records. These were three critical
areas on which President Clinton said a government should be embarking, and New Brunswick
started two years ago under this leadership.
Mr. Alward: Let the record show today—and let the business leaders, the community leaders, and
the academic leaders of New Brunswick hear clearly—that the Premier has no intention of sitting
down and seeking their guidance and leadership. President Clinton, incidentally, also talked about
tax relief for middle income earners yesterday. This government has gone in the completely opposite
direction. Soon after becoming leader, I suggested that, as leaders, we lead by example and forgo
our annual salary increases. Today, in fact, we hear that the federal government is considering a
similar initiative to help curb expenses. Again, it is leading by example. However, we were told that
this idea was shortsighted. Will the Premier reconsider the answer that he gave to New
Brunswickers, set an historic example today, and announce that he will rescind his government’s
decision to award bonuses to deputy ministers and NB Power executives, and salary increases for
MLAs and ministers, for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond?
Hon. S. Graham: As I indicated in my first answer, I wanted to make two points, and I want to
come back to the second point. This is a valid question. We have some challenges today in our
province. We are not immune to the global economic conditions. In fact, as we know, revenues are
decreasing, and expenditures, especially on the social side with the health care costs, continue to
increase. That is why I feel it is very important that all stakeholders are at the table. In my reply to
the throne speech, we are going to be laying out a coordinated approach to engaging a number of
different community groups in the decision-making process, and the business council will be one
such initiative. However, I want to remind the member opposite that it is also important that we
continually reach out to a number of stakeholders. I want to state that the Leader of the Opposition
missed a perfect opportunity, on Saturday night, at the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick
dinner, with over 600 businesses present from across the province. Not one Conservative member
was present at that forum.
Mr. Alward: Mr. Losier identified that this government needs to act now and not six months from
now. It is clear that this Premier does not understand the challenges facing New Brunswickers. Since
becoming the Leader of the Opposition, I have said that I want to bring a different kind of leadership
to New Brunswickers. In my opinion, part of leadership is working with others. With the province
swimming in red ink, I have offered all the expertise and wisdom of a government that recorded
balanced budget after balanced budget, to work with this government on any current and future
budgetary challenges. Will the Premier accept our invitation and our expertise, so that we can work
together to find constructive solutions to the budgetary difficulties facing this government and New
Brunswickers?
Hon. S. Graham: As I indicated yesterday, every single program of government is currently under
review. Two ministers are chairing that committee review, which will be brought forward in the
budget process in the spring.
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November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
021 11:25
We are not immune to the challenges facing many other jurisdictions. Fortunately, because of the
government’s decision to invest in the energy sector, today, we are seeing over $1 billion worth of
investment in wind power development. Two years ago, when we took office, the message from the
previous government was that it was not a priority. Our government changed that, and it is a priority
today.
We also put in place the incentive to see the new potash mine developed in the Sussex area, a $1.7-
billion investment that is happening today, which will help drive the economy. That is coupled with
the liquified natural gas plant coming on line this year. We continue to work with the stakeholders.
The Eider Rock project is also our top priority today. Let me be very clear: When 80% of the global
refinery projects have been cancelled, today, in New Brunswick, our project is still proceeding. We
are working with the business community to help bring that project across the finish line.
We are taking action. I appreciate that the Leader of the Opposition wants to contribute. There will
be ample opportunity for contribution with legislation and debate in this Chamber. That is where
we need the true level of cooperation from the opposition—in passing the important pieces of
legislation to serve the people of New Brunswick in these difficult times.
Mr. Alward: Again, the Premier is missing an opportunity to show leadership and find ways to
work with the opposition. This will probably be a good question to ask this morning. The Premier
indicated that Eider Rock is his government’s project. The last time I checked, I thought it was
Irving Oil’s project. The Premier is talking about a lot of projects on the horizon, but the reality is
something different. As the Premier stated yesterday, and as confirmed by the Conference Board
of Canada, many of the province’s construction projects have come to an end or will come to an end
in 2009. It is this Premier’s job to put a plan together to secure and reassure New Brunswickers,
especially during one of the worst economic meltdowns we have ever witnessed.
Yesterday’s speech from the throne did little to reassure New Brunswickers about the challenges
this province has and the vision this government has for how we will deal with the slowing down
of the global economy. Keeping this in mind, can the Premier tell New Brunswickers today what
his government’s plan is to maintain and create jobs and to keep the economy going?
Hon. S. Graham: The Leader of the Opposition raises a valid point. Today, many governments are
looking at starting infrastructure investments in their jurisdictions to stimulate the economy. Because
of the prudent approach that our government took during our first years in office, those projects are
on the ground; they are happening today and employing thousands of New Brunswickers.
Let’s look at Edmundston. Just last week, I announced $1 million for the new $9-million complex
for the new community centre in that region, for the police headquarters and the library. In Grand
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ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
Falls, the new civic centre is under way. Here, in Fredericton, there is the new Currie centre, and this
is the first time we have seen a construction crane tower in this city in a very long time. Just across
the street, the new convention centre and office complex is under way, coupled with the tricounty
complex.
Let’s look at Grand Manan, where a new ferry will be purchased for that island. Let’s look to Saint
John. Harbour cleanup, an issue that sat dormant for years, is under way. It is happening as we
speak. There are also the one-mile interchange, investments in the medical school, and upgrades to
the emergency room.
Let’s look at Sussex today, where a new pool is being constructed and investments are being made
in the Fundy Trail. The biggest investment of all on the part of the private sector is the new potash
mine. Let’s look at Moncton. There is a new track at the University of Moncton. The restoration of
the Petitcodiac River is a $20-million investment. The opposition is yet to take a position on that
issue. The new casino involves a $90-million investment of private sector money in that community.
The new courthouse, under a public-private partnership, is a $50-million investment.
We move to the Miramichi, where there are investments with Atcon Group to produce a steel
manufacturing centre of excellence. Long overdue, and the top priority, are new investments in
public transportation; the new buses are on the Miramichi. Then we look to northern New
Brunswick and the new pool in Shippagan, something that the former member could not deliver on,
which we are delivering on today. Wind power . . .
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, time.
022 11:30
Mr. Alward: We will see if, over the next year and a half, this government is still laughing about
what is taking place and the tightening up that is taking place in this province today.
I was on Grand Manan this past weekend. Talk to the people of Grand Manan about the economy
there. This is serious. People in New Brunswick, like people across Canada, are hurting. This
government and all members of the Legislature need to show leadership.
Je veux faire référence à un récent rapport publié par le Conference Board du Canada. On indique
dans le rapport que les secteurs forestier et manufacturier du Nouveau-Brunswick seront parmi les
plus touchés suite à la réduction de 13 millions de dollars du financement du programme de
sylviculture, ce qui a engendré la perte de 1 000 emplois et a nui du secteur manufacturier. Quels
sont les plans du premier ministre pour redonner de la vigueur à cette industrie dont dépend tant de
nos amis et de nos familles pour leur gagne-pain?
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ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
Hon. S. Graham: In this session of the Legislature, we are going to be responding to the Erdle
report and also to the CIBC World Markets report, the Don Roberts report. We have been working
with the forest industry. In fact, we have been helping to make critical investments to see upgrades.
We were in Edmundston to see upgrades to Fraser’s. It is an investment of over $40 million. There
is a significant investment at the Plaster Rock mill. I can go around many regions of the province
and talk about each specific enterprise that has been requesting access.
However, I want to come back to the other issue of infrastructure, because that is critical. Other
governments are talking about kick-starting their infrastructure projects that they will see
implemented two years down the road. Infrastructure investments are happening today, on the
ground, in our province. The member asked what plan we have brought forward. We brought
forward an asset management plan that took the politics out of paving. Last year, we had the best
capital budget in our province’s history.
The members opposite may laugh, but their own new member was on public radio, stating that this
is the case. This program is working, and guess what. This year’s capital budget will honour that
asset management program. I can tell you today that by keeping those workers on the ground, that
money stays here in New Brunswick. That is coupled with the investments over the past two years
in moose fencing, something that the opposition said that it would not do. In fact, the former Leader
of the Opposition stated in his reply to the budget speech . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Alward: Again this morning, the Premier is losing an opportunity to show leadership and work
together on behalf of all New Brunswickers.
I would like to call on the Premier to answer this question for New Brunswickers. Since your
government is not going to move ahead with its taxation reform, which was supposed to help New
Brunswickers stimulate the economy by putting more money back in their pockets and, thus, spend
that money going forward, can you share with New Brunswickers today your plan for an economic
relief package for individuals and small and medium-sized businesses that are hurting now?
Hon. S. Graham: This is important, because our government has embarked upon five areas of
reform: postsecondary education reform, education reform, and health care reform. We are seeing
that those reforms are bearing fruit. In fact, we are the second jurisdiction in the country to see
pharmacists actually being able to prescribe, and midwives are being brought into the system and
there is the development of electronic patient records. Because of education reform, we are seeing
our test scores improve for the first time in a very long time in New Brunswick. We are seeing more
physical education in the school system. We are seeing an emphasis being put on the trades and
apprenticeship to train our children for the skilled workforce requirements for tomorrow. As we
move forward with postsecondary reform, you will be seeing the commitment in the upcoming
budget for that reform.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 1 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 26, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 26 novembre 2008
023 11:35
I want to come back to the last two areas of reform, because I want to be very clear. The two areas
of reform on local government and on taxation will be taken into the context of the current financial
situation. However, we are committed to these reforms.
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Hon. S. Graham: We will do it when the opportunity of the global situation . . .
Finance
Mr. Fitch: It is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today as the Finance Critic. One of the things
I would like to do as Finance Critic is offer concrete, creative ideas that will help the people of New
Brunswick, especially in this time of economic crisis that we are facing globally. Since the
government will not agree to an economic, nonpartisan roundtable, I am bringing a question forward
for the Minister of Finance to consider. Not only will it help his revenue stream, but it will also help
the economy and the people who need it the most.
For the people who own locked-in retirement accounts and have rolled them into life income funds,
the maximum amount of income that they can withdraw per year is set on December 31, and it is
based on the lump sum and some other variables. Due to the global financial crisis that we face
today, many New Brunswickers will face a significant reduction in their income coming out of their
locked-in retirement funds for 2009.
Will the Minister of Finance change the amount that is available to be unlocked from these locked-in
retirement plans to a one lifetime amount of 50% of the plan value? This is something that will not
only help the economy but also the people who will be faced with a significant downturn and a
significant reduction in their income in 2009.
Hon. V. Boudreau: I would like to thank the new critic for his first question as Finance Critic. The
crisis that we are facing is of global proportions. It is practically unprecedented in the world. All
leaders are looking at issues such as the one that the critic just raised. This issue was raised when
the Premiers met, when the Ministers of Finance met, and at the First Ministers’ meeting. It is
something that we all realize needs to be looked at. We have committed to looking at the options
that are available. We are going to be having another Finance Ministers’ meeting in a couple of
weeks. I know that the Premier will be having another meeting with the Prime Minister in January.
We are looking at these issues, and we hope to come to some type of solution.
Mr. Fitch: I can appreciate the response from the Minister of Finance. As stated in the speech from
the throne, the government is going to be studying a lot of things. However, this will take place on
December 31, when the legislation says that, based on the lump sum in the plan, based on the age
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of the person, the amount of income stream that will be taken out of that locked-in retirement
account will be determined for 2009.
We cannot wait. We cannot wait until January or for six months. We need to have the direction of
the government now, so that the retirement people who are facing up to a 40% reduction in their
income in 2009 will have some satisfaction, security, and some ease in knowing that the revenue
that they depend on, month in and month out, to pay the bills will not be reduced by a significant
amount. Will the Minister of Finance commit, as the position of New Brunswick, that the
government will allow the unlocking of up to 50% of the value funds now, as opposed to in 2009?
Hon. V. Boudreau: As I indicated in my previous answer, it is something that we are looking at as
a government. All governments across the country are looking at this. There have been discussions
around the Finance Ministers’ table and the Premiers’ table, along with the Prime Minister. Other
meetings are scheduled to look at this issue. This is complex. As I have said earlier, these are
unprecedented situations that have never been seen before. We have to make sure that we proceed
with due diligence and make decisions in the best interest of New Brunswickers and Canadians.
Mr. Fitch: The response from the Minister of Finance is unacceptable. Other jurisdictions have
already moved. The federally regulated pension plans are allowing a 50% withdrawal of the asset
amount, and the province of Ontario has moved on legislation that allows up to 50% withdrawal of
the asset amount in these pension plans.
024 11:40
Why does New Brunswick have to sit back and wait as this government leaves people to cope with
higher electricity bills and higher taxation on their property?
The government will not move today on an event that is going to occur on December 31, to alleviate
a reduction in the pension income of many pensioners here in the province. This will increase the
amount of revenue in the minister’s tax pockets. It will increase the amount of money in the pockets
of the people, and it will increase the amount of money in the economy. This is a good move. It is
a good strategy. Why is the minister waiting? Why not do it right now?
Hon. V. Boudreau: As I have mentioned, it is an issue that we are looking at as a government.
Unfortunately, we did not have the foresight of the minister from York North, who predicted that
this situation was going to occur more than a year ago. This is a situation that has developed in the
past couple of months. It is a situation that is affecting the entire world, not just the province of New
Brunswick. We want to make sure that we do not have any knee-jerk reactions. We are looking at
what is going on around us. We are awaiting the federal minister’s financial update, a forecast which
will be given tomorrow. We are already committed. The Premier made a commitment in the speech
from the throne that we would give an update, and we will be providing more details as to how we
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plan to address the situation. However, it has to be done in due course. We have to make sure that
the decisions we make will have a positive, long-lasting effect on New Brunswickers.
Home Heating Oil Benefit Program
Mr. Holder: My questions are for the Minister of Social Development, on the department formerly
known as Family and Community Services. Since the government came out with its home heating
supplement program, there has been a lot of confusion out there in New Brunswick. I am asking the
minister today to clear up some of that confusion. Under the old program, there were enough New
Brunswickers taking advantage of that program to constitute a $5.5-million government expenditure.
I am wondering what will happen now that the government has only budgeted half a million dollars
in government money for this program. Considering that we are going into tough economic times,
and assuming that more New Brunswickers will need this, where will the government be able to
make up the difference?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is, indeed, a pleasure to rise and address this, because there has been some
miscommunication on the program. I can tell you, as Minister of Social Development, that I am very
pleased. We have made record investments in the Department of Social Development when it comes
to enhanced heating for our clients in the province. I can tell you that there has been a 104% increase
in our emergency fuel benefit for people in New Brunswick. I can also tell you that we are seeing
a 15% increase in electric fuel for clients of Social Development. We are also seeing a 32% increase
for clients who depend on bulk fuel or natural gas. That’s not all. Not since 1989 . . . Last year, our
government increased the heating supplement for people who live in subsidized housing. We
increased it last year, and we are increasing it again this year. These are record investments for
people on social development, to enable them to heat their homes this year.
Mr. Holder: The program we are talking about here is for low-income seniors. For those low-
income seniors, there is only half a million dollars on the table, whereas, previously, it was $5.5
million. That is the issue. I am asking the minister: How can she make up that difference? There will
be just as many New Brunswickers this year who are going to need this. Is she basically saying that
when the money runs out, that is it? Please tell me that this is not Frank McKenna all over again:
People first, money second ended when the money ran out.
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: Our government has a proven record when it comes to seniors. Our investments
for seniors have no precedent in any other government. Look at nursing homes. Look at our taking
assets out of the formula for calculating the amount of money a person pays for a nursing home.
025 11:45
Let’s talk about the heating supplement. Seniors are included in ours as well. Many seniors live in
housing that is supplemented through our department or is supplemented through a not-for-profit
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agency, our public housing. Those seniors will see that increase that had not happened since 1989.
It is going up to $1 200 per year for those seniors.
We also—and this is very important—have added 500 new families that can take advantage of our
retrofit. An amount of $4 500 is available to anyone of low income, seniors included. It is free. It
is a grant. We have records—and the Minister of Energy can talk on this issue as well—to prove that
is getting to the systemic problem, the root of the problem.
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Holder: The minister has not answered the question with respect to how this will be funded.
This is a financial cut to this department and to this program. It is fine that the government packaged
it in this brilliant disguise with all these other programs, but the fact remains that low-income seniors
will have less money to play with than last year. Could it be that, in order to apply, in order to get
that money, they have to go to a nonprofit agency—a great nonprofit agency, I might add—but one
that is not found in all corners of the province? Is it a fact that the government is banking on, that,
because of that inaccessibility, fewer New Brunswickers are going to apply? Is that how the
government is going to make up for it? How can the minister reassure us that people in all regions
of this province can access this program?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: I am the Minister of Social Development, and you are talking about seniors of
low income. I have assured the member opposite that any senior who is living in our public housing
or in housing that requires a subsidy through the government will be taken care of. I have already
explained the enhancements to our heating program. We also know that seniors of low income can
also tap into the $4 500 grant. It may be as simple as, perhaps, insulation. That is available right now
to every senior and every New Brunswicker of low income in the province. I can tell the member
opposite that the total of these new investments is over $5 million of new enhancements to the
Department of Social Development, to make sure that the most vulnerable, for whom I am
responsible in the department, receive the heating supplements they need.
M. P. Robichaud : Ce matin, la ministre du Développement social prêche dans le désert. Personne
ne croit en son programme et personne au Nouveau-Brunswick n’appuie son programme. Les
parlementaires du côté du gouvernement sont les seuls qui croient en leurs programmes, étant donné
qu’ils sont dans une bulle de verre.
Si le ministre de l’Énergie veut répondre à ma question, libre à lui de le faire. Toutefois, la ministre
du Développement social ou quelqu’un d’autre du gouvernement peut-il me confirmer que de
demander à l’Armée du Salut de s’occuper d’un programme pour les gens à faible revenu et les aînés
du Nouveau-Brunswick a été une erreur, étant donné que l’Armée du Salut ne se retrouve pas dans
toutes les régions du Nouveau-Brunswick? De plus, avec ce programme de 500 000 $, c’est loin
d’être suffisant, lorsque l’on sait que, l’an passé, un montant de 5,5 millions a été utilisé pour venir
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en aide aux mêmes personnes, alors que, aujourd’hui, le gouvernement ne met qu’un faible montant
de 500 000 $ sur la table.
Hon. Mr. Keir: I would like to thank the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou for the question
as the new Energy Critic. Let me talk a bit about this program with the Salvation Army and perhaps
add to what Minister Schryer was saying. When you are over there playing politics and saying that
we have decreased the program from $5.3 million to $500 000, that is wrong. That is not true. The
fact of the matter is that the program has increased to $6.3 million. You can all say that does not
include these people, but it does. The fact is that seniors are included in energy supplements that are
provided by the Department of Social Development. Every single New Brunswicker is included, if
they show the financial need. They can request, from the Department of Social Development, help
from the emergency heating fund. That has increased from one $270 lump sum payment to $550.
It was this government that did that.
026 11:50
With respect to the Salvation Army, this is a program that has been set up for New Brunswickers
to help New Brunswickers. How in the Lord’s name can the opposition . . .
Mr. Speaker: Minister, time.
M. P. Robichaud : Nous ne sommes pas les seuls à être en désaccord avec le gouvernement. Tout
le monde est en désaccord avec lui. Il n’y a pas un seul groupe qui défend les intérêts des démunis
au Nouveau-Brunswick et qui a appuyé l’initiative du gouvernement. Avec cette initiative, le
gouvernement prêche dans le désert.
Le ministre de l’Énergie, tout comme la ministre du Développement social, peut faire la
gymnastique mathématique qu’il veut, il reste qu’il y a beaucoup moins d’argent cette année pour
aider les gens à faible revenu et les personnes âgées au Nouveau-Brunswick comparativement à l’an
dernier.
Dois-je rappeler au gouvernement qu’il a lui-même éliminé la remise de la TVH sur les produits de
chauffage? À ce moment-là, cela représentait une économie de 63 millions par année pour les gens
du Nouveau-Brunswick. On est passé d’un programme de 63 millions de dollars à un programme
de 5,5 millions de dollars, avec un maximum de 500 000 $ pour cette année. Que les parlementaires
du côté du gouvernement ne viennent pas nous faire croire que c’est un programme amélioré,
personne ne les croit.
Ma question au ministre de l’Énergie est celle-ci : Peut-il confirmer à la Chambre aujourd’hui qu’il
y aura suffisamment de fonds pour aider tous ceux qui sont admissibles au programme du Nouveau-
Brunswick et qui en feront la demande?
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Hon. Mr. Keir: Just the facts. The facts are: Monthly supplements for heating for those that need
it the most have increased from $130 to $150 per month. That is $20 per month over six months.
That is an increase to the plan that was there last year. The fact of the matter is, the emergency
heating fund has increased from $270 to a lump sum payment of $550.That is an increase to that
plan.
The Salvation Army program, which will be administered by the Salvation Army, was put in place
partly because the opposition asked us to look at what was going on in neighbouring provinces. We
looked at what was going on in Nova Scotia, and we looked at what was going on in Prince Edward
Island. Guess what, folks? They have a plan that is very similar to this and that is administered by
the Salvation Army.
M. P. Robichaud : Si le ministre veut donner d’autres provinces en exemple, je lui rappellerai que
le gouvernement de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard a investi 200 000 $ dans cette province qui a à peu près
la population de la grande ville de Saint John. Ici, on parle peut-être d’un maximum de 500 000 $
pour une province qui a sept fois la population de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Le comble, comme mon
collègue de Saint-John Portland l’a mentionné... Nous n’avons rien contre l’Armée du Salut, c’est
un groupe de bénévoles qui fait un excellent travail. Cependant, la réalité est que cet organisme n’est
pas présente dans toutes les régions du Nouveau-Brunswick. Il n’est pas dans le Madawaska, dans
la Péninsule acadienne ou dans le comté de Charlotte. Je vous donne tout simplement ces trois
exemples. Comment une famille à faible revenu de l’île Lamèque pourra-t-elle avoir accès à ce
programme si l’Armée du Salut n’est même pas présente dans la Péninsule acadienne et dans la
grande majorité des régions rurales et francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick? Le fait que le
gouvernement ait créé un tel programme est une insulte à la population francophone et rurale de
cette province.
Le ministre peut-il se lever aujourd’hui et corriger ce programme qui ne respecte pas les gens qui
en ont besoin, soit les gens à faible revenu et les personnes âgées du Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I appreciate the question. The member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou raises a
good issue. The fact of the matter is that it is not just the Salvation Army that is going to be
administering this program. It is also going to include Service New Brunswick, which has 48
locations around the province. It is also going to include the city of Edmundston, and it is also going
to include, for the member’s benefit, the Centre de bénévolat de la Péninsule acadienne. It is going
to be situated around the province so all folks around the province have the opportunity to apply for
the program.
I might add that perhaps it is also the job of MLAs to ensure they have applications in their ridings
and to help those folks that may need help with that application.
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Home Economists
Mr. Jack Carr: I am honoured to stand here today to ask my first question as the member for New
Maryland-Sunbury West. I want to thank the residents for putting their trust and faith in me.
027 11:55
The speech from the throne talked in great length of financial difficulties that we are facing in the
economy. The OECD says that the world is facing its worst recession in 30 years. The government
is cutting eight home economist positions which offer vital services to families and to seniors in
need. They help families recover from crisis. They help them manage with their food, money, and
more. In tough economic times, why is the Shawn Graham government hurting the most vulnerable?
Mr. Speaker: Since you are new, I just want you to be aware that, every time you ask to speak, you
have to ask permission to speak from a seat other than your own. Please remember what I mentioned
a while ago about referring to Shawn Graham. It should be “Premier Graham” or “Mr. Graham”.
(Interjection.)
Mr. Speaker: No, the question was asked.
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: I know what it is like to be a rookie, too. Let me start by saying this. Yes, we
are reorganizing in the Department of Social Development. We are reorganizing. Part of my job as
minister is to make sure that we can find consistencies across the province and that we improve
inefficiencies across the province, and that is what we are doing. Twice today, I have heard
something said in this House that is not true with regard to services being discontinued. That is not
true. Services are going to continue for our clients. They will be delivered in a different manner.
However, the services will continue as the clients need them and as provided in the case
management. That needs to be corrected. People continuously say that services are not going to be
provided; that is not true. It is incorrect; get it out of your vocabulary. Services will continue. They
will continue to serve the people who need it the most in our department.
Mr. Jack Carr: The people of New Brunswick have it in their vocabulary that they are hurting and
that they are not being helped. The eight home economist positions are being cut, and that is not
right. In tough economic times, the Graham government should not be cutting those positions. Your
message is inconsistent. You talked about tough economic times in the speech from the throne, but
you are cutting these positions. You are out of touch with reality and the challenges facing New
Brunswickers. The Speech from the Throne, on page 6, says: “All programs will be reviewed”.
Madam Minister, will you reinstate the eight positions that you cut this month and include them in
your program review mentioned on page 6 of the Speech from the Throne?
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Hon. Mrs. Schryer: I would like to let everyone in the House know that the Department of Social
Development actually received a 3.5% increase in this year’s budget. That needs to be said. To
reiterate, services will continue. I recognize that change is not easy sometimes and that it is difficult
for people when we have to change the way we deliver services. We want to make sure that it is as
easy as possible, and that is why it is important that these false statements about services being cut
are stopped. We want to make this transition as easy as possible for people. The services of home
economics providers will still be used within our department. They provide valuable services that
we can continue to incorporate to make sure that, as social workers determine what the case
management is for each client, we will be able to provide that service.
Mr. Jack Carr: The minister is correct. The change is not easy. The home economists work with
families in their homes and help them day after day. Change is not easy when you are taking those
positions out. Eight positions are being cut. You cannot tell me that services will not be affected.
They will be affected. The people of New Brunswick are very concerned. The speech from the
throne talks about reviewing all programs. Eight positions were cut earlier this month, so why not
reinstate those positions? They have a three-month notice anyway.
028 12:00
Wait three more months until the program review is released in the spring. Put those eight home
economists back into their positions; include them in the program review. Help the most vulnerable.
They are the ones who need the help. They are the ones who are saying that the change is not easy.
Keep those positions. The government has said that it is not going to save money, so keep the
positions and help the most vulnerable.
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is important that we talk about the program that has been put in place for our
staff. They are able to access the redeployment program through government. We are confident that
the home economists will be staying with us in Social Development. The redeployment program
enables them to have the first opportunities for positions in our department. Again, the message here
today, which is so important, is that the service will continue, it will not be interrupted, and it will
be delivered according to the clients’ needs, which their case manager has prioritized. We will
continue to serve the most vulnerable, as we always have in our department.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 2 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 28, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 28 novembre 2008
Economy
Mr. Alward: Earlier this week, the Premier refused to tell the House how large the provinces’s
deficit was. The Premier said he was going to refuse to move on tax reform until at least next spring.
As I said yesterday, New Brunswickers need this government to act on the economy now, not six
months from now. People are expecting action. As was stated by Hollis Cole, President and CEO
of ADI Group, you will not solve any problems by doing nothing. Will the Premier tell this House
what he is going to do to protect New Brunswick’s economy now?
Hon. S. Graham: All New Brunswickers today are very concerned about what the future holds in
the current economic uncertainty, globally, nationally, and provincially. I can tell you emphatically
today that, this week, our government has launched a comprehensive speech from the throne. Next
week, the Minister of Finance will be providing a fiscal update. In the third week of this session, we
will be tabling the largest infrastructure investment in our province’s history, to help stimulate the
economy. Also that week, we understand we will be receiving the all-party committee report on the
discussion of taxation reform. Our government anticipates that it will be in a position to initiate and
to announce in broad strokes where we will be moving forward.
I can state very clearly today that major belt-tightening was announced this week, and that will be
delivered in the spring budget. However, much more is needed than just fiscal restraint and belt-
tightening today. What is required is a major fiscal stimulus, and our government will be taking a
reasonable and balanced approach in delivering both to the people of New Brunswick.
Mr. Alward: Clearly, the people of New Brunswick are expecting action now, not in the spring
budget. The changes need to take place now. The belt-tightening needs to take place now. It does
not need to start in the spring.
When you are going through a storm, you need a strong ship to withstand that storm. It is called
leadership, and this government is clearly lacking it. Yesterday, I spoke of the need for leadership,
and I outlined a number of measures that would provide an immediate stimulus to our province’s
economy. Will the Premier support our call for an immediate economic stimulus and table the action
plan now? Will he have it come into play now, not in the spring?
Hon. S. Graham: We heard the Conservative plan yesterday: Set up a Web site and have a meeting.
We have taken a very coordinated approach, and the Liberal plan has been very clear. This week,
we announced that we would be putting in place spending restraints. Every single program is under
review, and there will be ample opportunity for both sides of this Chamber to determine the
corrective measures through the budgetary process.
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020 11:20
More important than that, next week, the Minister of Finance is going to be providing a fiscal
update. In the third week, we are going to be launching the most comprehensive and most important
infrastructure budget that our province has ever seen as a major economic stimulus package to
dovetail the spending restraint. In the fourth week, as I have stated in this Chamber, we are hoping
to be in a position to move forward in broad strokes on the discussion on taxation reform, taking into
account the current economic situation. As I stated earlier this week, we need to be prudent, and we
need to be mindful of what New Brunswickers are facing today in terms of hardships. Our
government is cognizant of that, and we will be addressing those issues.
Prior to the recess of this Chamber before Christmas, New Brunswickers will clearly be able to see
the difference between our plan and the nonaction of the plan tabled by the Leader of the Opposition
yesterday.
Mr. Alward: When this government came to power, it committed that it would not raise taxes for
individuals, for small businesses, for medium-sized business, and for corporations. Immediately
following coming into power, the government raised taxes. Part of what we are seeing today is a
direct result of what this government did. At the same time, the tax reforms about which this
government talks would see an increase in the HST, which would impact all New Brunswickers.
Yesterday, I called for an immediate reduction—not six months down the road—in personal taxes,
in small business taxes, in medium-sized business taxes, and in corporations’ taxes. I called for an
immediate reduction of taxes in New Brunswick. Will the Premier support our call for immediate
tax reductions so that New Brunswickers can have more money in their pockets so that they can help
keep this economy going?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government cannot be more clear than it is today. We are very concerned
about New Brunswickers today who may be in jeopardy of losing their jobs, who may have
difficulty in making ends meet, and who are seeing their retirement savings plans dwindle
dramatically in size, because of market volatility. We have stated that, this week, we have launched
a comprehensive throne speech. We have also put in place two committees that have been working
diligently for a month, looking at every single program. We will be bringing forward a budget that
will put in place the spending restraint that is needed.
However, more importantly today, every single business leader and economist across Canada and
the world is saying that much more is needed than just spending restraint. What is needed is a major
economic stimulus package. Our government will be in a very strong position to respond to those
demands and to provide both a responsible and balanced approach . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
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M. Alward : Le premier ministre peut-il s’engager aujourd’hui à ce que son gouvernement
n’augmente pas les impôts personnels ou des entreprises au Nouveau-Brunswick? C’est tout.
Hon. S. Graham: It has to be much more than “c’est tout”. I can tell you today that we are going
to be taking a balanced approach. We have lowered the gas tax in New Brunswick by 4.3¢ per litre.
While the former Conservative government wanted to lower that tax over a four-year period, we did
it on day one of our mandate. Today, New Brunswick has the lowest gas taxes in Atlantic Canada.
In the last budget, we brought forward reductions in the corporate capital tax, and we are on track
to eliminate the corporate capital tax this year, in New Brunswick, one of the first jurisdictions to
do so.
021 11:25
We recognize that New Brunswickers also need tax relief. That is why we launched an all-party
committee to go out and engage New Brunswickers in a discussion on tax reform. It was important
to receive that input. We are going to be receiving the all-party committee report . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Alward: This government has been very good at spending the taxpayers’ money. Let’s see how
it will be at saving the taxpayers’ money. How will the people of New Brunswick be able to live as
we go forward?
This morning, my following question comes from the young gentleman who is sitting with us today
in the House. His question is this:
My name is Terry Leavitt and I am 28 years of age. I was injured in a diving accident and have been
paralyzed since that event.
Presently I am living at home with my parents, however, as they are getting older, I cannot continue
to rely on their loving care much longer and therefore I have been trying to get an apartment suited
for me.
..............................................................................
My question to you, Mr. Premier, is: Can you tell me what I have to do in order for me to be like
most other young men and women who have a life of their own and can live on their own?
Hon. S. Graham: As the member opposite knows, we cannot refer to specific cases in this
Chamber, out of respect for confidentiality of information. We will take that question under
advisement today and respond, in broad strokes, to the specific case that you have raised.
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I want to talk today about the global issues facing the province of New Brunswick, to make sure that
the economy is the number one issue, so that we can move forward to make sure that every single
New Brunswicker, in every single corner of this province, has an opportunity to come through these
difficult economic times in a better position. The Leader of the Opposition has raised a specific case
today. We will take that question under advisement and respond in this Chamber, as required under
protocol.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Leader of the Opposition, with this line of questioning, we are going to take a
short recess and confer about the legality and technicality of using terms referring to people who are
in the House. We will take a short recess and get back to you as soon as we are ready.
(The House recessed at 11:28 a.m.
The House resumed at 11:58 a.m.)
022-028 12:00
You cannot quote an individual directly in your question. Members have a forum whereby the rules
can be changed, if need be. We have the Procedures Committee, if you need to go there to have the
rules changed. We are looking at rules that have been in place for the last 200 years. All of a sudden,
those rules are being questioned.
I reiterate: I am not trying to stifle anybody. I am just saying that questions have to be asked by us,
as members of the Legislature. I will say again that we cannot quote somebody because, then, it is
not our question we are asking; it is a question from an individual. This is not an open public forum.
This is a forum whereby we, as members of the Legislature, can ask questions of one another, and
not questions of a third party from somewhere else. As I said, we have the right and the obligation
to represent the people in our riding. If there are questions from people in our ridings, then we have
the obligation to ask the questions, but they have to come from each individual in this House, man
or woman. I would sincerely ask all members for their cooperation in this matter.
We stopped the clock during question period. You still have 18 minutes left. I recognize the
Opposition House Leader.
Mr. P. Robichaud: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Is this a point of order?
Mr. P. Robichaud: Yes, on your decision, Mr. Speaker.
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Mr. Speaker: The decision is final.
Mr. P. Robichaud: As a point of clarification, as you know, Mr. Speaker, I have enormous respect
for you as Speaker of the House. On this side of the House, we have a huge respect for the institution
that you represent. My understanding is that it was very obvious this morning that the Leader of the
Official Opposition was asking a question as a member of the Legislative Assembly, as the MLA
for Woodstock and Leader of the Opposition. If it is a question of wording, we will work on the
wording. I just want to point out our intention. My belief was that, when the Leader of the
Opposition asked the question, he was asking the question as a member of the Legislative Assembly.
We only hope that this decision will not be an attack on what we used to call the people’s House,
the Legislative Assembly, and that it is not an initiative to try to muzzle the official opposition.
Vous savez, il est très important que les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick comprennent très bien
l’importance du rôle d’un député. D’ailleurs, j’ai lu avec grand intérêt les commentaires du leader
parlementaire du gouvernement à la Chambre, qui a dit que c’est la responsabilité première d’un
député de poser des questions au nom de la population que l’on représente. Il est même pratique
normale de poser des questions de personnes que l’on représente ou de personnes qui se présentent
ici, à l’Assemblée législative, mais qui n’ont pas l’occasion de le faire.
Alors, Monsieur le président, nous acceptons votre décision. Nous allons voir à ce que la façon dont
nous posons nos questions reflète vraiment le fait que ce sont des questions posées par un député,
pour un député, aux ministres et au premier ministre à la Chambre. Nous allons continuer notre
bonne initiative de demander aux gens de nous faire part de leurs commentaires, ce qui a
énormément de succès. Merci beaucoup.
Le président : Je veux simplement vous rassurer, Monsieur le leader parlementaire de l’opposition.
La question telle que posée venait d’une personne. On citait une personne, ce qu’on ne peut pas
faire. Ce n’est pas une question de vouloir empêcher les parlementaires de poser des questions, pas
du tout. Comme vous l’avez mentionné, la question peut être reposée d’une façon différente, je n’ai
aucun problème avec cela. Lorsque la question est posée, on ne peut pas citer quelqu’un. Voilà le
point épineux.
We now have 18 minutes and 50 seconds. The floor is yours.
Mr. Alward: Mr. Leavitt has been trying for many months to find adequate housing; however, he
has been given little hope from the Department of Social Development that he will be able to access
adequate housing. Perhaps the Premier can answer this question for us, if we deal with it in the
abstract. What plan does this government have to help disabled nonseniors find a suitable living
environment that gives them their own independence?
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029 12:05
Hon. S. Graham: I want to address three points that I think are important to be mentioned in this
Chamber on the issue of housing. Tomorrow, I am going to be meeting with the secretariat on the
status of disabled persons, and the board is going to be reviewing a number of options at a meeting
that is very important. Coupled with that, today, we launched a very important initiative on poverty
reduction in New Brunswick which is going to tie into the issue of housing, because that is a critical
component of addressing poverty.
However, a third issue that is important to mention this morning, speaking in the context of a
coordinated approach, is that there has yet to be a national housing agreement signed with the
government of Canada. Very clearly, this agreement has expired. I know that, when we met with the
Council of the Federation, all Premiers emphatically stated that this was one of the priorities,
especially in this time of economic uncertainty. Nothing could be stronger than an economic
stimulus package. I have seen the federal government come forward with some form of aid in a
national housing agreement that could be partnered at the provincial level to employ many
tradespeople, and, at the same time, provide adequate housing.
This is a situation that is very important to our government. We are going to continue to lobby the
federal government to honour a commitment that it made during the last federal election, because
the previous agreement has expired. We have also struck the new nonpartisan poverty reduction
initiative today, which will be traveling through the province. Also, I am going to be meeting with
the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons tomorrow morning, and I am sure that this
issue will be raised there as well.
Mr. Holder: I hope it is not out of parliamentary tradition that, before I ask my question today, I
say hello to my daughter Maggie, who is home sick today. She said she was going to watch question
period this morning.
Housing
My questions are for the Minister of Social Development. On this side of the House, as the
government knows, we have commended it on its initiative with respect to poverty reduction.
However, one of the things that we called for on this side of the House, if one thing is apparent to
me, is that the key to reducing poverty is providing safe, affordable housing in this province. On this
side of the House, we have called for an all-party committee that could start work this winter, in the
cold months—a most appropriate time to do it—to travel the province and ask New Brunswickers
what they are experiencing. It has been a long time since housing has been reviewed. We would like
to do this so that we can report back to the poverty reduction committee and help it along. Will the
government reconsider and put in place this committee?
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Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about housing, because, often,
we do not hear a lot about it. I can tell you that our government has been moving forward on the file
very silently, but with much progress. Some $43 million of infrastructure has gone into housing in
the province in the last two years. We have increased the number of new homes in New Brunswick
by over 450. The file is moving forward. As we have stated that we would, we brought back the
renewal of the New Brunswick Housing Corporation. This corporation has been working with
partners. We have partners in the area of disabilities with Randy Dickinson. We have partners with
municipalities. We have partners with nonprofits as well as partners with entrepreneurs to make sure
that we continue to move the file forward. We have been lobbying the federal government. I have
been in Ottawa with my fellow ministers to try to get new housing agreements.
Mr. Holder: It is clear that the government has no intention of setting up an all-party committee.
My next question with respect to safe and affordable housing is this. In the last days that we were
in office, we passed legislation in this House that would protect tenants and boarders under The
Residential Tenancies Act. Those amendments passed in the Legislature. They have yet to be
proclaimed. The government has sat on those amendments for two years. What will the government
do to reassure us that the bill will be proclaimed and that those people will have the rights of all
other tenants across the province?
030 12:10
Hon. Mr. Byrne: It is somewhat ironic that these amendments were brought in by the former
government, which did not proclaim them. The former government had every opportunity to
proclaim those amendments and take action, but it decided, consciously, not to do so because it
knew that it did not want to administer those regulations.
We have carried out a significant undertaking to reform the services provided by the Office of the
Rentalsman. We have brought that office from the Department of Justice into Service New
Brunswick. We are modernizing the Office of the Rentalsman. We are ensuring that service is
available through all the 37 service centres throughout New Brunswick, so that people will have
greater access. We are looking at the whole program of residential tenancies to see what
improvements can be made. Certainly, this is a far cry from what was done in the past by the former
government.
Mr. Holder: I am not going to take a backseat to this government any day when it comes to the
issue of slum landlords. We had a conference in Saint John that came up with a series of
recommendations, many of which are now in effect. This is one that we did not get an opportunity
to proclaim in the last few days of our government. This government has had two years. It said it
was ready to govern. Why is it not respecting the rights of these tenants? If the government wants
to deal with poverty, it should make sure that these people have all the rights of any other tenant in
this province.
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Hon. Mr. Byrne: We would do a great disservice to the people of New Brunswick if we did not
ensure that the government was responsible in addressing this issue. We obviously want to benefit
the people most in need. We need to thoroughly review the nature of these amendments, which
appear to have been made on the fly by the previous government. The last thing we want to do is
create a problem as opposed to providing a solution. If we make these changes too onerous, there
may be residential tenancies that are not available. Perhaps owners will say that it is too much of a
hassle with the new changes to the program and they will not provide residential housing. Those
people we are hoping to impact positively the most may actually be hurt if we rush into this without
thinking out the implications and without doing it right.
Mr. Betts: Many New Brunswickers are hurting. Several people have come into our offices, saying
that their rent has gone up from $600 to $900, and there are no controls. They respect the free
enterprise system, but they are hurting. For many people, heating costs have gone up. The Liberal
government raised the personal income tax and small business tax. Property taxes are up. The thing
I am concerned about in my riding, which depends on the retail sector, with shopping centres, is that
the government may raise the HST, which will hurt that sector. There are tough choices to make that
many New Brunswickers face, for food, heat, housing, and medicine. We have had our first report
card on the homeless, and about 1 450 people were homeless in the Moncton area last year.
My question to the minister is this: How many New Brunswickers are waiting for subsidized
housing? What is the turnaround time for these units? We know that about 1 000 people are waiting,
and there are reports that some units were empty for a while. Could we have an update on that?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is appropriate today in the House, with the questions that we were able to
launch and share with everyone, the co-Chairs for the new poverty initiative . . . It is all very linked
when we look at housing, income levels, health card needs, and child care. Housing is part of it. It
is a complex issue. We have been working diligently on the file of housing, as I have already stated.
In Moncton, we have seen our occupancy rates increase. In the province, our occupancy rate for
housing is 97%, which is very, very high.
031 12:15
Unfortunately, though, we still do have wait lists. We still have 4 000 people in New Brunswick
waiting for housing, and that is why today it is so important that we all reach out a hand and work
together to make sure that we can battle poverty to make this housing crisis go away.
Mr. Betts: This is certainly something both sides of this Chamber are concerned about and want to
work cooperatively on and be involved. There is not necessarily an incentive for some of the owners
of these units to report as empty if they are being paid for them. My question is: When one of these
units is vacant, do government officials inspect it to see what repairs are needed and then give the
owners a certain amount of time? What steps has the Department of Social Development taken to
monitor the turnaround time for subsidized units so that people in need can have proper housing?
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Hon. Mrs. Schryer: Thank you for the question. It is a concern because there is absolutely no
benefit to anyone to have an empty unit. That being said, we have contractual rights with landlords
that have rent subsidies, so a certain amount of time is allowed to elapse to make sure the unit can
be turned around and a deserving person put into it. We also have a policy in the department to look
at turnaround levels to make sure that the unit can be occupied within 60 days.
It is very important to remember that we have one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada. To my
critic opposite, in his riding alone—Crescent Valley, Churchill Boulevard—in Saint John, this
government is undertaking one of the largest revitalizations of a project that was built in the late
1950s. We recognized that this project needed to be torn down and rebuilt in the new way, with the
dreams and the hopes of the people who live there as to what their community is going to look like.
You can be assured that the housing file is well attended. I have asked for monthly reports to come
to my desk so that I can see the waiting lists and vacancies.
Emploi
Mme Dubé : Alors que je pensais que les choses ne pouvaient pas nécessairement empirer, ici au
Nouveau-Brunswick, en lisant le Telegraph-Journal de ce matin, j’apprends que l’une des
compagnies PQA était prête à faire de la création d’emplois au Nouveau-Brunswick, jusqu’à 500
nouveaux emplois, et qu’on a accepté de laisser partir ces emplois pour une autre province.
On reconnaît le potentiel de nos petites et moyennes entreprises. Pour cette entreprise, en particulier,
notre gouvernement a investi plus de 325 000 $ pour l’aider à croître.
Ma question est pour le premier ministre. Qu’a-t-il fait ou que n’a-t-il pas fait, justement, pour aider
cette compagnie à garder et à créer des emplois qui sont extrêmement nécessaires dans cette
province, surtout qu’il s’agit d’entrepreneurs de notre propre province?
L’hon. M. Byrne : L’article dans le Telegraph-Journal de ce matin a une mauvaise intonation. Le
gouvernement a aidé la compagnie dans la création de son fonctionnement. Il l’a aussi aidée en ce
qui a trait à la création d’emplois et à l’embauche de nouveaux employés.
Le gouvernement va aussi aider la compagnie dans l’avenir. Le gouvernement et mes collègues ont
assisté cette compagnie et travaillent avec celle-ci chaque semaine. Par exemple, la semaine
dernière, la compagnie a participé à une mission commerciale à Toronto. L’information dans le
journal est de la mauvaise information.
Mme Dubé : Monsieur le ministre, êtes-vous prêt à nier que cette même compagnie a annoncé qu’elle
avait créé 200 emplois en Nouvelle-Écosse? Ce sont 200 emplois qui auraient pu être créés, ici, au
Nouveau-Brunswick. Le ministre peut-il au moins clarifier cette situation?
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032 12:20
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I would be glad to clarify. As I have indicated, we have worked with this company
since its inception. We have worked with it to create jobs. It has over 100 jobs here in Fredericton.
It has jobs additionally in Moncton. It is growing. It is expanding its operations here. It has its
headquarters here. It is the company’s intention that its headquarters will still be here.
This is a good news story. This is a company that is expanding its base of operations. It is looking
at the Nova Scotia market in addition to its growth in the New Brunswick market. Like many
companies in New Brunswick that have grown and become successful, it is branching out to new
markets. It is no different from McCain looking at markets across the world.
This is great news. We have worked with this company. We have supported it. We have worked
with it to develop its business plans. We have been involved with it all along with respect to its
expansions, and the company is interested in growing in New Brunswick, as well. We will be there.
Mme Dubé : Le ministre peut danser autant qu’il veut, mais la réalité ce matin, c’est que des emplois
sont perdus partout dans la province sous le présent gouvernement, étant donné qu’il a augmenté
les impôts et brisé l’économie de cette province. Voir le ministre se lever à la Chambre ce matin
pour dire qu’il se réjouit que 200 emplois soient partis en Nouvelle-Écosse quand ils auraient pu être
ici, au Nouveau-Brunswick, démontre encore que ce gouvernement n’a aucun plan.
Je m’adresse au premier ministre. Monsieur le premier ministre, on vous dit qu’il est urgent que
vous abordiez la situation économique du Nouveau-Brunswick. Il y a 95 % des Néo-Brunswickois
qui travaillent dans de petites et moyennes entreprises, et ce gouvernement n’a rien fait jusqu’à
maintenant. Encore aujourd’hui, il se réjouit que des emplois bien rémunérés en technologie quittent
la province et aillent ailleurs, alors qu’il dépense des milliers de dollars pour faire sa propre
promotion disant qu’il est fier que les gens restent au Nouveau-Brunswick. Comment peut-il
expliquer la situation aujourd’hui?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, I know the member opposite is asking questions on what she read in the
newspaper this morning, but it is actually important to talk to the business leader, with whom I met
on Tuesday. I also had an opportunity to tour the organization. Let me be very clear today: This
company is a New Brunswick success story. Its headquarters are here in New Brunswick and will
remain in New Brunswick, according to my conversation with this individual. No jobs have been
lost. In fact, the company will continue to grow its job base in New Brunswick.
What this company is now doing is reaching out into new markets from a strong foundation on
which it can build. It is no different from McCain, which has expanded into the Chinese market.
When we were in Shanghai, that is where its headquarters are now in the international market. This
is a company that started with financial assistance from the New Brunswick government. It has been
able to build a solid foundation. It is partnering with universities. It is now taking the next step of
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ORAL QUESTIONS 2 QUESTIONS ORALES
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having a larger market access, partnering with other universities. Make no mistake about it: The jobs
that are created in New Brunswick are remaining in New Brunswick. They will continue to grow
in New Brunswick. This company will continue to grow its expertise abroad, while at the same time
keeping its headquarters here in New Brunswick.
Mr. Speaker: We have time for one more question.
Business New Brunswick
Mr. Huntjens: My question is for the Minister of Business New Brunswick, and I hope I get a better
answer than what the previous members got.
Two years ago, I approached you to look into a file that was in existence within Business New
Brunswick with regard to a business on Campobello Island, the Newman boatbuilding enterprise.
At that time, you said that you would look into it. You also said that you would keep me informed
as to the progress of this business. So far, I have heard no reply, except that I have spoken to people
at the business itself. They tell me that your people have given a multitude of excuses as to why it
cannot happen. One of your people even said that if this business were anywhere else but on
Campobello Island, it would be done tomorrow. My question is this: What is being done to help the
Newman boatbuilding enterprise?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: The member knows full well that we cannot discuss the specifics of any particular
business case. I can certainly tell him that in any case where a business opportunity is brought to us,
whether it is a company looking to create a new opportunity or to expand an opportunity, officials
from BNB are willing to meet with that company to discuss the financial situation, to discuss the
proposal, to look at the business plan. If that plan makes sense, if it is a plan that is beneficial to the
people of New Brunswick and to the region, we will work with the company to support its
application. That is how we deal with all files.
033 12:25
The member did acknowledge that there had been contact with the department, so certainly any
matter that have been brought forward have not been ignored. Obviously, we are not in a position
to respond positively to every request. I cannot provide any detailed information with respect to this
file. If the member wishes to have a meeting with me and the officials of Business New Brunswick,
we would certainly be pleased to arrange that meeting and discuss this file.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 2 QUESTIONS ORALES
November 28, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 28 novembre 2008
Economy
Mr. Alward: Earlier this week, the Premier refused to tell the House how large the provinces’s
deficit was. The Premier said he was going to refuse to move on tax reform until at least next spring.
As I said yesterday, New Brunswickers need this government to act on the economy now, not six
months from now. People are expecting action. As was stated by Hollis Cole, President and CEO
of ADI Group, you will not solve any problems by doing nothing. Will the Premier tell this House
what he is going to do to protect New Brunswick’s economy now?
Hon. S. Graham: All New Brunswickers today are very concerned about what the future holds in
the current economic uncertainty, globally, nationally, and provincially. I can tell you emphatically
today that, this week, our government has launched a comprehensive speech from the throne. Next
week, the Minister of Finance will be providing a fiscal update. In the third week of this session, we
will be tabling the largest infrastructure investment in our province’s history, to help stimulate the
economy. Also that week, we understand we will be receiving the all-party committee report on the
discussion of taxation reform. Our government anticipates that it will be in a position to initiate and
to announce in broad strokes where we will be moving forward.
I can state very clearly today that major belt-tightening was announced this week, and that will be
delivered in the spring budget. However, much more is needed than just fiscal restraint and belt-
tightening today. What is required is a major fiscal stimulus, and our government will be taking a
reasonable and balanced approach in delivering both to the people of New Brunswick.
Mr. Alward: Clearly, the people of New Brunswick are expecting action now, not in the spring
budget. The changes need to take place now. The belt-tightening needs to take place now. It does
not need to start in the spring.
When you are going through a storm, you need a strong ship to withstand that storm. It is called
leadership, and this government is clearly lacking it. Yesterday, I spoke of the need for leadership,
and I outlined a number of measures that would provide an immediate stimulus to our province’s
economy. Will the Premier support our call for an immediate economic stimulus and table the action
plan now? Will he have it come into play now, not in the spring?
Hon. S. Graham: We heard the Conservative plan yesterday: Set up a Web site and have a meeting.
We have taken a very coordinated approach, and the Liberal plan has been very clear. This week,
we announced that we would be putting in place spending restraints. Every single program is under
review, and there will be ample opportunity for both sides of this Chamber to determine the
corrective measures through the budgetary process.
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020 11:20
More important than that, next week, the Minister of Finance is going to be providing a fiscal
update. In the third week, we are going to be launching the most comprehensive and most important
infrastructure budget that our province has ever seen as a major economic stimulus package to
dovetail the spending restraint. In the fourth week, as I have stated in this Chamber, we are hoping
to be in a position to move forward in broad strokes on the discussion on taxation reform, taking into
account the current economic situation. As I stated earlier this week, we need to be prudent, and we
need to be mindful of what New Brunswickers are facing today in terms of hardships. Our
government is cognizant of that, and we will be addressing those issues.
Prior to the recess of this Chamber before Christmas, New Brunswickers will clearly be able to see
the difference between our plan and the nonaction of the plan tabled by the Leader of the Opposition
yesterday.
Mr. Alward: When this government came to power, it committed that it would not raise taxes for
individuals, for small businesses, for medium-sized business, and for corporations. Immediately
following coming into power, the government raised taxes. Part of what we are seeing today is a
direct result of what this government did. At the same time, the tax reforms about which this
government talks would see an increase in the HST, which would impact all New Brunswickers.
Yesterday, I called for an immediate reduction—not six months down the road—in personal taxes,
in small business taxes, in medium-sized business taxes, and in corporations’ taxes. I called for an
immediate reduction of taxes in New Brunswick. Will the Premier support our call for immediate
tax reductions so that New Brunswickers can have more money in their pockets so that they can help
keep this economy going?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government cannot be more clear than it is today. We are very concerned
about New Brunswickers today who may be in jeopardy of losing their jobs, who may have
difficulty in making ends meet, and who are seeing their retirement savings plans dwindle
dramatically in size, because of market volatility. We have stated that, this week, we have launched
a comprehensive throne speech. We have also put in place two committees that have been working
diligently for a month, looking at every single program. We will be bringing forward a budget that
will put in place the spending restraint that is needed.
However, more importantly today, every single business leader and economist across Canada and
the world is saying that much more is needed than just spending restraint. What is needed is a major
economic stimulus package. Our government will be in a very strong position to respond to those
demands and to provide both a responsible and balanced approach . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
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M. Alward : Le premier ministre peut-il s’engager aujourd’hui à ce que son gouvernement
n’augmente pas les impôts personnels ou des entreprises au Nouveau-Brunswick? C’est tout.
Hon. S. Graham: It has to be much more than “c’est tout”. I can tell you today that we are going
to be taking a balanced approach. We have lowered the gas tax in New Brunswick by 4.3¢ per litre.
While the former Conservative government wanted to lower that tax over a four-year period, we did
it on day one of our mandate. Today, New Brunswick has the lowest gas taxes in Atlantic Canada.
In the last budget, we brought forward reductions in the corporate capital tax, and we are on track
to eliminate the corporate capital tax this year, in New Brunswick, one of the first jurisdictions to
do so.
021 11:25
We recognize that New Brunswickers also need tax relief. That is why we launched an all-party
committee to go out and engage New Brunswickers in a discussion on tax reform. It was important
to receive that input. We are going to be receiving the all-party committee report . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Alward: This government has been very good at spending the taxpayers’ money. Let’s see how
it will be at saving the taxpayers’ money. How will the people of New Brunswick be able to live as
we go forward?
This morning, my following question comes from the young gentleman who is sitting with us today
in the House. His question is this:
My name is Terry Leavitt and I am 28 years of age. I was injured in a diving accident and have been
paralyzed since that event.
Presently I am living at home with my parents, however, as they are getting older, I cannot continue
to rely on their loving care much longer and therefore I have been trying to get an apartment suited
for me.
..............................................................................
My question to you, Mr. Premier, is: Can you tell me what I have to do in order for me to be like
most other young men and women who have a life of their own and can live on their own?
Hon. S. Graham: As the member opposite knows, we cannot refer to specific cases in this
Chamber, out of respect for confidentiality of information. We will take that question under
advisement today and respond, in broad strokes, to the specific case that you have raised.
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I want to talk today about the global issues facing the province of New Brunswick, to make sure that
the economy is the number one issue, so that we can move forward to make sure that every single
New Brunswicker, in every single corner of this province, has an opportunity to come through these
difficult economic times in a better position. The Leader of the Opposition has raised a specific case
today. We will take that question under advisement and respond in this Chamber, as required under
protocol.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Leader of the Opposition, with this line of questioning, we are going to take a
short recess and confer about the legality and technicality of using terms referring to people who are
in the House. We will take a short recess and get back to you as soon as we are ready.
(The House recessed at 11:28 a.m.
The House resumed at 11:58 a.m.)
022-027 11:55
Speaker’s Ruling
Mr. Speaker: Prior to our recess, the Leader of the Opposition asked a question of the Premier. In
the question, he quoted a question directly from an individual other than a member of the
Legislature. I have serious questions about that. I have deep concerns. According to the rules of the
House of Commons and the Legislature, only a member—and it can be a member from either
side—is allowed to ask a question. Members may pose any question they want, according to the
rules. However, it must be phrased as their question. The authorities are clear on this: Questions
asked during question period should not be questions from constituents.
I would refer members to pages 416 to 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice,
2000edition, for a thorough discussion of conduct during question period. I will refer in particular
to a 1994 decision of Speaker Parent, reported on pages 234 and 235 of the debates of January 24,
1994. It advises that a question should not be posed by members who are not members. The book
states that a question should not be a question from a constituent.
I am not questioning the importance of engaging the public. On the contrary, we have a right and
even an obligation to represent people from our ridings. However, their questions have to be from
us, as members of this Legislature. We cannot quote individuals directly in our questions.
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028 12:00
You cannot quote an individual directly in your question. Members have a forum whereby the rules
can be changed, if need be. We have the Procedures Committee, if you need to go there to have the
rules changed. We are looking at rules that have been in place for the last 200 years. All of a sudden,
those rules are being questioned.
I reiterate: I am not trying to stifle anybody. I am just saying that questions have to be asked by us,
as members of the Legislature. I will say again that we cannot quote somebody because, then, it is
not our question we are asking; it is a question from an individual. This is not an open public forum.
This is a forum whereby we, as members of the Legislature, can ask questions of one another, and
not questions of a third party from somewhere else. As I said, we have the right and the obligation
to represent the people in our riding. If there are questions from people in our ridings, then we have
the obligation to ask the questions, but they have to come from each individual in this House, man
or woman. I would sincerely ask all members for their cooperation in this matter.
We stopped the clock during question period. You still have 18 minutes left. I recognize the
Opposition House Leader.
Mr. P. Robichaud: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Is this a point of order?
Mr. P. Robichaud: Yes, on your decision, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: The decision is final.
Mr. P. Robichaud: As a point of clarification, as you know, Mr. Speaker, I have enormous respect
for you as Speaker of the House. On this side of the House, we have a huge respect for the institution
that you represent. My understanding is that it was very obvious this morning that the Leader of the
Official Opposition was asking a question as a member of the Legislative Assembly, as the MLA
for Woodstock and Leader of the Opposition. If it is a question of wording, we will work on the
wording. I just want to point out our intention. My belief was that, when the Leader of the
Opposition asked the question, he was asking the question as a member of the Legislative Assembly.
We only hope that this decision will not be an attack on what we used to call the people’s House,
the Legislative Assembly, and that it is not an initiative to try to muzzle the official opposition.
Vous savez, il est très important que les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick comprennent très bien
l’importance du rôle d’un député. D’ailleurs, j’ai lu avec grand intérêt les commentaires du leader
parlementaire du gouvernement à la Chambre, qui a dit que c’est la responsabilité première d’un
député de poser des questions au nom de la population que l’on représente. Il est même pratique
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normale de poser des questions de personnes que l’on représente ou de personnes qui se présentent
ici, à l’Assemblée législative, mais qui n’ont pas l’occasion de le faire.
Alors, Monsieur le président, nous acceptons votre décision. Nous allons voir à ce que la façon dont
nous posons nos questions reflète vraiment le fait que ce sont des questions posées par un député,
pour un député, aux ministres et au premier ministre à la Chambre. Nous allons continuer notre
bonne initiative de demander aux gens de nous faire part de leurs commentaires, ce qui a
énormément de succès. Merci beaucoup.
Le président : Je veux simplement vous rassurer, Monsieur le leader parlementaire de l’opposition.
La question telle que posée venait d’une personne. On citait une personne, ce qu’on ne peut pas
faire. Ce n’est pas une question de vouloir empêcher les parlementaires de poser des questions, pas
du tout. Comme vous l’avez mentionné, la question peut être reposée d’une façon différente, je n’ai
aucun problème avec cela. Lorsque la question est posée, on ne peut pas citer quelqu’un. Voilà le
point épineux.
We now have 18 minutes and 50 seconds. The floor is yours.
Oral Questions
Mr. Alward: Mr. Leavitt has been trying for many months to find adequate housing; however, he
has been given little hope from the Department of Social Development that he will be able to access
adequate housing. Perhaps the Premier can answer this question for us, if we deal with it in the
abstract. What plan does this government have to help disabled nonseniors find a suitable living
environment that gives them their own independence?
029 12:05
Hon. S. Graham: I want to address three points that I think are important to be mentioned in this
Chamber on the issue of housing. Tomorrow, I am going to be meeting with the secretariat on the
status of disabled persons, and the board is going to be reviewing a number of options at a meeting
that is very important. Coupled with that, today, we launched a very important initiative on poverty
reduction in New Brunswick which is going to tie into the issue of housing, because that is a critical
component of addressing poverty.
However, a third issue that is important to mention this morning, speaking in the context of a
coordinated approach, is that there has yet to be a national housing agreement signed with the
government of Canada. Very clearly, this agreement has expired. I know that, when we met with the
Council of the Federation, all Premiers emphatically stated that this was one of the priorities,
especially in this time of economic uncertainty. Nothing could be stronger than an economic
stimulus package. I have seen the federal government come forward with some form of aid in a
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national housing agreement that could be partnered at the provincial level to employ many
tradespeople, and, at the same time, provide adequate housing.
This is a situation that is very important to our government. We are going to continue to lobby the
federal government to honour a commitment that it made during the last federal election, because
the previous agreement has expired. We have also struck the new nonpartisan poverty reduction
initiative today, which will be traveling through the province. Also, I am going to be meeting with
the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons tomorrow morning, and I am sure that this
issue will be raised there as well.
Mr. Holder: I hope it is not out of parliamentary tradition that, before I ask my question today, I
say hello to my daughter Maggie, who is home sick today. She said she was going to watch question
period this morning.
Housing
My questions are for the Minister of Social Development. On this side of the House, as the
government knows, we have commended it on its initiative with respect to poverty reduction.
However, one of the things that we called for on this side of the House, if one thing is apparent to
me, is that the key to reducing poverty is providing safe, affordable housing in this province. On this
side of the House, we have called for an all-party committee that could start work this winter, in the
cold months—a most appropriate time to do it—to travel the province and ask New Brunswickers
what they are experiencing. It has been a long time since housing has been reviewed. We would like
to do this so that we can report back to the poverty reduction committee and help it along. Will the
government reconsider and put in place this committee?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about housing, because, often,
we do not hear a lot about it. I can tell you that our government has been moving forward on the file
very silently, but with much progress. Some $43 million of infrastructure has gone into housing in
the province in the last two years. We have increased the number of new homes in New Brunswick
by over 450. The file is moving forward. As we have stated that we would, we brought back the
renewal of the New Brunswick Housing Corporation. This corporation has been working with
partners. We have partners in the area of disabilities with Randy Dickinson. We have partners with
municipalities. We have partners with nonprofits as well as partners with entrepreneurs to make sure
that we continue to move the file forward. We have been lobbying the federal government. I have
been in Ottawa with my fellow ministers to try to get new housing agreements.
Mr. Holder: It is clear that the government has no intention of setting up an all-party committee.
My next question with respect to safe and affordable housing is this. In the last days that we were
in office, we passed legislation in this House that would protect tenants and boarders under The
Residential Tenancies Act. Those amendments passed in the Legislature. They have yet to be
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proclaimed. The government has sat on those amendments for two years. What will the government
do to reassure us that the bill will be proclaimed and that those people will have the rights of all
other tenants across the province?
030 12:10
Hon. Mr. Byrne: It is somewhat ironic that these amendments were brought in by the former
government, which did not proclaim them. The former government had every opportunity to
proclaim those amendments and take action, but it decided, consciously, not to do so because it
knew that it did not want to administer those regulations.
We have carried out a significant undertaking to reform the services provided by the Office of the
Rentalsman. We have brought that office from the Department of Justice into Service New
Brunswick. We are modernizing the Office of the Rentalsman. We are ensuring that service is
available through all the 37 service centres throughout New Brunswick, so that people will have
greater access. We are looking at the whole program of residential tenancies to see what
improvements can be made. Certainly, this is a far cry from what was done in the past by the former
government.
Mr. Holder: I am not going to take a backseat to this government any day when it comes to the
issue of slum landlords. We had a conference in Saint John that came up with a series of
recommendations, many of which are now in effect. This is one that we did not get an opportunity
to proclaim in the last few days of our government. This government has had two years. It said it
was ready to govern. Why is it not respecting the rights of these tenants? If the government wants
to deal with poverty, it should make sure that these people have all the rights of any other tenant in
this province.
Hon. Mr. Byrne: We would do a great disservice to the people of New Brunswick if we did not
ensure that the government was responsible in addressing this issue. We obviously want to benefit
the people most in need. We need to thoroughly review the nature of these amendments, which
appear to have been made on the fly by the previous government. The last thing we want to do is
create a problem as opposed to providing a solution. If we make these changes too onerous, there
may be residential tenancies that are not available. Perhaps owners will say that it is too much of a
hassle with the new changes to the program and they will not provide residential housing. Those
people we are hoping to impact positively the most may actually be hurt if we rush into this without
thinking out the implications and without doing it right.
Mr. Betts: Many New Brunswickers are hurting. Several people have come into our offices, saying
that their rent has gone up from $600 to $900, and there are no controls. They respect the free
enterprise system, but they are hurting. For many people, heating costs have gone up. The Liberal
government raised the personal income tax and small business tax. Property taxes are up. The thing
I am concerned about in my riding, which depends on the retail sector, with shopping centres, is that
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the government may raise the HST, which will hurt that sector. There are tough choices to make that
many New Brunswickers face, for food, heat, housing, and medicine. We have had our first report
card on the homeless, and about 1 450 people were homeless in the Moncton area last year.
My question to the minister is this: How many New Brunswickers are waiting for subsidized
housing? What is the turnaround time for these units? We know that about 1 000 people are waiting,
and there are reports that some units were empty for a while. Could we have an update on that?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: It is appropriate today in the House, with the questions that we were able to
launch and share with everyone, the co-Chairs for the new poverty initiative . . . It is all very linked
when we look at housing, income levels, health card needs, and child care. Housing is part of it. It
is a complex issue. We have been working diligently on the file of housing, as I have already stated.
In Moncton, we have seen our occupancy rates increase. In the province, our occupancy rate for
housing is 97%, which is very, very high.
031 12:15
Unfortunately, though, we still do have wait lists. We still have 4 000 people in New Brunswick
waiting for housing, and that is why today it is so important that we all reach out a hand and work
together to make sure that we can battle poverty to make this housing crisis go away.
Mr. Betts: This is certainly something both sides of this Chamber are concerned about and want to
work cooperatively on and be involved. There is not necessarily an incentive for some of the owners
of these units to report as empty if they are being paid for them. My question is: When one of these
units is vacant, do government officials inspect it to see what repairs are needed and then give the
owners a certain amount of time? What steps has the Department of Social Development taken to
monitor the turnaround time for subsidized units so that people in need can have proper housing?
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: Thank you for the question. It is a concern because there is absolutely no
benefit to anyone to have an empty unit. That being said, we have contractual rights with landlords
that have rent subsidies, so a certain amount of time is allowed to elapse to make sure the unit can
be turned around and a deserving person put into it. We also have a policy in the department to look
at turnaround levels to make sure that the unit can be occupied within 60 days.
It is very important to remember that we have one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada. To my
critic opposite, in his riding alone—Crescent Valley, Churchill Boulevard—in Saint John, this
government is undertaking one of the largest revitalizations of a project that was built in the late
1950s. We recognized that this project needed to be torn down and rebuilt in the new way, with the
dreams and the hopes of the people who live there as to what their community is going to look like.
You can be assured that the housing file is well attended. I have asked for monthly reports to come
to my desk so that I can see the waiting lists and vacancies.
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Emploi
Mme Dubé : Alors que je pensais que les choses ne pouvaient pas nécessairement empirer, ici au
Nouveau-Brunswick, en lisant le Telegraph-Journal de ce matin, j’apprends que l’une des
compagnies PQA était prête à faire de la création d’emplois au Nouveau-Brunswick, jusqu’à 500
nouveaux emplois, et qu’on a accepté de laisser partir ces emplois pour une autre province.
On reconnaît le potentiel de nos petites et moyennes entreprises. Pour cette entreprise, en particulier,
notre gouvernement a investi plus de 325 000 $ pour l’aider à croître.
Ma question est pour le premier ministre. Qu’a-t-il fait ou que n’a-t-il pas fait, justement, pour aider
cette compagnie à garder et à créer des emplois qui sont extrêmement nécessaires dans cette
province, surtout qu’il s’agit d’entrepreneurs de notre propre province?
L’hon. M. Byrne : L’article dans le Telegraph-Journal de ce matin a une mauvaise intonation. Le
gouvernement a aidé la compagnie dans la création de son fonctionnement. Il l’a aussi aidée en ce
qui a trait à la création d’emplois et à l’embauche de nouveaux employés.
Le gouvernement va aussi aider la compagnie dans l’avenir. Le gouvernement et mes collègues ont
assisté cette compagnie et travaillent avec celle-ci chaque semaine. Par exemple, la semaine
dernière, la compagnie a participé à une mission commerciale à Toronto. L’information dans le
journal est de la mauvaise information.
Mme Dubé : Monsieur le ministre, êtes-vous prêt à nier que cette même compagnie a annoncé qu’elle
avait créé 200 emplois en Nouvelle-Écosse? Ce sont 200 emplois qui auraient pu être créés, ici, au
Nouveau-Brunswick. Le ministre peut-il au moins clarifier cette situation?
032 12:20
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I would be glad to clarify. As I have indicated, we have worked with this company
since its inception. We have worked with it to create jobs. It has over 100 jobs here in Fredericton.
It has jobs additionally in Moncton. It is growing. It is expanding its operations here. It has its
headquarters here. It is the company’s intention that its headquarters will still be here.
This is a good news story. This is a company that is expanding its base of operations. It is looking
at the Nova Scotia market in addition to its growth in the New Brunswick market. Like many
companies in New Brunswick that have grown and become successful, it is branching out to new
markets. It is no different from McCain looking at markets across the world.
This is great news. We have worked with this company. We have supported it. We have worked
with it to develop its business plans. We have been involved with it all along with respect to its
expansions, and the company is interested in growing in New Brunswick, as well. We will be there.
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Mme Dubé : Le ministre peut danser autant qu’il veut, mais la réalité ce matin, c’est que des emplois
sont perdus partout dans la province sous le présent gouvernement, étant donné qu’il a augmenté
les impôts et brisé l’économie de cette province. Voir le ministre se lever à la Chambre ce matin
pour dire qu’il se réjouit que 200 emplois soient partis en Nouvelle-Écosse quand ils auraient pu être
ici, au Nouveau-Brunswick, démontre encore que ce gouvernement n’a aucun plan.
Je m’adresse au premier ministre. Monsieur le premier ministre, on vous dit qu’il est urgent que
vous abordiez la situation économique du Nouveau-Brunswick. Il y a 95 % des Néo-Brunswickois
qui travaillent dans de petites et moyennes entreprises, et ce gouvernement n’a rien fait jusqu’à
maintenant. Encore aujourd’hui, il se réjouit que des emplois bien rémunérés en technologie quittent
la province et aillent ailleurs, alors qu’il dépense des milliers de dollars pour faire sa propre
promotion disant qu’il est fier que les gens restent au Nouveau-Brunswick. Comment peut-il
expliquer la situation aujourd’hui?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, I know the member opposite is asking questions on what she read in the
newspaper this morning, but it is actually important to talk to the business leader, with whom I met
on Tuesday. I also had an opportunity to tour the organization. Let me be very clear today: This
company is a New Brunswick success story. Its headquarters are here in New Brunswick and will
remain in New Brunswick, according to my conversation with this individual. No jobs have been
lost. In fact, the company will continue to grow its job base in New Brunswick.
What this company is now doing is reaching out into new markets from a strong foundation on
which it can build. It is no different from McCain, which has expanded into the Chinese market.
When we were in Shanghai, that is where its headquarters are now in the international market. This
is a company that started with financial assistance from the New Brunswick government. It has been
able to build a solid foundation. It is partnering with universities. It is now taking the next step of
having a larger market access, partnering with other universities. Make no mistake about it: The jobs
that are created in New Brunswick are remaining in New Brunswick. They will continue to grow
in New Brunswick. This company will continue to grow its expertise abroad, while at the same time
keeping its headquarters here in New Brunswick.
Mr. Speaker: We have time for one more question.
Business New Brunswick
Mr. Huntjens: My question is for the Minister of Business New Brunswick, and I hope I get a better
answer than what the previous members got.
Two years ago, I approached you to look into a file that was in existence within Business New
Brunswick with regard to a business on Campobello Island, the Newman boatbuilding enterprise.
At that time, you said that you would look into it. You also said that you would keep me informed
as to the progress of this business. So far, I have heard no reply, except that I have spoken to people
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at the business itself. They tell me that your people have given a multitude of excuses as to why it
cannot happen. One of your people even said that if this business were anywhere else but on
Campobello Island, it would be done tomorrow. My question is this: What is being done to help the
Newman boatbuilding enterprise?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: The member knows full well that we cannot discuss the specifics of any particular
business case. I can certainly tell him that in any case where a business opportunity is brought to us,
whether it is a company looking to create a new opportunity or to expand an opportunity, officials
from BNB are willing to meet with that company to discuss the financial situation, to discuss the
proposal, to look at the business plan. If that plan makes sense, if it is a plan that is beneficial to the
people of New Brunswick and to the region, we will work with the company to support its
application. That is how we deal with all files.
033 12:25
The member did acknowledge that there had been contact with the department, so certainly any
matter that have been brought forward have not been ignored. Obviously, we are not in a position
to respond positively to every request. I cannot provide any detailed information with respect to this
file. If the member wishes to have a meeting with me and the officials of Business New Brunswick,
we would certainly be pleased to arrange that meeting and discuss this file.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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======================================================================================================================================


ORAL QUESTIONS 3 QUESTIONS ORALES
December 2, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 2 décembre 2008
Property Tax
Mr. Alward: Last Friday afternoon, New Brunswickers got a bad taste of one of the oldest tricks
in the book: a late afternoon press release telling them that their property tax assessments were
increasing. Aside from trying to pull a fast one on the people of the province, the Graham
government is now going to collect more money from New Brunswickers than ever before, through
increased property axes. However, the government neglected to inform New Brunswickers as to how
much the province will collect due to the increase in assessments.
My question is for the Premier. How much money will the province receive from the increase in tax
assessments?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I think it is important to point out that, certainly, when we are dealing with owner-
occupied residential properties, the value of those increased assessments accrues directly to the
municipalities, not to the province. I point that out because there is an opportunity. If municipalities
choose to address the issue by lowering their tax rates, they have the opportunity to do so.
These are difficult times. The federal government is looking at how it can practice restraint. Our
government is looking at how it practices restraint. I think it behooves municipal governments to
do the same. Yes, they have increased costs; there is no question of that. Still, in this time of
restraint, perhaps it is time to look at whether they can be a little more prudent in terms of how they
manage their budgetary funding. Perhaps they can give a break to the taxpayer.
Mr. Alward: It is interesting this afternoon that the Premier decided not to answer the question. In
fact, the Minister of Business New Brunswick avoided the question. My question was related to
provincial real property tax. Allowing property taxes to increase so significantly is simply a way for
the Premier to implement yet another backdoor tax grab. What is absolutely irresponsible is that this
is taking place in the midst of an economic crisis at a level we have never seen before. At the same
time the economy is slowing, at the same time property sales and property values are decreasing,
this government has the nerve to try to take more money out of the pockets of New Brunswickers.
Once again, will the Premier confirm how much money the government will take from taxpayers
through this backdoor tax grab?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I think that what is important to clarify here is that, despite what we are seeing
in the world markets, we are not seeing the same impact reflected in the New Brunswick real estate
market. There are projects that represent considerable growth throughout the province, and the
numbers do not reflect that. When we look at market sales throughout the province, we have a
relatively strong market. It may be that, in the future, there will be changes in the residential housing
market, but we can only set the assessment rates based on the facts of what the market is doing in
New Brunswick. We cannot set them based on conjecture or on what may happen in the future. We
have facts right up to November of this year as to how the markets have performed.
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Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it—the market has been
strong. We have a strong, buoyant economy here, as reflected in the price of housing and the
assessed values.
Mr. Alward: Let the record show that the Premier again refused to answer the question. Clearly,
we have a Minister of Business New Brunswick who does not know, who is completely
disconnected from what is taking place in New Brunswick. Perhaps he is spending too much time
in a glass house.
017 14:10
The reality of what is taking place here is that we have a perfect storm brewing in New Brunswick.
This storm includes increased taxes for individuals, for small businesses, and now for property
owners. In fact, the government’s own member for Moncton North has said: “What did we get from
this government? What did we get as tools for growth? We got stealth taxation--higher property
taxes through higher assessments.”
Will the Premier please tell the members of this House what his plan is to help individuals and
families who keep falling further and further behind because of sky-high property taxes?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: With respect to the particular figures, municipal revenues have increased by about
$37 million. The provincial revenues, in the 2009 assessment year, would have increases in the area
of $24.3 million. Again, there is an opportunity to provide relief. Those municipalities that have
experienced a significant rise in their assessment base have an opportunity to provide that relief back
to the taxpayers through adjustments in their tax rates.
We are very cognizant of the impact of increasing assessments. We empathize with people who pay
more taxes, but the fact of the matter is that the assessment process is in line with generally accepted
assessment principles that are used throughout North America. Obviously, we are awaiting the
results of the Finn report, and we will look at that report with respect to its recommendations. It
would be premature to do anything in advance of that report.
The other thing that we have done, of course, is that we have made a commitment to look at the
assessment process, as recommended by the Ombudsman, and we will be bringing forth measures
that are designed to improve the appeals process in the very near future.
Mr. Alward: The Minister of Business New Brunswick is quick to give advice to municipalities.
He had an opportunity to show leadership today and to make changes in areas on which the
government has an impact, but he chose not to. Obviously, the Premier and the Minister of Business
New Brunswick do not realize that a perfect economic storm is brewing in New Brunswick. I will
give the Minister of Business New Brunswick or the Premier an opportunity to answer this. The
Minister of Business New Brunswick has said that the government is waiting for the Finn report.
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Will the Premier tell this House when the report of the Commission on Local Governance will be
released? He has had it since July, but he is still sitting on it. We want to see what the commissioner
has recommended and what will be done on property taxes.
Hon. S. Graham: Today, with the turbulent economic times, both nationally and internationally,
what is needed now more than ever is stability. What is also needed is a balanced approach to
providing leadership which our government is doing today. We very clearly indicated that, this
week, the Minister of Finance is going to be providing a fiscal update to the people of New
Brunswick. Next week, we are going to be bringing forward the largest capital budget in our
province’s history, which is part of a stimulus package to allow our economy to remain in a better
situation compared to other economies throughout North America. In the fourth week, we are going
to be responding in broad strokes on tax reform, which will put more money in the pockets of New
Brunswickers.
This four-pronged approach, which started with the throne speech, last week, indicated that there
was going to be belt tightening on the side of government. Today, we are asking municipalities to
undertake the same initiative. The Minister Responsible for Service New Brunswick has been very
clear. A balanced approach has to be undertaken, and we are seeking that balanced approach.
Finally, to answer the last question of the Leader of the Opposition, the report from Mr. Finn on
local governance will be tabled in this House prior to the Christmas recess.
Taxe professionnelle
M. Alward : Une augmentation de 7,2 % ne donne pas la stabilité. Puisque le premier ministre n’a
apparemment aucun plan pour aider les personnes et les familles à affronter à la crise économique,
il pourrait peut-être dire à la Chambre s’il a un plan pour diminuer les impôts fonciers pour les
petites, moyennes et grandes entreprises. S’il a un plan, quel est-il?
018 14:10
L’hon. S. Graham : Je ne suis pas certain si le chef de l’opposition a entendu la réponse que je
viens de donner, mais c’est très clair : nous avons un plan d’action avec la réforme fiscale qui va
mettre plus d’argent dans les poches des gens du Nouveau-Brunswick.
Aujourd’hui, c’est clair que notre plan va stimuler l’économie, parce que la stabilité est notre
première priorité et que c’est nécessaire d’avoir une réaction balancée. Ce que nous entendons
aujourd’hui, c’est la critique de l’opposition, mais aucun plan en place pour faire avancer l’agenda
de l’autosuffisance. De notre côté, c’est très clair : nous avons un plan, et, avant Noël, les gens du
Nouveau-Brunswick pourront voir la différence entre le plan de non-action de l’opposition et notre
plan d’action.
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Municipalities
Mr. Alward: Yes, this week, New Brunswickers will see the difference between the two sides,
beginning with the speech from the throne, which had nothing tied to the crisis that is taking place
in New Brunswick’s economy. So far, we have learned that this Premier does not have a plan to
work with individuals and families. Strike one. The Premier does not have a plan to help small
businesses and corporations. Strike two. Now let’s see if the Premier is going to take another chance
to strike out. Will he tell this House today about his plan to help those municipalities that will not
gain any new revenue this year, so that they can continue to deliver the same level of services next
year?
Hon. S. Graham: It is important, sometimes, for the Leader of the Opposition to deviate from the
script that is in front of him, because, very clearly, today we have stated . . . I am not sure if he is
not listening or if he is concentrating on the message in front of him. I respect that. However, we
very clearly stated that, with the capital budget that is coming out next week, this will be a major
component of an economic stimulus package for New Brunswick.
When the Leader of the Opposition wants to criticize, it is important to note that we are one of the
few jurisdictions today that is going to provide a thorough economic update of the financial situation
in this province. Nova Scotia has not yet brought forward its statement. Last week, the government
of Canada was criticized heavily by leading economists for not providing information that could
truly reflect the state of the Canadian economy. There was no fiscal stimulus package attached with
that.
We are taking a two-pronged approach today. We are learning that, during these turbulent times,
New Brunswickers and Canadians are looking for balanced leadership. That is what we are going
to be providing: responsible leadership and a balanced approach. Clearly, by the end of this session,
New Brunswickers will see a clear plan of action on this side of the Chamber and empty criticism
that rings hollow on that side of the Chamber.
M. Volpé : Ma question est pour le ministre des Gouvernements locaux. Maintenant qu’on connaît
le plan du premier ministre pour aider la population, soit celui d’augmenter les taxes et les impôts,
on voudrait savoir quel est le plan du ministre des Gouvernements locaux, étant donné que les
municipalités attendent toujours pour leur subvention sans condition, à savoir si elle sera renouvelée,
réduite ou éliminée.
Le budget des municipalités se termine à la fin décembre et non à la fin mars, et elles doivent
présenter un budget à la province pour que celui-ci soit accepté. Un plan de quatre ans a été mis en
place en 2004, et il se termine cette année. Ceci était pour permettre aux municipalités et au
gouvernement de mettre un nouveau plan en place pour 2009. Le gouvernement s’est traîné les pieds
et aucun plan n’est prêt.
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Monsieur le ministre, qu’entendez-vous faire et quand allez-vous annoncer aux municipalités le
montant d’argent qu’elles vont recevoir?
Hon. B. LeBlanc: I recognize that the current year’s funding mechanism for municipalities ends in
December 2008. With the ending of the current funding mechanism, we will be bringing in an
amendment to the Municipal Assistance Act. Our government will table this amendment this week
in this session of the Legislature.
019 14:15
M. Volpé : Je suis convaincu que les municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick seront contentes, parce
que la dernière fois que cette loi a été modifiée, c’était quand M. McKenna était au pouvoir. Il avait
pris les subventions sans condition d’au-delà de 100 millions et les avait réduites à 60 millions. Je
suis convaincu que les municipalités attendront les résultats, je dirais, avec anxiété.
Ma prochaine question est pour le ministre des Gouvernement locaux. Vous savez, pour venir en
aide aux provinces canadiennes, le fédéral utilise ce qu’on appelle la péréquation afin de s’assurer
que toutes les provinces peuvent livrer des services semblables à un coût semblable. Vous savez,
Monsieur le ministre, surtout depuis les deux dernières années, il y a des municipalités au Nouveau-
Brunswick qui ont de très gros défis financiers. Elles ont une assiette fiscale négative au lieu de
positive. Certaines municipalités auront de très légères augmentations, mais elles devront tout de
même continuer de livrer les services. Quel est votre plan pour aider les municipalités qui sont aux
prises avec de sérieux défis financiers? Je ne parle pas d’une augmentation de 7 % comme le
Nouveau-Brunswick va recevoir. Il y a des municipalités qui ne recevront pas assez d’argent en
impôt foncier. Quel plan avez-vous pour les aider?
Hon. B. LeBlanc: We will be contacting and speaking with each municipality that is not showing
growth to see what we in Local Government can offer. It is our goal to make sure that each
municipality gets the proper counseling from our department.
M. Volpé : Si quelqu’un doit recevoir du counselling, c’est bien le ministre des Finances. Je suis
convaincu que les municipalités pourraient le conseiller.
On voit que le ministre des Finances verra une augmentation de ses recettes d’au-delà de 7 % et on
vient d’entendre que quelque 21 millions de plus de l’assiette fiscale iront à la province du Nouveau-
Brunswick. C’est beaucoup plus facile de gérer une augmentation des recettes de 7,2 % que de gérer
une diminution des recettes de 1 % ou de 2 % . Monsieur le ministre, vous avez dit que vous
donnerez du counselling, mais ce n’est pas ce dont ont besoin les municipalités. Elles ont besoin de
fonds pour s’assurer de pouvoir continuer de livrer les services à leurs collectivités. Vous êtes un
ancien conseiller municipal. Quand il y a un problème financier, on peut trouver du counselling
local. Il y a des gens très, très compétents dans ce domaine. Les municipalités ont besoin d’argent.
Ma question revient : Quel plan avez-vous en place? Combien d’argent avez-vous mis de côté pour
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aider les municipalités qui devront continuer à livrer les mêmes services à leur population avec
moins d’argent?
Hon. S. Graham: I have been listening to the former Leader of the Opposition speak, and I think
it is important to set the record straight. Clearly, the former Minister of Finance is stating today that
the last time the unconditional grant formula changed was under the administration of Frank
McKenna. Actually, it was when the former Minister of Finance cut the unconditional grant by 10%.
We recognize that the former Minister of Finance has a very short memory and he forgets about that
10% cut. I can state today that, with the legislation that the Minister of Local Government will bring
forward this week, there will be no cut of 10%, as the former government did.
Petites et moyennes entreprises
Mme Dubé : L’année dernière, les entreprises ont été durement touchées par des augmentations au
niveau de leurs impôts, des coûts d’énergie et des impôts fonciers. Ma question est pour le ministre
des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick. Vu la crise économique qui est train de s’installer, ma question
est très simple. Monsieur le ministre, quelles mesures comptez-vous mettre en place pour aider nos
petites et moyennes entreprises ainsi que nos grandes entreprises à traverser cette crise?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: As my colleague the Minister of Finance said yesterday in the Moncton region,
we will be binging forth a plan that will involve changes to the taxation system, which we believe
will be welcomed by the business community. In addition to that, we are using many of our existing
programs to support business. For example, we are helping businesses make strategic investments
and assisting them with productivity enhancements and energy efficiency. Just recently, we helped
various members of the forest industry. We have worked in partnership with the Grand Lake Timber
Chipman sawmill. We have worked with the Fraser, Flakeboard, and Chaleur sawmills. All those
measures were in partnership with those companies so that they could make strategic investments
to reduce their costs to make them more competitive for the long term.
020 14:20
We will continue to work with industry to assist it, whether it be through the development of new
trade markets, the development of new technology, or a system to become more energy-efficient.
Business New Brunswick will be there to partner with our New Brunswick companies to assist them.
Mme Dubé : On peut voir dans la réponse que le ministre vient de nous donner que le gouvernement
ne comprend pas la situation économique du Nouveau-Brunswick et du Canada. Le gouvernement
aurait peut-être dû inviter son premier ministre et les membres du Cabinet à s’asseoir avec notre chef
et tous les leaders du secteur économique au Nouveau-Brunswick.
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Tout ce que le ministre vient de nous énoncer, ce sont toutes des choses qui sont faites couramment
par tous les gouvernements. Les employés du ministère des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick font
ce travail jour après jour depuis plusieurs décennies.
Nous vivons une situation extraordinaire au Nouveau-Brunswick. Le premier ministre l’a lui-même
mentionné ce matin. Il a dit qu’il devrait prendre des mesures spéciales. La question que je pose au
ministre des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick est simple. Nous vivons une situation exceptionnelle.
Quels sont les mesures et le plan d’action concrets et tangibles? Nous ne voulons pas un autre plan
d’étude. Quels sont les plans concrets et tangibles qui peuvent être mis en place aujourd’hui pour
aider les petites, moyennes et grandes entreprises du Nouveau-Brunswick à continuer de croître et
d’offrir des emplois aux gens de partout au Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: I think it is important to note that, last week, we saw the critic responsible for this
department do her research by reading the newspaper. Never once did she contact the company
regarding her question. Never once did she visit the company regarding the question she was asking.
Very clearly, the information that she presented was not factual. We are working every day to create
jobs in New Brunswick. In fact, just this morning, this minister was in the Miramichi region,
creating over 100 jobs in the new aerospace industry.
Talking about the importance of consultation, I have to say that I was heartened yesterday to see a
Globe and Mail article written by Judith Maxwell, former head of the Economic Council of Canada
and the Canadian Policy Research Network. The article in the Globe and Mail was entitled “With
the right skills, a community can lead its own recovery”. It goes on to say:
The secret ingredient for recovery is to encourage communities to take responsibility for their own
futures. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham talks about self-sufficiency as “standing on our
own two feet.”
Premier Graham is trying to model a new style of governance. He is offering New Brunswickers a
voice in making policy choices. His government is learning to convene business, labour, education
institutions, community leaders and the public, listen to their ideas, and then partner with them in
problem solving on such issues as skills development, poverty reduction and community
development.
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Hon. S. Graham: This is a national publication that recognizes the leadership we are providing in
this province.
Mme Dubé : D’un côté, le premier ministre critique les articles qui sont publiés dans les journaux.
En même temps, il se lève à la Chambre pour citer des articles. Le message est contradictoire.
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Néanmoins, le premier ministre devrait peut-être s’asseoir avec les leaders du secteur économique.
Ce serait déjà pas mal mieux. L’invitation a été lancée par notre chef.
Notre chef a mentionné à plusieurs reprises qu’il voulait offrir un nouveau style de leadership.
Comme nous n’avons pas encore de plan, les gens attendent encore partout dans la province. On ne
veut quand même pas que la situation économique s’aggrave, donc il faut prendre des mesures et
des plans d’action tangibles et concrets.
J’ai une question simple pour le ministre des Finances, avec une idée parmi tant d’autres de ce qui
pourrait être fait. Pourquoi ne pas répartir la facture des impôts fonciers sur une période de 12 mois
au lieu d’exiger un paiement immédiat, avec les intérêts en surplus pour ceux qui ne sont pas en
mesure de le faire. Cela pourrait donner l’occasion aux petites et moyennes entreprises de garder
un peu de leur argent et de pouvoir la réinvestir dans leur entreprise pour mieux traverser ces temps
difficiles.
Ma question est très simple. Vous voulez des solutions et des exemples, notre chef et notre équipe
en ont. En voici une. J’aimerais entendre le ministre des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick à savoir
s’il est prêt à adopter une telle mesure?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, the article that I was quoting from contained factual information. On that
side of the Chamber, because the information was not correct and because the critic did not even call
the company, she did not present factual information in this Chamber.
It is important to note that, as we move forward with a plan to reduce taxes, this will be a major
stimulus to put money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers. At the same time, it will
encourage New Brunswickers to return home. It will allow the sons and daughters of New
Brunswickers watching today, and their grandchildren, to be able to call New Brunswick home.
021 14:25
We are going to be putting in place a competitive tax package, as well, for businesses in the
province. This will put us in a much better competitive position compared to neighbouring provinces
such as Nova Scotia. It will even put us in a position that will be enviable across the entire country.
I will say today what we have stated all along: In week 4 of this session, prior to the recess for the
Christmas break, there will be a clear plan of action, with a balanced and responsible approach to
dealing with this economic crisis. We will be putting in place a new stimulus package.
Mr. Williams: We have a Premier who believes in the national news, but not in New Brunswick
news.
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Impôt foncier
Avec ce gouvernement, l’évaluation des propriétés n’a pas cessé d’augmenter, ce qui pousse
également les impôts fonciers à la hausse. De nombreuses personnes, en particulier nos aînés,
disposent d’un revenu fixe qui n’augmente pas autant que leur facture de taxe foncière.
Le ministre des Gouvernements locaux peut-il informer la Chambre quelles sont les actions que son
gouvernement compte prendre pour aider les gens à revenu fixe qui sont aux prises avec des impôts
fonciers toujours à la hausse?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: As the opposition members are aware, we have a low-income seniors supplement.
They know, as well, that there is a residential tax rebate for low-income New Brunswickers, which
provides relief from taxes.
When I spoke earlier and suggested that municipalities have a responsibility as well, I recognized
that municipalities have increased costs in many instances. However, if we look at the past six years,
the consumer price index has increased by approximately 9.8%. There are some municipal budgets
that have increased by 40%, 50%, 75%, or more. In this time of restraint, when all levels of
government are cognizant of the need to do more with less, perhaps there are some ways that some
of our municipalities that are gaining more revenue through their assessments can look at how they
can manage a little better and perhaps pass some tax savings on to taxpayers. This would assist
taxpayers across the board, including seniors.
M. Williams : On voit ici un gouvernement qui ne comprend pas dans quelle situation se retrouve
nos aînés et les autres personnes à revenu fixe. Beaucoup ont vu leur propriété augmenter en valeur,
et cela a un impact direct sur leur facture d’impôt foncier.
Pour une fois, ce gouvernement pourrait-il démontrer du leadership? Ma question est encore pour
le ministre des Gouvernements locaux. Le gouvernement va-t-il proposer un plan valable pour venir
en aide à ces gens?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: We have talked about a plan. As a matter of fact, just a few moments ago, the
Premier indicated that, in the very near future, we will be bringing forward a plan to assist New
Brunswickers, to assist small and medium-sized businesses, and to assist individuals. We have
indicated that we have a clear plan that we will lay out, and it will be of benefit to New
Brunswickers across the board. When it is appropriate to bring those measures forward, the House
will certainly learn of those measures, which we believe will be received positively by all New
Brunswickers.
M. Williams : On voit ici un ministre qui parle d’un plan mais pas d’action.
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Lors de la dernière élection, notre parti avait proposé un plafond de 3 % sur l’évaluation de l’impôt
foncier, et je peux vous assurer que cette promesse aurait été tenue, si nous avions formé le
gouvernement. Depuis 2006, nous avons également déposé deux projets de loi qui permettaient une
telle mesure, mais le présent gouvernement les a refusés.
022 14:30
Alors, ne venez pas nous dire que nous n’apportons pas de solution pour aider les propriétaires-
occupants au Nouveau-Brunswick. Encore une fois, pour le ministre des Gouvernements locaux,
avez-vous un plan concret qui, dès l’an prochain, évitera à nos aînés et toute autre personne avec un
revenu fixe, de se trouver devant des taux d’évaluation et d’impôts fonciers qui deviennent
excessifs? Quel est votre plan, Monsieur le ministre?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: This government has a record of assisting seniors that is second to none. On our
first day in office, we eliminated the consideration of personal assets for those seniors who need
nursing care. We have increased the number of hours for nursing care in nursing homes. We have
increased the number of hours of home care. We have raised the Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit. My
colleagues the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Development have taken many
measures to help seniors.
The cap that is proposed by the member is a strategy that has been rejected by jurisdiction after
jurisdiction, not only for the distortions that it would create, but for the unbalance that it would
create. It actually penalizes the very people that it is brought in to assist. Caps are artificial. Nova
Scotia has caps and they have come under widespread condemnation. It is looking at revisiting
those. Other jurisdictions that have looked at capping are looking at getting away from capping
because it is a disservice to the taxpayer.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 4 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Senior Citizens
Mr. Alward: Today, I would like to begin with a question from the Ask the Premier program. It is
certainly a relevant question today, especially given the fiscal update and the comments made by
the Minister of Finance regarding taxation.
A senior living on a fixed income raised the prospect of a cut in her income if the provincial income
tax is lowered and the HST is raised to cover the tax losses. What is going to happen to the people
who do not pay income tax? In effect, the government is cutting their income. They are the only
group in the province treated this way. My question to the Premier is this: Why does the government
want to cut the income of senior citizens?
Hon. S. Graham: Our track record on helping to improve the lives of seniors is very important.
When we came to office, we changed the former Conservative policy whereby seniors entering into
nursing homes had to give up their life assets. We have changed that policy today. Seniors entering
into nursing homes now have the security and dignity that they deserve. As well, we have increased
the hours of care for seniors in nursing homes. The former Conservative government, of which the
Leader of the Opposition was a member at the Cabinet table, said that it could not do that. We
moved forward. Even more important, we increased the low-income seniors supplement in this
province. We took it from $100 to $200, to help low-income seniors in the province. That was
something which the former Conservative government, when the member opposite was at the
Cabinet table, said that it could not do.
026 11:50
We have been very clear. Our tax reforms are going to put more money back into the pockets of
New Brunswickers. Our tax reforms are going to create an environment where young New
Brunswickers can return home. The grandchildren of the seniors we are talking about today will be
able to remain in or return to this province.
As we have stated all along, in the final week of this legislative session, we will announce our tax
reforms in broad strokes, clearly outlining our stimulus package versus the nonaction plan of the
opposition.
Budget
M. Alward : Encore une fois, le premier ministre ne donne pas de l’information correcte à la
Chambre. La semaine dernière, nous avons demandé au gouvernement de nous donner l’ampleur
du déficit de la province. Le premier ministre a refusé de donner la réponse à la Chambre. Lundi,
le ministre des Finances a révélé devant des gens d’affaires que la province est dans une situation
déficitaire cette année et que, à moins d’un miracle, elle le sera aussi l’année prochaine. Le premier
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ministre peut-il nous dire pourquoi le gouvernement a failli à la tâche lorsque c’était le moment
d’agir et que, maintenant, il se retrouve dans une situation déficitaire?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Si le chef de l’opposition avait écouté l’allocution que je viens de faire à la
Chambre, il aurait cette réponse. Au Nouveau-Brunswick, au Canada et partout dans le monde, nous
vivons une crise financière comme nous n’en avons jamais vu. Cette crise financière a eu des effets
au Nouveau-Brunswick, comme elle a des effets dans toutes les autres compétences au monde.
Toutefois, ce que nous avons de ce côté-ci et que l’opposition n’a pas de ce côté-là, c’est un plan
pour traiter de cette crise financière. Nous avons dit que nous ferons notre part en tant que
gouvernement pour nous assurer de restreindre les dépenses et d’annuler les dépenses inutiles au
gouvernement. Nous avons préparé une série de mesures. Le plus important budget des dépenses
en capital de l’histoire de la province sera dévoilé la semaine prochaine pour la prochaine année
financière, et nous dévoilerons les grandes lignes pour l’année suivante. Nous avons un plan, et
l’opposition n’en a pas.
Mr. Alward: What we have here today is a government that has a management problem. We have
a government that certainly forgot to check its bank account before it spent the money. We have a
government that has a spending problem. In fact, today, the only real and clear solution that the
minister brought forward was that the government would hold MLA salaries for the future year,
which was a recommendation from this side. That is the only clear recommendation that the
government has made on how it is going to maintain its spending.
If not for the additional $105 million in equalization payments that New Brunswick will receive
from the federal government—which, by the way, the government forgot to mention in its
update—it would be deeper in debt. Why was this government asleep at the switch? This deficit did
not happen overnight. To the Premier, how is it possible that the government did not see this
coming?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I will tell the Leader of the Opposition what we have today. We have a
government that has a plan, and we have an opposition that does not have a plan. We have an
opposition that, when in government, had seven years to do all the wonderful things that its members
have kept talking about since being on the other side of the floor. They have not done those things.
In the reply from the Finance Critic this morning, we heard that the opposition is going to cut every
tax known to government and that it is going to increase every benefit known to government. It is
going to balance the books, and there will be a turkey in every pot. What the opposition members
have not said is how they are going to show signs of restraint and how they are going to provide
good government.
027 11:55
To be able to reduce the revenues as they are saying they would do, they have to cut on the
expenditure side. Which schools will they close? Which hospitals will they close? Which roads will
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they not build? With which projects will they not go forward? Will they not help our seniors? Will
they not help our youth? Will they not help the low income people in our province?
Mr. Alward: Let’s go back a few years. There was government that reduced taxes for people, for
small business, for medium-sized business, and for large business. What has taken place over the
last two years? We have had a government that has raised taxes for people, for small business, for
medium-sized business, and for large business. We had a government a few years ago that reduced
the net debt. We had a government a few years ago that left with a surplus. What do we have today?
We have a government that has increased the net debt of this province. We have a government that
is also in deficit. There is a very clear difference between the two parties.
Let’s go back to it again. This government clearly has a management problem. It has a spending
problem, not a revenue problem. Revenues are up 13.5% from March 2006 to the end of this fiscal
year. In fact, this fiscal year, the revenues are up. It is not a revenue problem; it is a spending
problem. Spending was up $300 million last year, and it is up again this year. We have a government
that has forgotten to check the bankbook. Why did this government fail, until today, to react?
Hon. S. Graham: On September 15 of this year, global financial institutions changed dramatically
with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which had a cascading effect on financial institutions
throughout the world. Today, many provinces are announcing that they are moving into deficit
position. New Brunswick is not immune to this, the same as all other jurisdictions. Rather than
talking about avoiding a deficit at all costs, rather than saying that there is no deficit, as some
governments are doing today, what we are doing differently here today is that we are meeting these
challenges head-on with a plan that will provide not only a fiscal stimulus package to put more
money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers, but a $1.2-billion infrastructure investment to
put New Brunswickers to work today. While the criticism rings hollow on that side of the Chamber,
we have announced a direction for dealing with the downturn in the global economy, so New
Brunswick will be much better prepared than any other jurisdiction when we move out of the
potential recession.
Mr. Alward: Quite clearly, the Premier is in denial today. If you look at what the OECD has said,
clearly, we are in a recession. As I said in my reply to the speech from the throne, New
Brunswickers expect more from their political leaders. Over the past week, we have offered a
number of positive ideas to help New Brunswickers and the government to get through these tough
economic times. There are a number of ways that we can work together, and we are prepared to do
so to find solutions that will allow this government to stimulate the economy and, at the same time,
manage its budget. Will the Premier agree to sit down with members of the official opposition to
collaborate on an immediate course correction for this year’s budget and continue the collaboration
to jointly develop next year’s fiscal budget?
Hon. S. Graham: Possibly the Leader of the Opposition was not listening to the statement provided
by the Minister of Finance. We have revised our economic growth numbers for this year from 1.8%
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to 1%. That is not a recession. He has clearly stated that there is potential for contraction in the next
fiscal period, as all global economies are dealing with this challenge today. We are seeing 300 000
foreclosures a month in the United States, which is the equivalent to the size of the state of New
Hampshire in the number of homes that are being foreclosed upon. That is having a huge impact on
our forest industries in Canada.
Today, we have announced a record investment in infrastructure to put New Brunswickers to work,
and it will be released in more detail next week. It is a $1.2-billion investment.
028 12:00
We have also announced a major tax reform stimulus package that is going to put more money back
into the pockets of New Brunswickers, and that will be made evident, in broad strokes, prior to the
recess of this House. What defines the members on that side of the House and on this side is that,
while they are asking for a meeting on that side, we are taking action on this side.
M. Volpé : Dans le document du ministre ce matin, on peut lire : « il est maintenant prévu que les
dépenses seront de 302 millions de dollars supérieures aux sommes budgétées. » Monsieur le
ministre des Finances, pouvez-vous nous dire de combien vous avez dépassé le budget de l’an
dernier?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Comme d’habitude, l’ancien chef de l’opposition aime passer tout son temps
dans le passé et à se concentrer sur ce qui est arrivé dans le passé. Nous, de ce côté-ci de la
Chambre, sommes concentrés sur ce qui se passe dans l’avenir.
Nous sommes en train de vivre une situation très critique au Canada et partout dans le monde. Ce
matin, nous avons déposé la deuxième partie, si vous voulez, de notre plan sur comment nous allons
aborder cette situation. La semaine prochaine, nous déposerons un budget de capital de grandeur
historique pour la province du Nouveau-Brunswick et, au cours de la quatrième semaine de session,
nous pourrons répondre aux questions sur la réforme du régime fiscal. Alors, nous avons un plan qui
vise l’avenir et non un plan qui vise le passé.
M. Volpé : Parfois, pour pouvoir planifier l’avenir, il faut regarder le passé. L’année dernière, le
ministre des Finances qui est ici a reçu des recettes supplémentaires de tout près de 300 millions et
il les a entièrement dépensées. Cette année, il essaie de justifier ses dépenses en disant : Il y a une
crise économique. Quelle était la raison l’année dernière pour avoir dépassé son budget de près de
300 millions? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a de différent? Le ministre va dépenser 300 millions de plus que
prévu, soit le même montant que l’année dernière. Alors, j’espère que les gens du Nouveau-
Brunswick comprendront que ce n’est pas un problème de recettes mais un problème de dépenses.
C’est l’incapacité du ministre des Finances et du premier ministre de gérer les recettes. Monsieur
le ministre des Finances, vous avez dit dans votre analyse que les recettes provenant du secteur des
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minéraux au Nouveau-Brunswick étaient à la baisse. Quand avez-vous été mis au courant de cette
situation?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Le député d’en face n’était peut-être pas ici quand j’ai déposé à la Chambre
les résultats de la dernière année financière, soit l’année 2007-2008, mais on a terminé l’année avec
un excédent. Alors, lorsqu’il dit qu’on a fait toutes sortes de choses, je peux lui dire qu’on a terminé
l’année avec un excédent. C’est de cette année que nous parlons présentement, à cause de la crise
que nous vivons. Nous prévoyons une augmentation considérable de la taxe sur les minéraux dans
ce budget-ci en raison de la crise économique. Nous verrons diminuer les recettes de cette catégorie
d’environ 70 millions de dollars. Évidemment, nous travaillons avec de très gros chiffres.
Si nous regardons les régimes de pension, nous devons y faire un ajustement de 133 millions. Nous
devons travailler avec des chiffres de ce genre durant cette année financière.
M. Volpé : Le ministre dit qu’il y a eu un excédent l’année dernière, et je suis d’accord avec lui. J’ai
dit que beaucoup d’argent supplémentaire est entré. Le ministre l’a tout dépensé, et il y a eu un petit
excédent à la fin de l’année. L’année dernière, il a justifié ses dépenses. Cette année, il dit que c’est
dû à la crise économique.
Le ministre nous parle de la taxe sur les minéraux. En 2006, les recettes provenant de la taxe sur les
minéraux étaient d’environ 8 millions. Cette année, elles seront probablement de 50 millions. Ce
n’est pas une perte, c’est beaucoup plus qu’en 2006.
Je vais vous donner des chiffres. Au cours des trois premières années du gouvernement actuel, les
recettes ont augmenté de 13,5 % si je me fie aux chiffres pour la fin mars 2009. Au cours des trois
premières années du gouvernement de Bernard Lord, les recettes avaient augmenté de 12,8 %
comparativement à 13,5 %.
029 12:05
On avait équilibré les budgets, avec un excédent d’au-delà de 240 millions. Ce matin, le ministre
prévoit que, malgré une augmentation de 13,5 % des recettes sur trois ans, il y aura un déficit d’au-
delà de 285 millions. Je le répète : c’est un problème de dépenses et non pas un problème de
recettes. Le ministre peut-il admettre que son ministère l’avait averti il y a deux ans de cela qu’un
ralentissement économique s’en venait?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Je vais aussi me répéter. L’ancien chef de l’opposition est pris dans le passé.
Nous regardons vers l’avenir. Nous avons annoncé un plan aujourd’hui, contrairement à l’opposition
qui n’a pas de plan. C’est un plan qui prévoit un investissement d’au-delà de 1,2 milliard de dollars
au cours des deux prochaines années financières pour s’assurer que les Néo-Brunswickois et Néo-
Brunswickoises ont un emploi, que nos collectivités continuent à se développer et que la province
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soit en très bonne position lorsque la crise économique sera terminée pour pouvoir profiter
pleinement des avantages qui s’offriront à elle.
Nous avons un plan tourné vers l’avenir. La semaine prochaine, nous aurons beaucoup plus de
détails en ce qui a trait à cette enveloppe budgétaire. Cependant, je peux vous dire qu’un montant
de plus de 1,2 milliard aidera certainement les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick à continuer à travailler
dans notre province.
Mr. Fitch: The future is the thing we are concerned about when we see this document that was
tabled this morning. Revenues remain on track with budget, but spending is up by $302 million. If
people in New Brunswick ran their households like this, we would all be bankrupt in a very short
period of time.
There are 10 pages in English and 12 pages in French. We know that there is a capital budget. We
know that there is a continued review of programs. We know about fuel costs. We know about
electric power. There is nothing really new here except for one item that was brought forward by
the Leader of the Opposition. Today, the Minister of Finance announced that he was following one
of our recommendations. It was recommended that MLA salaries be frozen this year. Certainly, we
want to know: Does that include deputy ministers, NB Power executives, executive assistants, and
ministers? Can the minister tell us how much money it is going to save in the province’s $7-billion
budget by freezing those salaries?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The member for Riverview may not have been listening to my statement when
I gave it earlier. When I talked about some of the increased expenses that we have to face as a
government, these are expenses that are beyond our control. I don’t think anybody on this side of
the House or on that side of the House would have known what was going to happen to our pension
funds more than two and a half months ago. That had an impact of $133 million on our bottom line.
I do not think anybody on that side of the House would have been able to predict that we would have
three separate floods this spring and that we were going to have to invest in those, as well.
What is more important, as I have said before, is that we have a plan on this side of the House. We
have a balanced approach to make sure that we look at restraint and belt-tightening as a government.
At the same time, we need to provide an economic stimulus for the province, and we need to provide
tax relief. Both of those will be coming to us in greater detail.
Mr. Fitch: The minister did not answer the question as to whether the salary freeze included
ministers, executive assistants, and deputy ministers. Maybe the press will have a better chance of
getting an answer than I have. Certainly, when we look to the future, we have heard what this
government has said about self-sufficiency in the future. I was a financial planner, and when
situations occur, it is certainly not a surprise if pension deficits occur. Over the years, they occurred
even when we were making decisions on the budget, but we still decreased taxes, still paid down
the net debt, and still had a balanced budget.
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Since we have had this dramatic change in the finances of the province. The government says it did
not see it coming.
030 12:10
They talk about their slogan of self-sufficiency by 2026. Has the minister reviewed that plan for self-
sufficiency in 2026? Will he present it here today? Does that plan include revised figures that would
put self-sufficiency two years beyond 2026?
Hon. V. Boudreau: Previously, I had to correct some of the information from the member opposite.
Now, I would like to answer his question on MLAs’ salaries. We were very clear in the presentation
that I made earlier that we, as elected officials, need to lead by example. By “elected officials”, I
mean every one of the 55 of us who are in this room. As of January 1 of next year, our salaries will
be frozen. That includes MLAs, ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier, and,
unfortunately, it even includes you, Mr. Speaker. However, that is what we call leading by example.
As for all other employees of government, all the nonelected employees, we are conducting a
program review, as we have said. Those details will be coming out as we continue to prepare our
next budget for the spring of 2009.
Mr. Fitch: The minister did not clarify whether the minister’s salary will be frozen.
(Interjection.)
Mr. Fitch: Great. However, the minister is still one question behind, because he did not answer my
question on self-sufficiency for 2026. Will you admit today that self-sufficiency has been put off
by two years and that you will change your marketing slogan of self-sufficiency for 2026 to self-
sufficiency for 2028? Will you change your slogan today?
Hon. S. Graham: The Minister of Finance was very clear in his response. I think the other members
acknowledged that the answer was given. The facts are in Hansard. However, on the self-sufficiency
question, which is very important, we have set a goal as a province—not as a government or as an
opposition, but a goal for all citizens today—to be able to stand on our own two feet and to be a
province that contributes to the growth of the confederation. We set that goal for 2026. As Premier,
I am more confident than ever that, even with the fiscal hardships facing this country today, New
Brunswick is going to be in a much better position, when the recession ends, to achieve self-
sufficiency by the reforms and the action that we are taking on this side of the House today. We are
going to be leading the way, compared to every other jurisdiction in Canada.
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Health Care
Mrs. Blaney: I am pleased to be asking the Minister of Health my first question as the official
Health Critic. It has become well-known that the implementation of a provincewide trauma system
has been delayed. In fact, the only person who will not acknowledge that is the Minister of Health.
The system is so delayed that, for example, no money has been allocated and no new human
resources have been added. In fact, we have not even hired a director of the trauma system. The
department advertised for the position of the director of trauma almost a year ago. It will be a year
in February. There has only been one applicant in 10 months for that position, and that applicant
happens to be Dr. Trenholm, who is one of the top 25 experts in this country. He has been
responsible for setting up the trauma system that we have today. There has been only one applicant
in 10 months. Why has Dr. Trenholm’s application not even been acknowledged or accepted?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I thank the member opposite for her question. The Dubinsky report came out
in early March 2007. A review of some pieces of it was done. That second report was received in
the early part of July 2007. Within three or four days, both reports were released. About seven weeks
later, the trauma system committee was formed, which was responsible for the construction. Dr.
Furlong was correct that there was a delay of three or four months. That is what he said. Within our
own agenda, which was ahead of the Dubinsky timelines . . . The Dubinsky timelines outlined that
the trauma system should be in place within approximately three years after the committee was put
in place, which would take us into the fall of 2010.
031 12:15
With regard to a coordinator, that is being determined by the committee. I understand that the
remuneration advertised is also being reviewed at the present time.
Mrs. Blaney: I actually anticipated that the minister would defer to the committee that has been
struck. It is my understanding that the committee has not been charged with the responsibility of
hiring a director. In fact, the minister can correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that a
head-hunting firm has actually been contracted to fill that position, so it is not actually the
committee’s responsibility. In fact, that committee has not met for almost a year. It met for the first
time, very briefly, two weeks ago. That committee really has not been very active, which may be
why some delay has occurred.
However, the fact remains that I have been told repeatedly that the Minister of Health has taken a
very strong dislike to Dr. Andrew Trenholme. In fact, he has made it very clear to any number of
people, any chance that he gets, that he does not like Dr. Andrew Trenholme. It is not a personality
contest. Dr. Andrew Trenholme is one of 25 experts in the country, if not in North America. He is
one of the leading experts, and he has been recruited by different hospitals. Will the minister. . .
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Hon. Mr. Murphy: To be very clear, the trauma system committee met a few months ago. There
was a slight delay within the agenda of government to move this forward. The trauma system
committee retained a headhunter that provides a list of names, in time. The trauma system
committee will hire a coordinator. I will not be hiring a coordinator, because I am not qualified for
that. That will be at the whole discretion of the trauma system committee.
Mrs. Blaney: The fact remains that there is only one applicant. In 10 months, there has been only
one applicant. The head-hunting firm does not have any other names, to anyone’s knowledge. There
is only one applicant. It seems that the Minister of Health has taken almost a visceral dislike to Dr.
Andrew Trenholme, and he has said so on many occasions. Will the minister put . . .
Mr. Speaker: Excuse me. This is getting too personal. A liking or disliking is not to be discussed
in this House. If you have a question, ask the question.
Mrs. Blaney: My question is: Will the minister put politics and personalities aside and hire Dr.
Trenholme?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I have not interviewed anyone to be the coordinator of the trauma system. It is
at the sole discretion of the trauma system committee to hire a coordinator in due time, whenever
it determines that to be. There will be funds in the budget to do what is necessary, as outlined by the
trauma system committee, for the next fiscal year. Presuming that things proceed, as would be
indicated in the Dubinsky report, the trauma system will be in full bloom, so to speak, in the fall of
2010.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 5 QUESTIONS ORALES
December 4, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 4 décembre 2008
Budgetary Deficit
Mr. Alward: If we were to relate New Brunswick’s $285-million deficit to the federal budget, it
would be approximately $10 billion. I wonder if the people of New Brunswick would feel it was
worth a debate.
Yesterday, the Minister of Finance tried his hardest to hide the fact that this government has
mismanaged provincial finances right into a $285-million deficit. While he presented a number of
excuses and tried to blame the economic crisis, it was clear that this government was headed for a
deficit as soon as it tabled the budget this past March.
My question to the Premier is this: At what point did he and his government realize that the province
was headed for a deficit?
Hon. S. Graham: Upon closing our first budget, we recorded a $136-million surplus. Last year, our
province recorded an $87-million surplus. With the budget that we brought forward for the current
fiscal period, we forecast a $19-million surplus.
Last spring—it is no secret—there was a major flood event in the province, a catastrophic event for
many homeowners in the province. Our government made a decision. Rather than delaying help for
those homeowners, as the previous government did for over three years, we would move quickly
to put cash into their hands and into their homes, so that they could return to their lifestyles as
quickly as possible.
Coupled with that, on September 15, a catastrophic chain of events occurred globally, with the
collapse of Lehman Brothers. It has had a major impact on financial institutions throughout the
world. When that confidence in the stock market was lost, our pension plans were hit in the same
magnitude as pension plans across the globe. There were two specific event that our government had
to deal with.
Mr. Alward: What the Premier has brought up today is certainly not new. Clearly, if the Premier
were being forthright with the people of New Brunswick, he would say that the federal government
would be paying the vast majority of the costs for victims of the floods.
As much as the Premier tried to dodge the questions yesterday, he cannot hide the fact that his
government has a spending problem. We also know that it is not a revenue problem. In fact, the
government’s revenues have continues to stay on target and have even grown, thanks to an
additional $105 million in federal equalization payments. New Brunswick’s Auditor General has
said that the Minister of Finance should have used his fiscal update to comment on the province’s
balanced budget trajectories. The minister clearly missed the opportunity yesterday. My question
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for the Premier is this: Will the Premier enlighten the people of New Brunswick on the province’s
balanced budget trajectories?
Hon. S. Graham: Today, we are dealing with a global crisis that is having an impact in New
Brunswick and across the country. Our government, today, is bringing forward a bold stimulus
package. Next week, the Minister of Finance will be releasing a $1.2-billion infrastructure
investment for our province. Also, we will be moving forward progressively on bold tax reforms that
will put more money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers.
019 14:15
It is important this afternoon to note that the Leader of the Opposition seems to have amnesia. In
2002-03, his government recorded a deficit of $110 million. In 2003-04, his government incurred
another deficit of $182 million. Deficits do occur. It is how you act toward those deficits . . . That
is why our government, today, is bringing forward a full and progressive plan to make sure that New
Brunswickers are best served in these difficult economic times.
Mr. Alward: Again, let’s give the Premier an opportunity to be forthright with New Brunswickers.
That deficit of $108 million was prefaced by a $112-million cut to federal transfer payments a month
before the budget ended.
Nous savons depuis quelque temps que le gouvernement a des problèmes à contrôler ses dépenses,
mais il devient de plus en plus évident que ce gouvernement a aussi un problème de gestion. Le
gouvernement n’a pas contrôlé son budget et ses dépenses. Le gouvernement a échoué à fournir le
leadership sur la question de l’économie. Ma question est pour le premier ministre. Quand, au cours
des huit derniers mois, le gouvernement a-t-il réalisé qu’il devait réajuster et freiner les dépenses?
Hon. S. Graham: I know that the Leader of the Opposition has a hard time acknowledging that his
government ran two back-to-back deficits of $110 million and $182 million. Maybe that is what he
is calling a technical deficit this afternoon. However, the fact remains that other provinces are
recording hardships today, and they are moving into deficit situations. We are going to work to
avoid a deficit, but we cannot avoid a deficit at all costs. We still need to fund important education
programs. We need to still make sure that our most vulnerable in our province are protected. That
is why our government is moving forward with investments in social spending today. The Leader
of the Opposition is saying that his government would not have hired the 44 new social workers to
protect our most vulnerable in the province. Where his government chose not to act for seven years,
we acted in our first year, and those social workers are in place today, helping the most vulnerable
in our province.
We are going to be making strategic investments, and that will be evident over the next two weeks
of this session. I have to come back to this today. The fearmongering from the Leader of the
Opposition is simply that: fearmongering. Standard & Poor’s released a Ratings Direct, and the
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headline read: “Province of New Brunswick ‘AA-’ Ratings Affirmed on Steady Financial
Performance”. That is the rating that counts.
Mr. Alward: The Premier can grandstand today, but the reality is that those ratings are based on the
history and the work that was done over the last number of years. The government has been
frittering away the position in which it was left when it came into power. Yesterday, the Auditor
General stated that he would not be surprised if the province’s net debt climbed as high as $8 billion
in a very short period of time. Let’s be clear: I am deeply concerned about the lack of fiscal
discipline and focus on the government side of this House. Again, will the Premier inform the
members of the House as to the types of checks and balances the government has put in place to
protect the province from increasing the net debt even more?
Hon. S. Graham: It is important to note this afternoon that New Brunswick is in a much better
position compared with many other jurisdictions. In fact, we had the third lowest net debt per capita
in the country. Alberta has $0, and British Columbia is second. In our last two budgets, we were able
to record surpluses of $136 million and, last year, $87 million. There are current circumstances that
are beyond the control of many governments. Instead of ignoring these issues, our government is
taking a bold and balanced approach. Very clearly, we are investing in people and in infrastructure,
and we are doing tax reform that will put more money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers.
At the same time, it will place New Brunswick in a much better position than any other jurisdiction,
so that when this global recession ends, New Brunswick will be charging full force toward self-
sufficiency.
020 14:20
Mr. Fitch: Certainly, the words that are being spoken here in the House today are quite hollow in
nature. It has become apparent that the financial update that was put forth by the Minister of Finance
yesterday really contained only one new initiative. Capital budgets are not new. Floods are not new.
Pension deficits are not new. Program reviews are not new. The only new initiative that was put
forward yesterday was to freeze the MLAs’ salaries, and that was an idea that came from the
opposition.
Program Review
I would like to ask the Minister of Finance the following. Obviously, he communicated with each
department on the program review. Can he tell us the targeted dollar amount he has given each
department to reduce expenditures?
Hon. V. Boudreau: There is one thing for sure that I know is new to the opposition, and that is to
have a plan to deal with a situation like the one we are going through. We have said all along that
we realize that New Brunswick, just like every other jurisdiction, is going to be facing some difficult
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times in the coming months and years, but it is by having a plan to address that situation that New
Brunswick is going to be able to weather the storm.
We have talked about belt-tightening. We have talked about constraint. We are going to have to do
that. However, we are also going to create an economic stimulus in New Brunswick. When the
private sector is pulling away from some major capital projects, we believe it is government’s role
to step in. That is why we announced that we will be investing over $1.2 billion in capital projects
over the next two years. The critic opposite says that is not new. It is new because it is record
spending. We had record spending this year without even knowing the crisis was coming. Now that
we know we have to deal with this crisis, we have record spending next year and record spending
the year after. Every community across this province is going to feel it.
Mr. Fitch: The minister failed to answer the question. When we did a program review, there was
a specific dollar amount that we made public. Certainly, here today, it appears that the minister does
not have a plan.
Budget
I do agree with Auditor General’s statement that this balance budget legislation is at risk. We are
concerned about that. I do know that the Comptroller gives the Minister of Finance quarterly
updates. I would like the Minister of Finance to commit today to release the quarterly updates from
the Comptroller for the last 12 months so that we can see where these trends have developed. There
is the fact that he said he did not know what was going on. He admitted that here in the House today.
They kept spending. He said that we have a $1.2-billion capital budget. It is over two years. We are
anxious to see those details. Can the minister commit to releasing the quarterly updates that are
given to him and the Premier by the Comptroller of this government?
Hon. V. Boudreau: When we gave our economic update yesterday here in this House, it was based
on projections. We cannot predict what is going to happen in the future. Nobody in this Chamber
can. We have based this on projections to the best of our knowledge today. We have seen what the
markets have been doing over the last two to three months. Nobody can predict what is going to
happen, but we have focussed on putting a plan together that is going to address this situation as best
we can. We are going to invest record amounts of money in projects right around this province. We
are going to provide tax reform and tax relief for New Brunswickers to make sure there is more
money in their pockets at the end of the day to save, to invest, or to spend, whichever way they see
fit. It is the idea here of having a balanced approach. On one side, we have to do some belt-
tightening, and we are going to do that. On the other side, we need to invest in economic stimulus
to make sure that New Brunswickers coming home from other jurisdictions have a job to come home
to.
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Election Platform
Mr. Fitch: Again, the minister failed to agree to release statements from the Comptroller that are
available to him every quarter.
The top item in Premier Shawn Graham’s 2006 election platform was a pledge to bring “an
unprecedented level of financial openness and public accountability”. There is a commitment to
“Adhere to New Brunswick’s Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act.”
021 14:25
That was on page 1 of the Charter for Change. Because of the inability for him to manage the
budget and manage the accounts of the province, it appears that he is not concerned about meeting
the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act. Is he admitting here today that the commitments
that were made in the platform are just going to be more in a long list of broken promises, promises
that were made during the election campaign?
Hon. V. Boudreau: As a government, we are committed to balanced budgets; however, when we
looked at what is going on in the world around us, we quickly realized that these are not normal
circumstances we are facing. We are the fourth province to predict a deficit this fiscal year. I am
quite sure, with the numbers I have seen, that the federal government will probably end up in a
deficit position. This is not something that is happening only in New Brunswick. What is happening
in New Brunswick is that we have the leadership of a Premier and a team that has put a plan
together. So far, all we have heard from the opposition is criticism, and the fact that it is going to
hold a meeting or two. We have put a concrete plan together. It started last week with the Premier’s
speech from the throne and, yesterday, we saw the economic update. Next week, we will have the
capital budget; the week after that, taxation reform. We are going to be investing heavily and . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Health Care
Mrs. Blaney: Yesterday, the Minister of Finance indicated that the Department of Health would be
running a $41-million deficit. For clarification, can the minister tell us if that is a $41-million deficit
to date or a projected deficit? If it is a $41-million deficit to date, is it going to round up to $60
million by year end? Will the minister clarify that, please?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: That is as projected for this fiscal year. The last year of the previous
government was 2006-07; in Health, there was a $48-million deficit. The deficit of $40 million is
actually $33 million; $7 million is institutional for outside the province, and we have no control over
that when people have operations in Halifax, Ontario, or wherever the speciality is located. In fact,
with the new authorities being in place for only three months, we have reduced that figure from $48
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million to $33 million, with a view to having no deficits in one to two years, based upon the new
authorities.
Mrs. Blaney: That is a pile of gobbledygook. A $40-million deficit is a $40-million deficit, no
matter which way you cut it, and the Minister of Finance just confirmed that these are projections
and he does not know what the dollar figure will actually be by year-end. Last May, the minister said
that we have to get more bang for the buck. To take the minister at his word, he took us from
volunteer boards to paid boards. He took the administration out of our own regions, and now people
are traveling all over the place, staying in hotels, particularly here in Fredericton, and racking up all
kinds of expenses. We have ORs that are empty because there is no staff for them. The minister
delayed and has now created an extremely dysfunctional trauma system. Most egregious of all, he
has created a linguistic divide in our province. All of this was done to save a buck. What did the
minister do? He created a huge deficit. He did not take it to zero and he did not reduce it
dramatically; he created a huge deficit. Can the minister please explain?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: Where we have taken the province is to better health care. We have 106 net new
physicians in the last two years. We are doubling the number of nurse practitioners, we have
pharmacists prescribing, and we have midwives coming on line. We have not taken the authorities
out of our regions, we have taken them out into New Brunswick so that all New Brunswickers can
contribute to health care. It is about getting the right health care to the right person at the right time,
ensuring that the people in this province are looked after. That is what it is about.
022 14:30
Natural Gas Storage
Mr. Northrup: Just last week, the CEO of the Corridor Resources gas company stated that it is
looking beyond the 2-mile-wide and 30-mile-long radius, which runs from Cassidy Lake to French
Village, to dig salt caverns to store natural gas. In fact, the company is looking at the Petitcodiac
region as another area to store gas.
My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources, who is also the MLA for Petitcodiac. Would
he welcome with open arms the storing of natural gas in salt caverns in Petitcodiac?
Hon. Mr. Stiles: Thank you for the question. This morning, I actually had a good meeting with the
quality of life committee outside the Legislature. We came inside with six or seven spokespeople
of that committee. We sat downstairs for about an hour, and we went over some concerns of that
committee. I listened to those concerns, and I also committed to that committee that we would have
an ongoing dialogue. We will continue to do that, and that commitment is in place.
Mr. Northrup: Some things never change in this House. You ask a question, you get a reply from
the other side that does not answer your question. I will ask it again, and I will ask it very, very
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slowly to the member for Petitcodiac, the Minister of Natural Resources. As the MLA for
Petitcodiac, will you welcome with open arms the storage of natural gas in Petitcodiac?
Hon. Mr. Stiles: Thank you again for the question. I will say this slowly too. We should actually
remember that this is only in the exploratory stage. There is no license for any company to store any
gas underground. During this process, if that ever came to fruition, a complete EIA would be done
at that point. I hope that answers the member’s question.
Mr. Northrup: Obviously, I am disappointed again, and the people who came here today are
definitely disappointed. We ask a question, and we expect an answer. These people do not have their
answer. Maybe I will ask someone else on the other side.
Can anyone on the other side give us the benefits of storing gas in the Cassidy Lake and French
Village areas when 100% of the gas goes to the United States? Why store it? There is no benefit for
these people. Why not store it in Maine, which has the same topography? Store it in Maine, away
from these people.
Hon. Mr. Stiles: We went over some of the concerns of the quality of life committee this morning.
We have an ongoing dialogue. The company is only at the exploratory stage. You are talking about
footprints and technical questions. I cannot answer technical questions when it is only at an
exploratory stage. We are part of the regulatory process, and that will always continue. If we move
to a position where something else develops, then a full-blown EIA, as I mentioned before, will take
place. That is all part of the regulatory process. We need due diligence for anyone that is in New
Brunswick.
Mr. Harrison, after requesting permission to speak from a seat other than his own: Prior to the
Cassidy Lake mine closure, springs and wells were starting to go dry. All wells came back when the
mine was closed. This would indicate a water problem that needs to be addressed. The following
question is from our Ask the Premier initiative. Concerned citizens living within the affected area
would like to know what guarantee your government will give them with regard to the protection
of their water supply, the environment, and the overall safety of communities in the area in which
Corridor Resources Inc. proposes to store natural gas and other petroleum products in salt caverns.
023 14:35
Mr. Speaker: I have to remind the member: The question has to come from you. You will have to
rephrase it. You said: I am reading a question. What is your question?
Mr. Harrison: It is my question. I am merely asking the question on behalf of concerned citizens.
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Hon. Mr. Haché: Thank you very much for the question. From the outset, I would like to say that
the member across has said that the problem has existed for seven years. Obviously, he cannot blame
it on our government this time, can he?
How can we give guarantees that the water will always be there? We cannot give guarantees that
the water will always be there. What we can guarantee is that our government and the Department
of Environment will always be there to protect the water.
Mr. Harrison: You may not be able to guarantee that the water will always be there, but you do not
have to help it disappear.
My second question is presumably for the Minister of Natural Resources again. What funds are
available to the residents of these areas to do an environmental impact assessment? Will DNR fund
an independent EIA? Will each homeowner in the 90 000 acres be given the opportunity to have a
water analysis done before the project starts, including any seismic testing?
Hon. Mr. Haché: First of all, I would like to say that I certainly understand the worries of the
people who are here today. I really do. Also, it has to be noted that the project, right now, has not
been registered for an EIA. It would be totally irresponsible for any government, in any jurisdiction,
to say yes or no to a project at the outset. That is not the way it works. That is why there is an
environmental impact assessment. What is an environmental impact assessment? It is precisely what
I am saying—a study of the impact on the environment from such a project. Up to now, there is no
project that has been registered.
Mr. Harrison: The minister has led me into my final question. The former Minister of Natural
Resources, at a press conference regarding uranium exploration activity, was responding to a
question from a reporter. The question was about whether uranium companies would be able to enter
and work on private property if the property owner refused permission. The minister’s answer to the
reporter was: If the landowner says no, it’s a no. Can landowners say no to people coming onto their
land to explore for areas to store natural gas under their properties? If not, will the minister tell New
Brunswickers what their next step is?
Hon. Mr. Stiles: I am not sure if that question had to do with uranium exploration or natural gas
exploration. If you are talking about uranium exploration, some changes were actually made last
June by our government. We listened to the people of New Brunswick and made some very
constructive changes. No longer would any exploration be allowed within any incorporated villages
and towns, or within 300 m of a residence. There would also be designated watersheds and
wellfields where there would be no exploration.
Also, to answer the question of whether a person can refuse to let a mining company onto his or her
property, a person can refuse any intrusive mining.
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Water Supply
Mr. Betts: This government is not protecting private property in this province. It introduced Bill 14,
which states that companies can destroy riverfronts and lakefronts, pollute rivers, and destroy lakes.
Also, you cannot sue them, and they are going to make it retroactive. When it came to uranium,
there were 19 000 different claims and 1 inspector. My question is this: Why do you not have
legislation in place requiring companies to conduct pretests and posttests on water and to make sure
that these companies replace any affected water supplies?
024 14:40
Hon. Mr. Haché: Thank you very much for the question. Obviously, the member across the floor
does not understand the legislature at all. This government would certainly not pass legislation that
commands companies to go there and destroy the environment. That is not what this legislature is
all about, and the member knows much better than that.
Again, what the Department of Environment does is protect the environment. We have regulations
and Acts in place that allow us to do that.
When the member across the floor says that there is only one person for enforcement, we also count
on the goodwill of the people. If there is any infraction, the Department of Environment is more than
happy to take that complaint, and that is the system. If you see someone doing something that is
illegal, would you not take the phone and call 1-800-222-TIPS? Of course, there are a lot of good
citizens in the province who have an interest in protecting the environment, and I commend them.
Mr. Betts: He asked for it, and now he is going to get it.
Bill 14 says:
designating lands and buildings as public works
..............................................................................
(d) exempting the lands and buildings referred to in paragraphs . . . from the application of the
Mechanics’ Lien Act.
Subsection 12(2) says it can be retroactive.
Also, I read from the Clean Water Act that this government . . . If it breaks the law and pollutes a
lake . . . Clearly, the water test from Health Canada shows that if they open those gates, they will
pollute the lake.
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My question was: Why is there not legislation requiring companies, when they are doing work on
private property, to be responsible with a pretest, a posttest, and a guarantee of the restoration and
reconstruction of the water supply if they damage it? We do not have that.
Hon. Mr. Haché: Again, thank you for the question. The member across the floor is talking about
restoring the Petitcodiac River. There has been a full EIA on the restoration of the Petitcodiac River.
The member may not accept the facts, but the facts are that a full and comprehensive EIA shows that
the Petitcodiac River and the area will be better served with the restoration of the Petitcodiac River.
We are the government that has committed to doing that because it is right thing to do. We will do
that because we have the will to govern.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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============================================================================================================



NB Power

Mr. Alward: As you can imagine, our Ask the Premier initiative was overwhelmed with hits from New Brunswickers this weekend after they learned that top NB Power executives were given retroactive pay increases and bonuses stretching back as far as 2006. With that said, my first question is from our Ask the Premier initiative. How can Francis McGuire, Chairman of NB Power, grant David Hay retroactive bonuses when they were previously canceled under Bernard Lord? How can such lucrative benefits be given when we are in a recession, when the government has mismanaged the budget by spending more than $300 million over its revenues? Is giving bonuses to top executives the only target of the self-sufficiency report that is being met?

Hon. V. Boudreau: To answer the Leader of the Opposition, everybody knows that we have been going through some pretty significant economic and financial uncertainty in the world and, obviously, in New Brunswick. All along, we have shown New Brunswickers that, contrary to what the opposition may say, we have a plan to deal with this. We laid out part of it in our throne speech and part of it in our fiscal update. We will be giving a capital budget later on today. Next week, we will be giving broad strokes on tax reform. All along, our government has been working at restraint within government.

012 13:40

Last week, I announced a salary freeze for MLAs and ministers for the coming year. Today, I am pleased to announce in the Legislature, for everyone to hear, that we will cancel the current year’s pay at risk or bonus structure that is in place for all senior civil servants and deputy ministers within Parts I and III of the civil service. Part II does not have any such program in place. As for Part IV, Crown corporations such as NB Power, the New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation, NB Liquor, the New Brunswick Securities Commission, and WorkSafe NB, later today, I will send out a letter to each of the board chairs, asking them to respect government’s decision on canceling these executive bonuses. We expect these Crown corporations to follow government’s wishes.

Mr. Alward: I am certainly pleased to see that the Minister of Finance stood up today. The Premier could have stood up today to show leadership, but he refused to. The minister is clearly in damage control today, but that is not the issue in the House, with what we heard over the weekend from NB Power. Over the weekend, we learned that the government’s spending spree has continued at NB Power. It appears as though six-figure bonuses and huge pay hikes were retroactively given to top NB Power executives. At a time when government is telling us that it needs to tighten its belt, it has been quietly padding the wallets of NB Power executives. Will the Premier inform the House today as to when he was informed that NB Power executives were given retroactive pay and bonuses?

Hon. V. Boudreau: For the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition, I am going to say this again. Over the last three months, things have changed dramatically in the world, in North America, in Canada, and in New Brunswick. We feel that it is now important to look at how we, as a government, can restrain costs, but we also have to look at how we can lead by example. The times have changed from a year ago, or from two years ago, to today. In today’s environment, we have been very clear that, as elected officials in this House, we need to lead by example. We did that, last week, by freezing our salaries.

Now, we believe that it is incumbent upon our senior civil servants, our deputy ministers, and our senior staff within government, but also within Crown corporations, to also lead by example, to also show belt tightening, and to also show restraint. As I said, later today, I will send letters to each of these board chairpersons, asking them to respect the decision of this government, which is to cancel or freeze these bonus programs. We will make sure that we continue to lead by example as a government, through our senior executives within government, in all branches, in Parts I, III, and IV, of the civil service.

Mr. Alward: Today, this government is following the leadership of the opposition. The minister is trying to muddy the waters. What we are talking about today is insidious. The Chairman of NB Power went back as far as 2006 and 2007 and retroactively increased not only top executives’ bonuses, but also pay increases. There was as much as $500 000 to the CEO of NB Power. My question is for the Premier, so allow the Premier to stand up. Does the Premier support retroactive pay increases and bonuses that the people of New Brunswick were not told about?

013 13:45

Hon. S. Graham: I want to be clear this afternoon. Pay at risk was part of a new accountability framework that I put forward in meeting with deputy ministers. Annual performance agreements are being established, and this is the first time that this has ever occurred in the public service. As well, as the member opposite knows, there are independent boards that are at arm’s length from government. These independent boards for the Crown corporations are responsible for the accountability framework for the respective boards.

Pertaining to the deputies, our deputy ministers are second to none in this country. They have been able to bring forward innovative programs and provide service delivery models to protect and serve the people of New Brunswick. We put in place what we felt was an important initiative to retain and recruit under the new accountability framework. That having been said, on September 15, the fiscal climate of this province changed dramatically. The collapse of Lehman Brothers had a ripple effect throughout the financial institutions and within economies around the world.

That is why we brought forward a plan today to deal with the economic downturn. We are one of the few provinces that are dealing with this issue head-on. We have also shown belt-tightening with respect to the Members of the Legislative Assembly. Today, the minister has taken that one step further.

I want to be clear. We are also going one step further. I am going to be writing to the Premiers . . .

Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, time.

M. Alward : La population du Nouveau-Brunswick a compris que le gouvernement a rétabli le programme de primes pour les hauts dirigeants d’Énergie NB, un programme qu’avait éliminé l’ancien gouvernement. Quand le premier ministre a-t-il donné l’autorisation à Francis McGuire d’offrir des primes de rendement rétroactives aux dirigeants d’Énergie NB?

Hon. S. Graham: Again, the information that the Leader of the Opposition is requesting will be provided by the Chairman of NB Power, and we will report back to this Chamber.

I want to put this into context in terms of why it was important. We are looking at retaining and recruiting very important people to work in New Brunswick. Today, I think it goes without saying that our senior executives, our deputy ministers, and our Crown corporations do provide a valuable service to New Brunswickers. As we have always stated, when there are challenges, we have to change how we deal with those challenges. Certainly, the economic crisis that started to unfold in September presented very important choices that had to be made. Extensive belt-tightening is coming up in the budget that we will table in the spring. We are going to be finding efficiencies throughout the system, and the senior executives, deputy ministers, and Crown corporations all have a vital role to play. The reason this initiative was initially established is that it was part of a new accountability framework. As Premier, I felt it was important to lead on this. I think the Minister of Finance has made a very important announcement today.

Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.

Mr. Alward: The Premier can spin, spin, and spin all he wants and try to divert from the reality of what took place in New Brunswick. What took place in New Brunswick was this: huge pay increases and huge bonus increases for NB Power executives that were hidden from the people of New Brunswick and from the House. Will the Premier tell the members of this House whether or not he supports handing out retroactive pay and bonus increases to senior NB Power executives?

Hon. S. Graham: Again, the independent board of NB Power undertakes a comprehensive review, and those are the decisions of the board. The member knows that. What we control directly on this side is remuneration pertaining to our deputy ministers and our senior executives. I have to say that I am very proud of the role that our deputy ministers are taking in New Brunswick. These are challenging times.

014 13:50

I want to be very clear. The Minister of Finance will be writing to each of the Crown corporations, asking them to follow the lead of government’s. We will be looking to receive responses from the independent boards. As I was saying before I was cut off previously, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is a shared board among the respective provinces. I will therefore be writing to my colleagues, asking that a freeze be put in place for this fiscal period for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, as well.

Again, we are leading on this issue. There will be extensive belt tightening this spring. Every single day, we have members of the opposition standing up, saying that they would like to have us invest here and invest there . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time.

Mr. Alward: What we have here today is a government in full damage control, with a Premier in full damage control. Francis McGuire independent? My foot. Will the Premier stand up today and recognize that retroactive pay increases dating back to March 2006, as well as retroactive bonuses going back to 2007, when the minister himself said that there were no retroactive bonuses, are completely unacceptable? Will the Premier revoke any retroactive pay increases and bonuses?

Hon. S. Graham: Actually, what we have today is a record capital budget investment in the province. The Leader of the Opposition sat silent for four years on postsecondary education. Just last week, the members opposite were very enthused to see key investments in the Edmundston area and the Saint John area. Today, we are going to be announcing investments in Bathurst and in the Moncton region.

What I can say is that our government is leading by example. Today, we need to maintain a competitive remuneration program to retain and recruit individuals. We announced—and it was publicly disclosed this past summer—how we were moving forward with the new pay at risk component of the new accountability framework that I brought forward. If the economy of New Brunswick had not changed dramatically, this initiative would have continued. However, looking at the new fiscal realities facing us today. we are all leading by example. I am happy to report that, as I have stated, MLA salaries in this Chamber have been frozen. This is coupled with the announcement that was made by the Minister of Finance today.

We need to go much further.

M. P. Robichaud : Dans ma courte carrière politique, j’ai rarement vu un gouvernement en mode de réparation comme on le voit cet après-midi. Cette situation n’était pas un problème vendredi dernier. Tout à coup, aujourd’hui, elle devient la priorité numéro un du gouvernement. Pourquoi? Parce que des articles ont été publiés dans les journaux et que les médias en ont parlé. Le gouvernement n’aurait jamais bougé si les médias n’avaient pas eu cette information et si l’opposition n’avait pas fait son travail et demandé au gouvernement d’éliminer les primes et les augmentations de salaires à tous les sous-ministres et hauts dirigeants de l’appareil gouvernemental. C’est la raison pour laquelle le gouvernement bouge aujourd’hui.

Ma question est pour le ministre de l’Énergie, et j’espère qu’il aura le courage d’y répondre. Quand avez-vous été mis au courant que les hauts dirigeants d’Énergie NB recevraient leur prime, leur augmentation de salaire, rétroactive à 2006 par-dessus le marché? Quand le ministre de l’Énergie en a-t-il été mis au courant?

Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member opposite for the question. He suggests that we are in repair mode, and I would suggest that that is perhaps partly true. We are trying to repair the governance situation at NB Power, which was left by the previous government. Certainly, there are some governance issues that have to be dealt with. We are well on our way with that plan, and we hope that very soon, in the new year, we can repair that governance.

M. P. Robichaud : En 2006, notre gouvernement avait éliminé les primes aux hauts dirigeants d’Énergie NB. Non seulement ce gouvernement-ci les a-t-il remises, il a eu le culot de les mettre rétroactives jusqu’en mars 2006, l’année et le mois qu’on les avait abolies. Cela n’a aucun sens.

015 13:55

Lorsque le premier ministre se vante qu’il a éliminé l’augmentation de salaire des 55 parlementaires, eh bien, c’était notre suggestion. Savez-vous une chose? L’augmentation de salaire des 55 parlementaires représente 150 000 $ en tout, alors que l’augmentation du salaire et des bonis au président-directeur général d’Énergie à lui seul, représente un demi-million de dollars que le gouvernement libéral s’apprêtait à lui accorder.

Ma question au ministre de l’Énergie est la suivante : Quand avez-vous été mis au courant de l’augmentation du salaire et des bonis du président-directeur général d’Énergie NB, et quand les avez-vous autorisés?

Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member from Lamèque for the question. I will read from a transcript of the Standing Committee on Estimates, June 15, 2005:

From a standpoint of where our agency is, NB Power is a Crown corporation, so it is at arm’s length from us.



It is true that the opposition tends to ask us some detailed questions concerning the operation of NB Power, but we are not involved in the day-to-day operation of NB Power. I have tried to explain numerous times in the House the governance and the relationship between the Department of Energy and the Crown corporation.

That would be coming from the member for Riverview, as the Minister of Energy. Perhaps, to the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, you could speak to the member for Riverview. He had tried to explain many times the operation and the governance of NB Power. Perhaps he could try one more time with the member.

M. P. Robichaud : Le ministre de l’Énergie peut faire la lecture de documents qu’il voudra, car la réalité est la suivante : en 2006, le gouvernement de Bernard Lord, dont une bonne partie de nous faisions partie, a éliminé les bonis aux dirigeants d’Énergie NB, alors que, en 2008, le gouvernement actuel les a réintégrés. Non seulement il les a réintégrés, mais il a fait en sorte qu’ils soient rétroactifs à partir de mars 2006, soit le mois et l’année où on les avait éliminés.

Donc, le ministre peut conter l’histoire qu’il voudra, le gouvernement était totalement au courant de tout cela. Comment se fait-il que, la semaine dernière, lorsque les journalistes ont posé des questions au ministre, ce n’était pas un problème, alors que, tout d’un coup, cette fin de semaine, c’est devenu un problème. C’est devenu un problème parce que les médias en ont parlé et parce que l’opposition a fait son travail. La question au ministre qui se vante d’être un ministre très près d’Énergie NB et de parler presque sur une base quotidienne aux dirigeants d’Énergie NB est celle-ci : peut-il confirmer à la Chambre qu’il était totalement au courant de l’augmentation de salaire et des bonis et qu’il les a laissé se faire, même si le gouvernement et le ministre savent tout ce qui se passe à Énergie NB?

Hon. S. Graham: The member from Shippagan is correct. The bonus program was canceled by the former government after the Orimulsion fuel fiasco, another file that our government had to clean up.

Mr. Fitch: I am amazed by what the government is trying to do today. Certainly, from a standpoint of saying one thing and doing another, we have a prime example here today. I appreciate the fact that the Minister of Energy brought up some of the statements that were made because he was the one who said he was going to fix everything. When we are talking about things like Orimulsion, when they were in opposition, they put up their billboards, 4 ft by 8 ft, all over the province, but then when we . . .

(Interjections.)

Mr. Fitch: They were 4 ft by 6 ft or 4 ft by 8 ft. I thought you were not involved in the day-to-day operations of NB Power.

I want to ask the Minister of Energy a question. Since he has said in this House many times that he is on the phone on a daily basis to David Hay, I wonder if the minister could tell us when he was told specifically that the bonuses were going to be retroactive and would be received by Mr. Hay and other executives of NB Power.

Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member for Riverview for his question. I have another comment, actually, from June 15, 2005.

board of directors  . . . the senior management of NB Power . . . are charged with the day-to-day operations of the utility

If the member for Riverview thought back on June 15, 2005, it was the right thing to have NB Power run the day-to-day operations, it certainly should be okay with him today for NB Power to run the day-to-day operations.

016 14:00

However, with respect to governance, I want to be clear. We are going to fix that issue. In all fairness, politics aside, I think everybody in the House realizes that the structure and organization of NB Power is in the worst of all worlds right now. I think the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs would agree with that. Certainly, from a provincewide standpoint, people would understand that. We are going to fix that. We are working on that right now. We have had independent consultants consulting around the province. As a matter of fact, I think they consulted with the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs.

Mr. Fitch: Will the Minister of Energy tell us today if the giving of bonuses once a year is a day-to-day operation for the NB Power utility? Is a one-day event a day-to-day operation? Does the Minister of Energy get the minutes from the board of directors? If he gets those minutes, does he read them?

Hon. Mr. Keir: I think the hiring of personnel is a one-day event. I think lots of activities that are done in the day-to-day operation of NB Power are a one-day event. Remuneration for employees of NB Power is a day-to-day operational business—unless, of course, the member for Riverview does not know how to run a day-to-day business. The fact of the matter is that the remuneration package is the responsibility of the board and senior management of NB Power. The member for Riverview clearly said that he did not run the day-to-day operations of NB Power, and neither will we. However, I want to emphasize that we are going to put our plan in place. We are going to correct the situation that NB Power is in right now, because I even believe that NB Power understands that it is in the worst of all worlds right now.

Mr. Fitch: The Minister of Energy continues to dig deeper and deeper into a hole. He says that it is a day-to-day operation and he does not run the day-to-day operation, but he is going to cancel the bonuses. Clearly, the minister does not understand what he is doing.

What we see today is a government that has said that the economic times are tough, so it is not going to pay municipalities out of the Environmental Trust Fund. The economic times are tough, so the government is going to lay off home economics workers. The economic times are tough, so the government is not going to pay a differential on the nurses’ shifts in New Brunswick. The economic times are tough, so the government is going to freeze the MLAs’ salaries. The economic times are tough, so the municipalities have to reduce the amount of money that they are spending. The economic times are tough, and the members opposite say it started on September 15. It has been going on for years. If the economic times are tough, why does the Minister of Energy not have the guts to go to the boards and tell them—do not ask them, tell them—to cut the bonuses now?

Hon. Mr. Keir: For the member for Riverview, I want to correct the record. I thought I mentioned it twice earlier, but, obviously, the member for Riverview was not listening, as usual. We stated that we, the government, are canceling the bonus program for Parts I and III. Part IV covers Crown corporations such as NB Power, and it is not we who cancel the bonuses. I will be sending a letter to the board Chairs this afternoon, asking them to follow the government’s lead. I will strongly encourage them to follow the government’s lead in this tough time of economic crisis that we are living in now in New Brunswick and elsewhere. Together, we can all lead by example to make sure that we do whatever belt-tightening we can within our own realms of responsibility.

Mr. Volpé: As New Brunswickers, we are the shareholders of NB Power. We are the shareholders. We are allowed to ask something of NB Power. However, the voice of NB Power is from one of the ministers—either Energy or Finance. Both of them receive the minutes of the meetings. Both of them could be involved.

017 14:05

I was there, in both portfolios. In one year, we asked that there be no bonuses. The CEO asked for a wage increase, and we said no. We even asked them to reduce their costs by $45 million, which is 4%. They did that but not by themselves—we asked.

My question to the Minister of Energy is this: When were you were made aware that the bonuses would be retroactive, and when did you approve that?

Hon. Mr. Keir: I am glad to see the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs get up and ask a question, actually, on NB Power and this policy. If I recall correctly, the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs was the Minister of Energy when they started the process of breaking up the NB Power companies into silos. It was the Minister of Energy at that time, the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs, who left it in the situation it is in, and it is the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs that we now have to fix that problem.

Mr. Volpé: There is nothing to be fixed, because if they follow the Act, they will fix NB Power. The problem is, it stopped when we left government because they cannot make a decision, except to spend money.

I will go back to the minister. I could not get an answer. When was it that you approved the retroactive increase? Those increases are also pensionable. When was it that you approved those increases? They had to go through Finance and also to the Minister of Energy. When did you approved them?

Hon. Mr. Keir: Again, I will read:

It is true that the opposition tends to ask us some detailed questions concerning the operation of NB Power, but we are not involved in the day-to-day operation of NB Power. I have tried to explain numerous times in the House the governance and the relationship between the Department of Energy and the Crown corporation.

Could I then ask the member for Riverview, instead of explaining it to the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, to explain it to the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs.

Mr. Volpé: The minister can stand up and say whatever he wants. I have only a very simple question for a minister whose duty is to inform the House. My question is very simple: As minister responsible for the shareholders, who are all New Brunswickers . . . This is our entity, and it belongs to us. You are our voice. When did you approved retroactive increases plus pensionable income to the CEO of NB Power? It had to go through you. You are the voice of ratepayers and taxpayers. We are the shareholders. When did you approve it?

Hon. S. Graham: I want to reiterate that, early last summer, our government announced a new accountability framework for senior executives throughout government as well as Crown corporations. It comes down to an issue of retention and recruitment. We wanted to put in place key performance indicators as well on deliverables so that we could help build the type of province that New Brunswickers want. That situation changed dramatically in September with the financial and fiscal capacity of our province, with the economic crisis that has unfolded. Because of that, at that time, in September, when we were up-front with New Brunswickers on the accountability frameworks, we had made a decision to cancel that program for this year because there is belt-tightening that has to be shared by all individuals.

I want to reiterate the role that senior executives play within the public service today. I know it is easy for the opposition members to stand and try to take some shots at key individuals who work to serve the province of New Brunswick. When I look at our people today in the Department of Social Development, when I look at the people today in the Department of Housing . . .

Mr. Speaker: Premier, time.

The time for question period is now over.



=================================================================================================================================================================



ORAL QUESTIONS 7 QUESTIONS ORALES
December 10, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 10 décembre 2008
NB Power
Mr. Alward: Yesterday, the government clearly demonstrated that it and NB Power are lacking in
leadership. We saw last week that the government has a spending problem, and now, that has
extended to NB Power. They are both out of control.
While the Minister of Energy ducked questions in the House, he did share something new with the
media. The minister said that the first time he became aware of the big bonus brouhaha was when
he read about it in the paper over the weekend. It is now clear that the minister does not even take
the time to review the NB Power board minutes. Will the minister please confirm in this House
today that he first found out about the retroactive bonuses and pay hikes by reading the newspaper
over the weekend?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Let us first look at the facts. The facts are that, in April of 2007, I stood in this
House and suggested that NB Power should move forward with its bonus program for that period,
because it was going forward with a large increase in New Brunswickers’ electricity rates. That
bonus program we talked about was for the year 2006-07. A bonus is paid after the fact, based on
a review of performance for that year. The fact of the matter is that NB Power did not go forward
with the bonus program that we asked it not to go forward with.
The year you are talking about now, which hit the paper, was the year 2007-08. There is nothing
retroactive about that. There were no retroactive bonuses paid. Bonuses paid were for 2007-08,
based on performance.
Now, we move forward to this year. Through a letter from the Minister of Finance to all Crown
corporations, and across all government departments, we are asking them not to move forward on
a bonus program for the coming year, because of the economic turmoil in the world.
Mr. Alward: What we have today is a minister who has been oblivious to what has been taking
place in his own department. We have a minister today who is certainly in full damage control. If
the government of today, led by Premier Shawn Graham, did not reverse the decision taken by the
previous government, retroactive bonuses should not have been handed out by NB Power. It was
clear last week that the minister said that there were no bonuses in 2007. He does not know what is
going on in his own department. I am convinced that we may have a rogue Chairman of NB Power
who is clearly acting with blatant disregard for the directives given by NB Power’s sole shareholder.
Does the Premier actually expect the people of New Brunswick to believe that he and his
government were not aware of the retroactive bonuses and pay hikes for NB Power executives? How
naive does he think New Brunswickers really are?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I want to be clear, and I will say it again: Bonuses are not retroactive. Bonuses are
paid at the end of a performance period. The performance period was from April 2007 to March
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2008. In July, the board of NB Power met to review the performance of its senior managers and
decided that it would move forward with the bonus program for that period. That is not retroactive.
That is how a bonus program works.
With respect to the structure of NB Power, I fully agree with the Leader of the Opposition. We
inherited from the previous government a structure and a governance at NB Power that were broken.
As I said yesterday, we are going to fix it.
017 11:05
Mr. Alward: I cannot believe today that we have a minister standing on the floor of this Legislature
defending the insidious bonuses that were given to NB Power officials when the people of New
Brunswick—the shareholders of New Brunswick, the ratepayers, and every individual in New
Brunswick—have a difficult time paying their bills. Last year, we saw bills increased by a
significant percentage. How can this minister stand and defend the bonuses for NB Power
executives? This government states that energy is one of its main priorities, but this minister has
failed the shareholders and the ratepayers of New Brunswick. To the Premier, how can the people
of New Brunswick take this government seriously if the minister that the government has put in
charge of one of its top priorities does not even know what is going on in his own portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I have said already, the facts are that the bonus program was not retroactive. It
was based on the year 2007-08, on performance by those senior managers and by the board of
directors. It is a day-to-day operational decision by the board of directors on how the remuneration
is paid to NB Power employees. If the opposition members did not like that, I am not quite sure why
they put that governance in place while they were in government, but they did. It is broken, and we
are going to fix it.
M. P. Robichaud : Plus on pèle l’oignon d’Énergie NB, de ce ministre et de ce ministère, plus ça
sent, et je peux vous dire que ça ne sent pas bon.
Le ministre peut-il confirmer à la Chambre que le salaire du président-directeur général d’Énergie
NB était rétroactif à partir de mars 2006? Son salaire comme dirigeant d’Énergie NB était-il
rétroactif à partir de mars 2006?
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I have already suggested, the NB Power board of directors sets remuneration
for all the senior managers at NB Power, and that is set by a governance put forward by the previous
government, which is in opposition now and which is holier-than-thou today. This is not something
that it would ever have done. The former government did it, and we are going to fix it.
We appreciate and understand, on both sides of the House, that the governance of NB Power must
be fixed. We have had consultation, and the plan is in place. We hope to roll it out early in the new
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year to fix the problem of the previous government. If the facts be known, the previous government
probably spent millions and millions and millions of dollars putting in place that broken governance.
M. P. Robichaud : On voit un ministre et un gouvernement désespérés. On voit un ministre et un
gouvernement qui ne savent pas ce qui se passe à Énergie NB. La semaine dernière, ce n’était pas
un problème. Vendredi dernier, lorsque le premier ministre a livré son discours, ce n’était pas un
problème. Soudainement, lundi, cela devient le problème numéro un du gouvernement. Pourquoi?
Parce que les médias en ont fait toute une histoire, et c’est devenu le problème numéro un du
gouvernement. Le ministre peut-il dire ce qu’il veut, mais la réalité, c’est que le salaire a été
augmenté de façon rétroactive depuis mars 2006, et les bonis très généreux font en sorte que, à lui
seul, le président-directeur général d’Énergie a reçu au-delà de 500 000 $ des contribuables du
Nouveau-Brunswick.
Le ministre peut-il confirmer à la Chambre s’il a lu les procès-verbaux d’Énergie NB qui avisaient
de cette augmentation de salaire et des bonis très généreux accordés aux dirigeants d’Énergie NB?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I will reiterate in the House that a bonus program is not retroactive. The bonus
program was put in place for after the performance period has ended. With respect to the governance
of NB Power—which we, on both sides of the House, admit must be fixed—the previous
government took that report in 1999, I believe, and had five years to look at it. I appreciate and
understand the complexity of it. The previous government took five years to put that governance in
place, and it did not work. We have been on this job for just over two years, and we are going to
have that fixed by early next year.
018 11:10
M. P. Robichaud : Le ministre et le gouvernement sont en train de créer une situation terrible au
sein d’Énergie NB. Le ministre se vantait, il n’y a pas tellement longtemps de cela, du fait qu’il
parlait quotidiennement aux dirigeants d’Énergie NB. Le ministre vient de nous dire qu’il ne lit pas
les procès-verbaux des réunions d’Énergie NB, même s’il les reçoit. Le ministre était au courant de
l’augmentation des salaires et des bonis à Énergie NB, mais il n’a rien fait et il a essayé de balayer
cette histoire sous le tapis.
Durant la dernière campagne électorale, les Libéraux ont fait campagne en disant que leur priorité
était l’énergie, l’éducation et l’économie. Ils ont failli à la tâche en ce qui concerne l’énergie. Le
ministre ne lit même pas les procès-verbaux des réunions d’Énergie NB. Il approuve les
augmentations de salaires ou bien il ne sait ce qui se passe.
Le ministre admettra-t-il à la Chambre qu’il a failli à sa responsabilité en tant que ministre
responsable d’Énergie NB? Il devait dicter à Énergie NB la vision du gouvernement et ne pas
autoriser les augmentations de salaires et de bénéfices comme il l’a fait. Ce n’est pas acceptable.
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Aucun citoyen du Nouveau-Brunswick n’accepte cela aujourd’hui. Le ministre admettra-t-il qu’il
a failli à sa tâche en tant que ministre responsable d’Énergie NB?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I am pleased to hear the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou bragging about
the energy hub and what we are doing and where we are going. I would like to talk a bit about that
and perhaps about wind power in the north. The fact of the matter is that the previous government
could not deliver wind power to northern New Brunswick. This government is delivering wind to
northern New Brunswick.
When we took over and we started talking about the energy hub and the energy quarter and what we
wanted to do with New Brunswick, placing it in the forefront of not only Atlantic Canada but also
North America, the previous government wanted to take credit for that. It would not have known
of the energy hub. It did not know what it was. We have gone down to the New England states on
a regular basis. When we first started going down there, they had to find out where New Brunswick
was. They did not know where it was. When we go down there now, they not only know where we
are, but they also know what we have to offer, and they know where we are going and what we are
doing. They are fully supportive.
Mr. Holder: Now that the minister has had 24 hours to read the minutes that should have been read
months ago, and now that we know that the CEO is slated to receive more money in bonuses over
the last few years than the money designated for the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program, I want
the minister to tell us whether or not he will show leadership and redirect those funds to the Warm
Hearts, Warm Homes program so that the New Brunswickers who are most in need get the money,
not the CEO of NB Power.
Hon. Mr. Keir: I am pleased to see the member for Saint John Portland bring up the program that
we introduced this winter for those who need it the most. The Minister of Social Development, Hon.
Mrs. Schryer, has done a great job of ensuring that those folks who will need help with their heating
bills this winter will have it. She has increased their monthly stipend for electricity from $130 to
$150—$20 a month for six months. She has included an emergency fund for those folks. It has
increased from $270 to $550. That is an opportunity that the previous government had but did not
do anything about. Also, we have included the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program that the
member opposite talked about. It is a program where New Brunswickers are helping New
Brunswickers. I cannot believe that the member for Edmundston—Saint-Basile would smile and
laugh at that. We put a program in place where New Brunswickers are helping New Brunswickers.
This is a wonderful program. You talk about the energy sector and what it is . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Holder: The minister is quite right. I did raise the program, which is underfunded by $4.5
million. The members opposite do not get it. While this government has been asleep at the switch,
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New Brunswickers are being forced to turn off the switch. I want a yes or no answer: Will they take
those funds and redirect them to the home heating program?
019 11:15
Hon. Mr. Keir: The member for Saint John Portland can rant and rave and turn red, but the fact of
the matter is that the program we have in place is a wonderful program of New Brunswickers
helping New Brunswickers. It is administered by the Salvation Army, which is the largest
nongovernment administrator of social services in the country. There is nobody I would rather
partner with in this Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program than the Salvation Army. The Minister of
Business New Brunswick has also been involved in ensuring that every Service New Brunswick
location in the province will be involved so that those folks who need help the most will get that
help.
Mr. Holder: We are going to try this one more time: Yes or no, will they take those funds and
redirect them to the New Brunswickers who are most in need? The government members cannot
answer that question. Maybe they need to pick up the phone and call Premier McGuire, because he
is running this circus of a government. Yes or no, will they take that money and redirect it to the
people who need it the most?
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I have already mentioned, we have put some wonderful programs in place for
the people who need it the most. They are the folks we want to look after. I think Minister Schryer
and the Department of Social Development have done a wonderful job to ensure that funding is in
place for all those in New Brunswick who need it. We will carry that on. The Warm Hearts, Warm
Homes program is a wonderful program. You can rant and rave and holler all you want. The fact of
the matter is that it is a program that is being administered by the Salvation Army, that is there is
help New Brunswickers, and it is New Brunswickers contributing to that fund who are going to help
New Brunswickers.
M. Volpé : Ce que le ministre est en train de faire démontre un manque de respect, et c’est une honte
pour le gouvernement provincial. Je voudrais savoir une chose du ministre ce matin. Maintenant
qu’il a lu le procès-verbal... Une décision avait été prise par le gouvernement précédent voulant
qu’il n’y ait pas d’augmentation de salaire et aucun boni pour le PDG. Quand le ministre a-t-il
changé cette décision afin de permettre une augmentation de salaire au PDG, rétroactive jusqu’en
mars 2006, alors que l’élection a eu lieu en septembre 2006? Je pose une question bien claire au
ministre ce matin. Quand a-t-il autorisé Énergie NB à accorder une augmentation rétroactive?
Hon. Mr. Keir: For the information of the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs, the previous
government had a bonus program and salary increase in place that the president and CEO got in
2004. It cancelled it in 2005-06. We cancelled it in 2007-08. We cancelled it in 2007-08 because of
the economic times. They were moving forward at the time on a 9.65% . . . I remember the member
for Sussex suggesting that it might have been a 25% increase. It was a 9.65% increase at the time,
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and we did not think it was fair to New Brunswickers for them to get that bonus when they were also
going forward for an increase in electricity rates, so we cancelled it for that year. Frankly, it was the
previous government that negotiated the contract with the current president and CEO who had those
bonuses in his contract.
M. Volpé : Maintenant que le ministre a lu le procès-verbal qu’il reçoit après chaque réunion... J’ai
été ministre de l’Énergie et ministre des Finances. Je sais que ces deux ministres reçoivent les
procès-verbaux. On a appris en fin de semaine que le ministre ne les avait pas lus. Maintenant qu’il
les a lus, le ministre peut-il confirmer qu’on parle aussi d’une rétroactivité jusqu’en 2004 en ce qui
concerne l’augmentation de 5 %? Le ministre peut-il confirmer qu’on ne parle pas seulement de
2006, mais qu’on retourne jusqu’en 2004? Le ministre peut-il nous confirmer cela? Il fallait qu’il
l’approuve.
Hon. Mr. Keir: I will say it again: It does not matter how many times the opposition wants to say
that it is retroactive, the bonus program is not retroactive. The bonus program comes into play after
the year’s performance is completed and the Board of Directors of NB Power reviews that
performance. It reviewed that performance at the end of March 2008 and gave them the bonus for
2007-08 in July 2008. After the performance was completed, the review was done, and the bonus
was paid.
020 11:20
M. Volpé : Le ministre n’a pas répondu à ma question. J’ai parlé de 2004. Le ministre est en train
de nous dire qu’il y a eu des augmentations des salaires et des primes en raison de l’augmentation
des tarifs imposés aux entreprises et aux gens du Nouveau-Brunswick. Est-ce parce que le projet de
Point Lepreau ne sera pas terminé à temps et coûtera plus cher que ce qui était prévu dans le budget?
Est-ce parce que des gens meurent gelés dans leur maison? Est-ce que ce sont vos critères pour
accorder une prime?
Le ministre nous a clairement dit hier que ce n’est pas sa responsabilité. Le ministre des Finances
nous a dit l’an dernier qu’il avait demandé à une certaine corporation, soit la Société des alcools du
Nouveau-Brunswick, d’apporter 16 millions de dollars de plus dans les coffres du gouvernement.
Pourquoi le ministre des Finances aurait-il l’autorité de diriger une certaine corporation alors que
le ministre de l’Énergie n’a pas la même autorité? C’est un manque flagrant de compétence et de
respect envers les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick. Il a perdu la confiance des gens du Nouveau-
Brunswick.
Hon. Mr. Keir: I find the question from the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs a little strange,
because I think he was Minister of Energy when this whole governance was put in place. The fact
is, he knows very well that the day-to-day operations of NB Power are run by the board of directors
of NB Power. When he stands up and says that he told them not to do it in 2004, or whichever year
he suggested, that is not the case. He would have sat down with the Chairman of NB Power and the
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President of NB Power and said: Here is what the government is doing. We expect you to take our
lead. That is exactly what we have done. The governance of NB Power is broken, and we inherited
it from the previous government. We are going to fix it.
Public Works
Mr. Steeves: This morning, we have residents inside and outside the gallery because of Bill 14.
They seem to be using their rights. This bill gives more discretionary power to the minister, with
retroactive power. Can the Minister of Supply and Services tell me why?
Hon. Mr. Doherty: In fact, this bill is not about the Petitcodiac River project. This bill gives legal
authority to the Minister of Supply and Services to carry out projects which are done in the interest
of the public.
Mr. Steeves: I never mentioned the Petitcodiac River, if the minister listened to my question.
In New Brunswick, it is fairly common for work crews to ask property owners for permission to
store materials and equipment on their property while work is progressing. This certainly happens
with road construction and repair. Rather than passing a law which gives the minister the power to
declare land for public works, and then proceed to deposit materials and to construct drains and
roads, this government could have consulted with property owners to see whether those drastic
powers were even needed. Will the Minister of Supply and Services tell the House how many
meetings he has attended with local property owners? How many homeowners in the area has he
met, and how many discussions has he had concerning the government’s new plan?
Hon. Mr. Doherty: As you know, with major projects, there is always extensive consultation that
takes place. All interest groups are invited to community meetings. As a matter of fact, with regard
to a project in your very own riding—the restoration of the Petitcodiac River—there were 15
consultation sessions, involving over 1 000 people. With each and every project, there are license
agreements negotiated with the individual landlords. Every effort is made to accommodate the
landlord. In fact, as a government, we highly respect the rights of each and every landlord here in
New Brunswick.
Petitcodiac River
Mr. Fitch: What about the landowners, not the landlords? I have the speech that the minister made
when he brought forward Bill 14, and all he talked about was the Petitcodiac River restoration. We
have some inconsistency here. There are members of the Petitcodiac Citizens Coalition here today,
and I am going to ask the minister to meet with them. I will tell you why. On December 6, 2006,
Roly MacIntyre, who was Minister of Supply and Services at the time, said that the provincial
government would abide by the 17 conditions listed and published, as the proponent of the
restoration of the Petitcodiac River.
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021 11:25
At the public hearings that occurred in Salisbury and Moncton just recently, the officers of AMEC
disclosed that they were not being required to conform with the regulations and conditions that I
previously mentioned. This is a violation of the protective and reasonable measures imposed on the
proponent to limit access and abusive actions that might harm the public good. We feel that the
minister needs to recommit to the citizens here today . . . I would like him to commit to a meeting
and say that he will commit to the 17 issues to which the Minister of Supply and Services
committed.
Hon. S. Graham: I want to stand on this very important issue. Lacking in this debate . . . Actually,
for the first seven years that the Conservatives were in power, they could not take a position on the
restoration of the Petitcodiac River. Following an exhaustive environmental impact assessment, our
government has taken a position. We are going to see and witness one of the first rivers in Canada
to be rehabilitated in over two decades.
The question remains . . . In this budget, we are investing over $18 million for the restoration of this
river. What is unclear to date is the Leader of the Opposition’s position. He has yet to take a position
on any contentious issue in this province, because he is abdicating his leadership. The bottom line
is this: Does the opposition support this project or not?
Mr. Fitch: What we see here is an inconsistent government. The minister just said that Bill 14 is
not about the Petitcodiac River restoration, and the Premier got up and said it is. You two need to
get together.
As for the $18 million that was talked about in the budget, is that the same as the $20 million that
you talked about in last year’s budget? Are you double-dipping on announcements? Here is the
concern, and I am glad the Premier brought it up. It is our expectation that the dikes being built at
the Jones property are not in accordance with the provincial Clean Water Act and a number of other
issues. This is in violation of the 17 issues that your government committed to when it said it would
go ahead with the Petitcodiac River work. Bill 14 was brought forward in this House so that the
government would not be held responsible for violating these issues. Will the minister meet with
the citizens who are here who represent over 1 000 people within the Petitcodiac watershed and
explain why there are such inconsistencies as the government is portraying today?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government committed to $20 million over two years. Last year, $2 million
was invested, and we are investing over $18 million in this fiscal period to rehabilitate one of the
first rivers to be rehabilitated in our country.
What is still missing . . . I will give a commitment that officials from the department will meet with
the stakeholders, as they have done throughout the whole process. That is important, I concur.
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However, those gates will be opened in 2010. What remains to be seen is the position of the official
opposition. Is it supportive of this project or not?
Mr. Betts: On November 29, 2005, there was a public hearing on our EIA. We paid for it. The
federal Liberal government did not even pay its half. It was our EIA, on fish passage, on page 7. The
government members have not even read this report. Not a single member in government was at that
meeting, and they talk about thousands who were consulted. The research showed that there is
pollution below the causeway. On page 14 of this report, its says that without considering or having
secondary sewage treatment as an option, they should not go forward with any kind of gate opening.
We have had precedents. In 1988, the Liberal government opened the gates. The lake became silted
and polluted, and Moncton city council passed a resolution saying that the gates would be closed.
Spending $18 million or $20 million will not restore a river. It will destroy a lake without secondary
treatment and without the proper bridge span. With that in mind, will the Minister of Environment
take action to prevent the pollution of this body of water? A sum of $20 million will not cover a
bridge span or the secondary treatment of sewage.
Hon. S. Graham: The member opposite is correct. There was a joint EIA, funded through the
federal government and the former Conservative government. Officials from the department did
work in that process. However, the fact remains that the previous government could not make a
decision. Our government has made a decision respecting the restoration of this river. We are one
of the only jurisdictions in Canada today that is seeing the restoration of a river occur.
022 11:30
I will set the record straight. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, working with officials from
the provincial government, did collaborate on the EIA process. Instrumental in securing the funding
at the time was Claudette Bradshaw, the former minister at the federal level, to see the EIA process
undertaken. I want to be very clear on this today: The $20 million that is being invested is to put in
place the riverbank protection that is needed. Then, the gates will open in 2010. Continuing
monitoring will occur. An exhaustive process is in place today. What is missing is this: What is the
position of the Conservative Party of New Brunswick?
Mr. Speaker: Time. The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 8 QUESTIONS ORALES
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NB Power
Mr. Alward: The Minister of Energy says that the reason the board of directors decided to
retroactively increase the salaries of NB Power’s top executives is that the structure is broken. The
only thing that seems to be broken is the minister’s logic. Public opinion is clear. New Brunswickers
do not support government’s decision to reward some of the highest-paid NB Power executives with
six-figure bonuses and retroactive pay hikes. Where in the structure of NB Power does it say that
the government has to hand out these large bonuses and retroactive pay hikes? If not illegal, they
are certainly immoral.
Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. The fact is that, in 2004, the
then new President and CEO of NB Power had a contract that was negotiated by the Lord
government. Included in that contract was the opportunity for a bonus in every year of that contract.
Mr. Alward: Very clearly, on March 27, 2006, the then Premier canceled the bonuses. Yesterday,
the minister said that it was a governance problem. I completely agree. I wholeheartedly agree. The
problem is on the front lines, directly across from us. It is with the Premier, it is with the Minister
of Finance, and it is with the Minister of Energy.
The minister said it was not important whether he read the minutes because the structure was
broken. If the structure is broken, wouldn’t the minister want to be on top of things even more? In
its 2006 election platform, the government promised to establish regular reporting between the CEO
of NB Power and the Minister of Energy. The government has been in power for two years now.
Why has it not fulfilled this promise?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Over a four-year period, up to 2004-05, the previous government, because of a
contractual obligation, paid a bonus to the President and CEO of NB Power. In 2005-06, there was
not a cancellation. There was a contractual requirement, and there was an agreement with the
President and CEO of NB Power to freeze that contractual requirement. As a matter of fact, in 2006-
07, this government did the exact same thing. We spoke with the current CEO of NB Power, and
there was an agreement to freeze that contractual requirement that was put in place by the previous
government.
020 14:20
Mr. Alward: The minister has not said why they went back retroactively to freeze the salaries of
the highest-paid people at NB Power. The minister is oblivious to what is going on around him. He
has stated that he does not read the minutes. The minister has stated that he has no control over what
goes on at NB Power. Clearly, he does not know what is going on. Will the Premier tell us why he
even has a Minister of Energy?
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Hon. Mr. Keir: The Daily Gleaner states:
NB Power salaries are set by the corporation’s board of directors, who are appointed by the
provincial cabinet but who do not answer directly to government.
Energy Minister Jeannot Volpe said he has seen the figures and believes NB Power should remain
competitive to attract qualified workers.
“Usually you’re paying for their knowledge, for their capacity to run the business,” he said, adding
the wages might seem high to someone earning only $12,000 or $15,000 a year, but not to people
who are earning similar wages to NB Power employees. He also said he believes the wages are
comparable to the private sector.
I know that the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs likes to ask: Are you the same person now as you
were before? I would like to ask him: Is it the same member for Madawaska-les-Lacs now who was
there in 2001?
Mr. Volpé: I am the same, and that is why I can stand in this House and say that the wages that were
approved at that time were $250 000. The CEO came back to us for an increase, and we said no to
it. My question for the minister is this. If we had said no . . . He said there was a form of helping the
CEO with a bonus. When he came to us, we said no, no, and no to the wages. What has changed in
performance that you are allowed to go back to 2006 and 2004 to give something that was refused
by the former government?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I understand the frustration level. I understand that both the Leader of the
Opposition and the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs are essentially asking us to fix a problem that
was there under their government. We are going to do that. As I said yesterday, there is a
governance issue that must be addressed, and we are going to address it. We have a plan in place.
We will be moving forward early in the new year to address that governance structure.
Mr. Volpé: This morning, we do not see my frustration; it is the frustration of all the ratepayers and
taxpayers of New Brunswick.
The minister is saying that the governance was broken. Before 2006, the same structure—unless you
have changed the Electricity Act, which I have here—allowed the government, the minister, and the
Premier to say no to NB Power regarding bonuses and wage increases. What in the government
structure has changed, except for the difference in ministers?
Hon. Mr. Keir: The member opposite knows the issue very well. The issue is that the previous
government put a structure in place that went halfway. It went halfway, not the full way. The former
government put a structure in place that was going to make NB Power competitive in the
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marketplace. How many other competitors are there in the marketplace? None. Why is that? No
competition wants to come into the market with the utility the way that it is currently set up.
Mr. Volpé: The structure that was put in place was exactly to open the market. They stopped it.
This morning, the minister is saying that this is not his fault. However, yesterday, he was able to
send a letter to the CEO and say: Cancel the bonuses. Do the right thing. Send a letter to the board
also and say that it should cancel all the retroactive payments that were given, which are not
acceptable to the ratepayers and the taxpayers. This is completely immoral.
021 14:25
New Brunswickers cannot accept that the minister has signed off on something that says that they
are allowed to go back to 2004 for wage and bonus increases. That does not make any sense when
there are no performance criteria. Last summer, in July, in a public meeting, they said: Those are
the criteria for bonuses. Before, in 2006, 2005, and 2004, there were none. Do the right thing today
and cancel this wage increase.
Hon. Mr. Keir: The member opposite suggests that it stopped after 2006, that the structure changed.
The fact of the matter is that the new Electricity Act came into play in 2004. The opposition
members were in government for two years after that to make those changes, to move NB Power
forward, and to make it competitive. The member opposite suggests that it is now in a competitive
environment. Let’s deal with the facts: There is no other competition in the market with NB Power
right now. The former government had the chance to fix it, but it did not. We are going to fix it.
Politique de non-débranchement
M. P. Robichaud : Durant la dernière campagne électorale, dans le Pacte pour le changement, les
Libéraux ont promis d’établir une Politique de non-débranchement entre le 1er novembre et le 31
mars de chaque année. Si les Libéraux ne se souviennent pas de ceci, je peux leur en faire parvenir
une copie. Cela faisait partie de leur engagement et c’est une promesse qui avait été fort bien
accueillie par la population en général, je dois l’admettre. Le ministre de l’Énergie peut-il rapporter
à la Chambre combien de personnes dans le besoin ont vu leur électricité être débranchée entre le
1er novembre et le 31 mars de l’an dernier, suite à l’implantation de votre Politique de non-
débranchement?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I will get the member opposite the exact numbers and get back to the House, but
I can tell the member opposite that, since the no-disconnect policy went in, compared to the previous
government’s, it went down by half.
M. P. Robichaud : Encore une fois, on se rend compte que le ministre ne sait pas ce qui se passe
au sein de son ministère. S’il ne le sait pas, je vais le lui dire. L’électricité de 1 581 personnes au
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Nouveau-Brunswick exactement a été débranchée l’hiver dernier. alors que vous aviez promis de
mettre en place une Politique de non-débranchement. Je vais le répéter pour le ministre. L’électricité
de 1 581 personnes a été débranchée. Le ministre peut-il reconnaître à la Chambre que la Politique
de non-débranchement des Libéraux n’a pas fonctionné l’hiver dernier? Quelles mesures seront
mises en place cette année pour s’assurer que cette même situation ne se reproduira pas, que
l’électricité de 1 581 personnes ne sera pas débranchée et que nous ne connaîtrons pas des situations
dramatiques telles que celles de l’hiver dernier? Des gens ont perdu la vie parce que leur électricité
a été débranchée. Quelles mesures le ministre a-t-il mises en place pour corriger cette situation et
pour respecter la promesse que son parti a faite à la population du Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I just mentioned, I will get the exact numbers for the member opposite and
report back to the House. With respect to the no-disconnect policy, as part of the energy program
that Minister Schryer and I announced a month ago, we also included a committee, including the
Department of Energy, NB Power, and stakeholders, to review this on a regular basis and to get a
monthly report on what the no-disconnects are and what the no-disconnects were for.
M. P. Robichaud : Le ministre vient de nous dire qu’il nous donnera l’information quand il sera
informé par son ministre au sujet de la Politique de non-débranchement, à qui elle sert et à quoi elle
sert. Le Parti libéral a fait campagne sur cette question. Cela a été promis pendant la campagne
électorale, il y a deux ans de cela. Le ministre de l’Énergie ne comprend pas encore la Politique de
non-débranchement et il ne peut dire à la Chambre combien de personnes ont vécu un
débranchement d’électricité l’hiver dernier. Pourtant, nous avons cette information, et le Front
commun pour la justice sociale l’a également. L’électricité de 1 581 personnes a été débranchée
l’hiver dernier.
022 14:30
Cela démontre très clairement que le ministre de l’Énergie n’est pas à la hauteur de sa tâche et de
son ministère. Il ne sait pas ce qui se passe au sein de son ministère. Alors que des gens ont de la
difficulté à joindre les deux bouts et à payer leur facture d’électricité, ce même ministre autorise des
augmentations faramineuses pour des hauts dirigeants d’Énergie NB. On parle de montants
incroyables qui atteignent presque un demi million de dollars.
Le ministre dira-t-il à la Chambre quelles modifications il entend apporter pour faire en sorte que
les gens ne seront pas...
Le président : Votre temps est écoulé.
Hon. Mr. Keir: As we have always said, it is incumbent on everyone to pay his or her power bill.
It is incumbent on everybody, but for those folks who need help and who need it the most, we have
put programs in place through the Department of Social Development and through Warm Hearts,
Warm Homes. We are going to make sure that we help those folks who absolutely need it the most.
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The no-disconnect policy was very clear that it is incumbent on everybody to pay his or her power
bill. People have to communicate with NB Power in order to let NB Power know they have issues
in paying their power bills. If they make that communication with NB Power and it can be worked
out with some form of payment or least direction to the right help, whether it is through the
Department of Social Development or the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program, we will ensure
those folks are looked after this coming winter.
Mr. Northrup: It is not disrespect; it is respect, for the good people of New Brunswick.
Point Lepreau
Is the Minister of Energy aware of the delay at Point Lepreau with difficulties with the tooling
performance and the recovery turbines being back in the United Kingdom? Can he tell the good
people of New Brunswick that this will not affect the completion date of September 30, 2009, of this
$1.4-billion project?
Hon. Mr. Keir: That is a fair question. The fact of the matter is, the turbines have headed back to
the United Kingdom. At this point, Siemens and everybody involved in the schedule suggest that
there is no impact to the schedule of the refurbishing of Point Lepreau by those turbines going back
and being reworked and being sent back to Saint John.
Mr. Northrup: Over the last week, the people have lost trust in the Graham government and the
Minister of Energy. The minister has not read the minutes from NB Power, so this would say that
he is not taking an active role in the largest investment in New Brunswick, that being Point Lepreau.
People are scared. How will the minister assure the good people of New Brunswick that this project
will finish on time and on budget?
Hon. Mr. Keir: From the very beginning, we have suggested that this refurbishment of Point
Lepreau was probably the most important and biggest project in the history of the Department of
Energy within our responsibility and mandate with NB Power. NB Power has said from the
beginning that it understands the importance of this project being done on budget and on time. It is
a very complex project.
I have been involved in projects in the past. I have been involved in the frigate program at Saint John
Shipbuilding. Early on in that project, they were behind schedule and over budget. There were folks
hollering from everywhere that the sky was going to fall, and at the end of the day, over the period
of time, that frigate program became a success story for, frankly, a wonderful shipyard in Saint John.
I anticipate that NB Power and AECL will do their darndest to ensure that the schedule and the
budget of this project is met on time and on schedule.
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Mr. Northrup: We are definitely not on time, and we are not on schedule as of today. The Minister
of Energy knows that, and everybody in New Brunswick knows that.
I want to repeat what your government said in the Charter for Change: Regular meetings will take
place between the CEO of NB Power, who is in charge of Point Lepreau, and the minister himself.
Will the minister confirm that these meetings take place, and if so, does the CEO tell him everything
about Point Lepreau?
023 14:35
Hon. Mr. Keir: As a matter of fact, I get a monthly report from NB Power on the refurbishment of
Point Lepreau and where it stands. If the member from Sussex would like a copy, I would be more
than willing to share a copy of that report with him. Is it behind schedule right now? Yes, it is. I do
not think that that knowledge is a secret to the opposition. The President and CEO of NB Power has
stated publicly that it is behind schedule. NB Power and AECL are working to overcome that delay
and to have that project finished on budget and on time.
NB Power
Mr. Fitch: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. He is a member of the board of the New
Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation. I am just wondering if he attends meetings with
representatives of his department. The Minister of Energy is invited. Does the Minister of Energy
attend those meetings?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The member opposite is correct. As Minister of Finance, I act as Chairman of
the New Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation, and the Minister of Energy acts as deputy
chairman of the corporation. As far as I can recall, he has been to every single meeting we have had
since forming the government.
Mr. Fitch: I just want the Minister of Finance to confirm this. At those meetings of the New
Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation, are the minutes of those meetings distributed to other
members of Cabinet, such as the Minister of Energy and the Premier? Are the minutes from the NB
Power board meetings also distributed at those meetings?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The New Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation essentially acts as the bank,
if you will, for NB Power. It is a liaison between the government and NB Power in terms of
financing. When NB Power is conducting projects such as the refurbishment of Point Lepreau, for
example, and when it needs to borrow funds for that, the New Brunswick Electric Finance
Corporation borrows that money on behalf of NB Power, through the province. The matters we deal
with in the New Brunswick Electrical Finance Corporation are related to the financial aspects of the
business—the long-term borrowing, for example, that is necessary in order to conduct these various
projects.
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Mr. Fitch: I need to ask the minister this: When things of financial interest come to the New
Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation, which also includes minutes of board meetings, do you,
the Minister of Finance, and the Premier take the time to read those minutes, to go over those
reviews, or to look over the monthly reports? Do they all end up in the same place that the minutes
of the board of directors meetings go to when they go to the Minister of Energy’s department—in
the waste can?
Hon. V. Boudreau: As I mentioned, the Minister of Energy and I sit on the board of the New
Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation. The Premier does not. The board minutes of the NB Power
board of directors do not come to the New Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation What comes to
that corporation is information pertaining to the financing of the various ongoing projects that are
being handled by NB Power. We simply act as a bank for them. We do not get involved in any of
the day-to-day operations. We are simply there as a lending agency, as you will, to make sure that
they have the necessary funds to conduct projects such as the refurbishment of Point Lepreau.
Mr. Alward: What is very clear today is that the web is entangling a number of ministers this
afternoon.
The following question is from the Ask the Premier initiative. It clearly reflects the outrage felt by
New Brunswickers. To the Premier: How could he, in good conscience, allow Mr. Hay’s salary and
retroactive pay to be endorsed by his government when the citizens of New Brunswick see no end
to high power bills and a reduction in services? Has the Premier forgotten his commitment to the
citizens of this province?
Hon. Mr. Keir: This is from a Telegraph-Journal editorial from this morning. We all like to read
the paper. It states:
The utility has a governance problem. . . .
Since Premier Bernard Lord broke the Crown corporation into a series of companies, there has
been a tug-of-war over who manages NB Power. . . .
This is no way to run a business or a Crown corporation.
The Graham government vowed to do better, and to an extent it has.
024 14:40
Mr. Alward: For two days, the Premier has refused to stand on this issue and show any leadership
on this issue at all. He has hung his minister out to dry to deal with this issue. This government is
failing the people of New Brunswick. We have a Minister of Energy who does not know what is
going on at NB Power. We have a government that keeps deferring questions to NB Power, and we
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have a Chair of NB Power who refuses to speak to anyone. Someone needs to answer to the people
of New Brunswick, who are the true ratepayers and shareholders of NB Power.
I am calling for the government to immediately convene the Standing Committee on Crown
Corporations so that we can get to the bottom of what the government does not want to talk about.
The members on this side of the House are prepared to sit at any time of the day, as early as
tomorrow. Will the Premier direct the Chair of the standing committee to immediately convene
meetings to review NB Power?
Hon. S. Graham: I stood in this House on Tuesday and answered a number of questions pertaining
to this issue. It must be noted that, when the member says I have not answered questions on this
issue, the fact is that I have.
Again, it comes back to the fact that there is a structure within NB Power that needs to be fixed. We
are working on it. There are a number of reports that we are reviewing. We have received
information from NB Power. We have also had two independent consultants undertake a complete
review, which worked in consultation with the opposition.
It is clear today that, as we move forward, we need to put in place a structure that best represents
the interests of the ratepayers, while, at the same time, creates a competitive marketplace for the
province of New Brunswick. It is a balanced approach. It is a challenge, because the former
government wrestled with that issue for seven years and could not bring forward the structure that
was needed.
Today, we hear the opposition saying that more needs to be done. We are going to be taking action
in the new year. However, what remains to be seen is this: What would the opposition do? The
member opposite clearly has not outlined his idea of what the new structure should look like.
Mr. Alward: We said no to bonuses at NB Power. The Minister of Finance said that we were
shortsighted. However, this week, this government followed the leadership on this side of the House.
Finally, the Premier stood up on a question today. It has been two days since he stood up on the
issue of NB Power. I will ask the Premier again: Is he prepared to do away with the retroactive pay
increases that the CEO and vice presidents received that went all the way back to March 2006?
Hon. S. Graham: It is important to note that, over a four-year period, under a contract that was put
in place by the former government and the board of directors at that time, there was one period when
a bonus was paid out by the former Conservative government. In the next period, because of the
financial challenges facing the province, that program was canceled by making a request to the
board. Similarly, on this side of the House, this government requested, at one point, that a program
be canceled because of the rate hike application that was to be put in place. That request was made
to the board.
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Just this week, again, because of the current economic crisis facing the province and the belt-
tightening that is under way, we have requested that the board look at canceling this program. It is
our understanding that the board is meeting tomorrow and is going to comply. As with all other
boards that we have been instructed to work with, we are waiting to hear back from them.
Belt-tightening is under way. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the retention and recruitment of
key personnel is critical as we move forward with the refurbishment of Point Lepreau. This is not
the biggest project in the province. I have to set the member from Sussex straight. The biggest
project in the province today is actually the potash mine in his own riding.
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
025 14:45
Mr. Alward: We agree that the government followed our leadership to see a reduction in the
bonuses of NB Power, but the Premier has refused to say today whether he is prepared to do away
with the retroactive pay increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars clear back to 2006.
The Premier has also refused today to say that he would call the Standing Committee on Crown
Corporations immediately. We have issues that are outstanding on the no-disconnect policy and on
the refurbishment of Point Lepreau. The minister has admitted that he cannot guarantee what is
going to happen there and that it is currently behind schedule. We have issues of increasing energy
rates, and we have issues with retroactive salary hikes. Will the Premier stand today and commit to
immediately calling the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations to start sitting as early as
tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I reiterate that the bonus program and the contractual issues that we faced from
2004 . . . There was a contract. We are not trying to point fingers and blame. It is just the facts. In
2004, there was a contractual agreement between the President and CEO of NB Power and the
previous government. Included in that contractual commitment were salary increases and bonuses
to be paid. In 2004, the previous government paid the bonus. I do not recall you taking it back. In
2005-06, yes, you froze that bonus. In 2006-07, we did the same thing. It is a contractual
requirement and agreement that we had with NB Power.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over. Minister.
Hon. Mr. Keir: Mr. Speaker, if I could, I have the information for the member for Lamèque-
Shippagan-Miscou, if you would like me to share it. Technology is a wonderful thing.
The no-disconnects from November 1, 2007, to March 31, 2008, were 610. The number that the
member opposite suggests is for a full year and also includes folks who moved and had their power
disconnected.
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M. P. Robichaud : Il s’agit de 610 cas de trop. Les parlementaires du côté du gouvernement avaient
promis de mettre en place une Politique de non-débranchement du service d’électricité, et le ministre
vient de prouver que 610 personnes ont vu leur électricité être débranchée. Que le chiffre soit 610,
comme le gouvernement le mentionne, ou 1 581, comme le Front commun pour la justice sociale
le mentionne, c’est beaucoup trop.
La preuve concrète, c’est que, de la bouche même de son ministre, la promesse de non-
débranchement du service d’électricité est une autre promesse que les Libéraux n’ont pas respectée.
Toutefois, ils ont eu le culot de mettre cette promesse dans les 70 % des promesses respectées.
Encore une fois, les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick sont aux prises avec un gouvernement qui leur a
raconté des histoires pendant la campagne électorale et qui n’a pas respecté ses promesses. C’est ça
la priorité.
L’hon. S. Graham : J’aimerais répondre au député de Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, car c’est
nécessaire de corriger ses erreurs encore une fois.
Hier, Monsieur le président, il a donné des chiffres...
(Exclamations.)
Mr. Speaker: Listen to the Premier.
L’hon. S. Graham : C’est nécessaire que les chiffres soient corrects. De Tide Head à Val-Comeau,
dans la Péninsule acadienne, incluant la région Chaleur, le ministère des Transports a fait des
investissements dans cette région pour un montant de 59,1 millions. L’année dernière, il s’agissait
de 48,6 millions.
Mr. Speaker: State your point of order.
026 14:50
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: Let him state his point of order.
Point of Order
Mr. P. Robichaud: On a point of order, any minister, including the Premier, has the right to answer
to a question asked during question period. I never asked those kinds of questions to the Minister
of Transportation or to the Premier himself. I do not think that the Premier has the right to stand
during question period and answer a question that has never been asked on the floor of the House.
That is my point.
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Hon. Mr. Murphy: I am surprised that the Opposition House Leader would raise this, considering
that he knows full well that he cannot proscribe the answer of the first minister, who is answering
on behalf of any minister he chooses. This is his answer to the question posed. It was then Speaker
Harrison who made that ruling. You can respond as you see fit, or you do not have to respond at all.
The Premier is responding to the question posed.
027 14:55
Mr. Speaker: According to Rule 41(6):
If a Minister replies to a question taken as notice and answers it orally on a subsequent day, the
Member who asked the question shall be entitled to ask one supplementary question and the
Minister shall be entitled to respond.
In this case, the honourable Minister of Energy was answering and had no problem. On the second
one, the honourable Premier stood up in answer to a subsequent question that had been asked some
day before.
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: It is not a question of truth. The honourable Premier was answering a question.
Hon. S. Graham: To add clarity, the rules of the House are very important. Again, I was answering
a question. We are allowed the final answer. The opposition asks the question, and the government
is allowed the final answer.
In the final answer, I was stating that it is important to set the record straight, and I am glad that this
minister was able to provide factual information because the information that had been presented
by the member from Shippagan was not correct. I said that, in correlation with that, I also wanted
to bring forward information that had been raised earlier this week on road building. That was the
information.
Not to create a precedent in this House, we can end question period here. I do not have to speak any
further. We will provide the information. I do not want to create discomfort on that side of the
House.
Mr. Speaker: As indicated, the minister answered the question, which he did. The Premier, on
behalf of any minister, can answer a question. As you just mentioned, honourable Premier, question
period is over. We will move on to new business.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 9 QUESTIONS ORALES
December 12, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 12 décembre 2008
NB Power
Mr. Alward: Throughout the past week, New Brunswickers have watched this government operate
in full damage control. They have watched the Premier sit silent while hanging his Minister of
Energy out to dry. This government has refused to accept responsibility for its decisions or
accountability for its actions. The Premier and his colleagues have certainly had enough time to
think about whether they should, as the Minister of Energy said earlier this week, “do the right
thing”.
My question is for the Premier. Will you instruct your Minister of Energy to immediately rescind
the retroactive salary hikes that were secretly awarded to NB Power’s senior executives?
017 11:05
Hon. Mr. Keir: Again, let’s put the facts on the table. I know that there is a lot of noise out there,
but let’s put the facts on the table. A contract was negotiated with the Bernard Lord government in
2004. The bonus was paid in 2004, but it was frozen the next year. We froze it the year after. The
bonus went back in place for 2007-08. It was a contractual requirement by the previous government.
Mr. Alward: As a government, we said no to it—period. The current government secretly went
forward with retroactive salary increases.
New Brunswickers have lost the trust of this government. The minister and the Premier have both
demonstrated their ability to speak out of both sides of their mouths. It is truly unfortunate for New
Brunswickers that, after one week of asking questions in this House, there are now many more
unanswered questions.
Again, my question is for the Premier, not the Minister of Energy. If your actions are not illegal,
they are certainly immoral. In light of that, will you rescind the retroactive pay increases
immediately?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Again, the facts: The former government did not say no to it in 2004. The previous
government—most of those folks sitting across the way—said yes to it in 2004. In 2005-06, that
government spoke to NB Power and froze it. It was a contractual commitment. We said no to it in
2006 and 2007.
Mr. Alward: The minister can stand and try to divert the real question. The question that I asked
the Premier was this: Is he prepared to rescind the retroactive pay increases? This government
approved the retroactive pay increases secretly, hidden from all New Brunswickers.
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I think most New Brunswickers would agree with me when I say that the people of this province are
being led by a government that is lacking leadership on one of New Brunswick’s most important
institutions. This government has demonstrated a lack of responsibility, accountability, and
transparency. The government must bring more oversight to NB Power in order to restore New
Brunswickers’ confidence in it.
Yesterday, we proposed convening the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations to bring in the
CEO and president and the board of directors of the power company so that New Brunswickers
could get some answers with respect to this fiasco. Will the Premier do the right thing and be open
and transparent, as he said he would be in his Charter for Change, and bring the Standing
Committee on Crown Corporations to the Legislature?
Hon. S. Graham: What is important to note is that the former Conservative government set up a
contract. It was a very important contract, because we want to hire the best people to deliver results
at the utility. In that contract, there was provision for bonuses. The previous Conservative
government paid out a bonus. There were challenges in one fiscal year, and the board was asked to
suspend that bonus payment. At that time, they did not ask for it to be retroactive.
When NB Power requested a major rate increase, our government also said that belt tightening had
to occur internally. We requested to the board that a suspension be put in place. That was adhered
to. Also, one bonus was paid under the contractual obligations.
Moving forward to today, due to the economic uncertainty that we are seeing globally, we have once
again requested to the board that a suspension be put in place under the remuneration program. It
is our understanding that the board is going to move forward on that, as other government
departments are doing.
We are following the process that needs to be followed. We have said that the current governance
model needs to be improved, and we will be fixing that in the new year. Thank you.
Mr. Volpé: To the Premier, we accept that you said no to the bonus increase, but we are saying that
you said yes to the wage increase retroactive to 2006 and 2004. That is what we are asking. We
appreciate the fact that you said no to the bonuses, but you did approve the wage increase.
018 11:10
My question is for the Minister of Energy. He said that the Electricity Act was broken. Was the
minister aware that NB Power was asked by his government to sign a wind energy project for
hundreds of millions of dollars without a request for proposals? Have you read the minutes of that
board meeting?
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Hon. Mr. Keir: We have certainly had discussions with NB Power many times on economic
development opportunities in New Brunswick, as I am sure the previous government, the present
opposition, did. We have had many discussions on opportunities, whether they be on renewable
energy, new nuclear energy, or new transmission lines. We discuss the opportunities regularly for
NB Power to get involved in economic development, or whether the private sector should be
investing in it.
Mr. Volpé: Again, I know that the minister has not read the minutes. That is normal for him. I will
read what Mr. Hay had to say to the board: The government was in favour of a power purchase
agreement concluded with SkyPower and Atcon. It was suggested to me at this meeting that NBP
could consider the purchase of additional wind energy without embarking on a public tendering
process.
So he brought it to the board. He said: Including the preference stated by the province of New
Brunswick that additional wind power be purchased by NB Power without embarking on a tendering
process, the NB Power board was unanimous in its direction to me that additional wind power
purchased by NB Power would be purchased through a public tendering process.
Why is that? The Electricity Act, which is broken, as the minister says, is there to protect New
Brunswickers. The Act states that you cannot go without an RFP. Can the minister confirm this? It
is in the minutes of the NB Power meeting. I hope you have read them. Can you confirm that the
government asked NB Power to go ahead on a project for hundreds of millions of dollars without
an RFP?
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I mentioned, we have had many discussions with NB Power on economic
development opportunities in New Brunswick. In terms of wind energy, we are looking to create an
industry—something that was, perhaps, lost on the previous government regarding renewable
opportunities in New Brunswick. In the whole seven years that it was in opposition, not one
windmill was turning in New Brunswick. We, on this side of the House, believe that renewable
energy is absolutely vital to the ratepayers of New Brunswick. We will do all we can to ensure that
not only do we get as many windmills as we can, but also that we build an industry around them.
Mr. Volpé: Windmill energy in New Brunswick was started in 2005, through a request for
proposals. If you cannot say the truth today, I will say it. There was a request for proposals.
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Volpé: The minister said yesterday and the day before that the Act is broken. Is that because
he cannot feed his friends with this one? We know that, this year, the government has approved the
construction of nursing homes for hundreds of millions of dollars, without a request for proposals.
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On this one, we have a court document that says that, because NB Power went to a request for
proposals, it saved New Brunswickers $150 million over 20 years. The minister is saying today that
the Act is broken. The Act was there to protect New Brunswickers. I hope that the minister does not
intend to open up the Act so that he can feed his friends, as they have done for quite a few years.
Hon. S. Graham: We want to be very clear. There are always a number of economic development
opportunities presented to government. On the Miramichi, SkyPower, in conjunction with the Atcon
manufacturing company, wanted to create an industry where turbines, blades, and rotors could be
constructed. We took that opportunity to NB Power, which said, very clearly, that it could not be
sole-sourced. It had to go to a tendering process. That process was followed. An RFP was issued,
and today we see wind power development projects in Lamèque, outside the Bathurst region, and
in Albert County. I can say today, very clearly, that where the former government could not even
get the Grand Manan project off the ground, today we have the largest wind farm in Atlantic
Canada. The process worked.
019 11:15
M. P. Robichaud : Étant donné que le premier ministre a décidé de répondre à des questions ce
matin, ma question s’adresse à lui. Ma question est très simple, et je suis convaincu qu’il aura une
réponse pour moi ce matin. Dans l’éventualité d’un Point Lepreau II, le premier ministre peut-il
confirmer à la Chambre qu’il a demandé à Énergie NB de considérer un réacteur nucléaire
spécifique, c’est-à-dire un réacteur nucléaire EACL ACR-1000? Le premier ministre peut-il
confirmer à la Chambre qu’il a demandé à Énergie NB de prendre ce réacteur dans l’éventualité d’un
Point Lepreau II?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, I am not sure where the member opposite has been. Maybe he is not
following the facts and figures that have been presented today.
Clearly, we have started the process where a merchant power plant can be constructed by the private
sector in New Brunswick. This is a private sector consortium in partnership with Team CANDU.
There are a number of companies that are today looking at the advanced CANDU technology
through AECL. That has been an open process all along.
The member opposite has a hard time with numbers, and I think we have to set the record straight.
When he stands up and says that he did more in the north as Minister of Transportation, his best
capital budget put $28 million in District 1 and this Minister of Transportation put in $59 million.
The member opposite likes to play fast and loose with numbers, but these numbers speak for
themselves : a new wind power project in Lamèque, one that he could never deliver on, and over $59
million in District 1, which is the most roadwork in the history of this province in that district.
Mr. P. Robichaud: It is obvious that this government is in damage-control mode this morning.
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I feel that I have an obligation to refresh the Premier’s memory. If they do not read the minutes of
NB Power, we do, and I feel that the Premier should know the minutes of NB Power’s meeting that
took place Thursday, May 3, 2007. I will read from the minutes: Mr. Hay advised the board of a
meeting with the shareholders wherein NB Power was being asked to take the position that the
AECL ACR-1000 model was its technology of choice. The board questioned its role in the decision
taken by NB Power. The chair and the president undertook to have further discussions with the
Premier on the matter.
As far as I am concerned, Mr. Hay is the president and Mr. McQuire is the chair. Can the Premier
confirm to this House today that he instructed NB Power to take under consideration this specific
nuclear reactor without delaying for a request for proposal, as NB Power should normally do?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Perhaps I can take a minute to explain to the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-
Miscou how the private sector works. It is the private sector that is investing the money. It is the
private sector that has put forth the money for the feasibility study. It is the private sector that is
going around getting the investment to move forward on the second reactor. It is the private sector
that is going to move forward with the site licensing and EIA. The private sector is asking NB Power
to manage the new facility. Do you know why? It is because NB Power management of a nuclear
reactor is the absolute best in the world.
M. P. Robichaud : C’est étrange à quel point le premier ministre reste soudainement silencieux
lorsqu’on se réfère à des procès-verbaux des réunions d’Énergie NB, qui disent clairement que le
premier ministre est intervenu auprès des dirigeants d’Énergie NB pour qu’Énergie NB choisisse
un réacteur nucléaire très spécifique. Quelles sont les compétences du premier ministre en matière
de technologie nucléaire?
020 11:20
Le premier ministre ne prouve-t-il pas que notre requête de demander au Comité permanent des
corporations de la Couronne d’évaluer complètement Énergie NB est justifiable? Les arguments et
les faits nouveaux que nous apportons ce matin, suite à l’information que nous avons des procès-
verbaux des réunions d’Énergie NB, ne démontrent-ils pas très clairement l’ingérence du
gouvernement quand ça fait son affaire et la distance qu’il veut prendre d’Énergie NB quand cela
ne fait pas son affaire? Le premier ministre va-t-il acquiescer à notre demande et faire une
vérification complète et totale d’Énergie NB par l’intermédiaire du Comité permanent des
corporations de la Couronne, comme nous le demandons?
Hon. S. Graham: I want to begin by saying that the opposition has a very, very short memory this
morning. I remember that the member for Riverview, the former Energy Critic—who should be
asking questions, but who is not today—stood in this House and criticized me personally for
traveling to France and meeting with the President of Areva. He stated that we should be supporting
Canadian technology. He stood in this Chamber and had the audacity to say: Why are we not
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ORAL QUESTIONS 9 QUESTIONS ORALES
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supporting Canadian technology? Today, we have this member standing up and criticizing us for
supporting Canadian technology.
The flip-flop and the audacity of what is happening here today are second to none. This is a private
sector investment led by the private sector. The feasibility study is under way. What needs to be
cleared up today is: What is the position of the opposition? Is it in favour of a second reactor, is it
in favour of allowing the private sector to build it, and is it in favour of Canadian technology?
Mr. Williams: On November 1, 2006, Doug Tyler was part of the Liberal transition team which was
in discussions with the proponent of a windmill project in New Brunswick. In January of 2007, that
same Doug Tyler became a consultant for the same proponent of a windmill project in New
Brunswick. This is a clear conflict of interest situation. The Premier knew of this conflict of interest
situation. How can New Brunswickers trust this government with such actions? In November of
2006, Doug Tyler was sitting at the negotiating table with the Liberal government transition team,
and, in January, he sat on the other side of the table, now negotiating for the proponent of the
project. How can this Premier accept and support such actions? Is this the government’s way of
taking care of Liberals who were riding on the campaign bus?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, I want to be very clear. We were approached by a private sector
company—a very well-established New Brunswick company, Atcon Construction—which was
working with other stakeholders to develop new wind power technology in this province. We took
that initiative to NB Power and said: Is there an opportunity for partnership? NB Power very clearly
said that a process needed to be followed, and that process then went forward.
Today, by soliciting bids for wind power technology, we will see, this December, the start of the
largest wind farm in Atlantic Canada, with TransAlta. We are seeing the Caribou Mines project
going forward, with Suez Energy. We are also seeing a major initiative being undertaken in
Shippagan through the cooperative there. It was a project that the previous government tried to move
forward for seven years. The current member from Shippagan and the former Conservative
government could not deliver on that. The member did not believe in the people in that region, but
this government does. We believe in the future of wind power, and that is why we have engaged
Yves Gagnon, from the Université de Moncton, to look at community wind power projects
throughout the province. That consultation is ongoing . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
021 11:25
Mr. Williams: It is clear that New Brunswick is losing trust in this government. Not only is the
Electricity Act broken, but this government is also.
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The question is plain and simple: Did Doug Tyler advise the Premier to instruct NB Power to
proceed, without a request for proposals, with a windmill project with New Brunswick wind energy
partners and Atcon Industrial Services?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, it is important that we meet with business leaders. I met with Robbie
Tozer from the Miramichi. He had a plan to create a new manufacturing facility, and that was
important for the north. We recognize today that, in the Miramichi, with the closure of certain
industries, we need to diversify the economic base.
Yea, I am proud to say that I meet with business leaders to look at every opportunity. I am also
proud to say that there are rules in place to make sure that the taxpayers are well served. In this
instance, the project could not be sole-sourced, so a request for proposals went forward for wind
power. That was tendered, and the lowest rate was achieved. We now see companies from outside
the province bringing this technology into the province, and that will not stop us from continuing
to invest in the steel centre and in the manufacturing Centre of Excellence on the Miramichi. This
New Brunswick-based company, today, is building the first bridge across the Mackenzie River, in
the Northwest Territories. That is how we do business in New Brunswick—by working with these
partners.
Mr. Fitch: What we see here is a government in damage control. There are two options that it can
take, as it has proven here today. One is that the government was totally incompetent and did not
know what the Energy Act stated. The second is that the government knew and tried to get around
the rules. That was why Atcon went ahead and invested a lot of money to start the project. This
government went to David Hay and the board of NB Power and said: We want you to put aside this
request for proposals and deal with this company. When it did that, either it did not know that any
new generation of wind power needed to go through an RFP, or it knew that it needed to go through
an RFP and asked the board to put it aside, to fulfill commitments that the government had made
to the private sector.
We know about RFPs. We know about the Act. We know that, in 2005, an RFP was put forward,
as the Act stipulates, and there was a successful bid. What the government is trying to portray is
once again different from the reality.
The government members take this as a joke, but will they qualify it today? Did you know what the
Act stated with respect to requests for proposals, Mr. Energy Minister? Did you know, or did you
just try to do this outside the rules?
Hon. S. Graham: It took the member a minute and 20 seconds to get that question out. I hope he
will afford me the same latitude.
I know the member is a little upset this morning that we are restoring the Petitcodiac River. I know
he is a little upset this morning that we are also working with New Brunswick businesses and
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supporting New Brunswick businesses. I know he is upset that we are working with municipalities
throughout New Brunswick on developing wind power. In Albert County, we have the largest wind
farm. When the member was Minister of Energy, he could not deliver on that. This government
delivered.
The reality is that the member stood up in this Chamber and said that we needed to support Canadian
technology and New Brunswick-based companies. Today, his colleagues are standing up and saying:
Why did you support Canadian technology and New Brunswick-based companies? The flip-flip is
unbelievable. It just reinforces that this opposition has no direction. It cannot even have a policy
convention until a year from now. It comes down to a lack of leadership.
I can tell you today that there are challenges facing this province, but we are meeting those
challenges head-on. We are working with New Brunswick companies, and I am proud to say that
we are going to attain self-sufficiency in this province.
Mr. Fitch: What has been proven here today is the lack of integrity on the side of the government.
What we have proven here today is that this government either does not know the rules . . .
Mr. Speaker: Excuse me. You are bringing into question the integrity of individuals. I cannot allow
it. You will have to rephrase your question.
022 11:30
Mr. Fitch: I will remove the word “integrity”. The people have lost trust in this government,
because it says one thing and does another. Its members say one thing behind closed doors and say
another to the public. Will the Minister of Energy clarify this today? Did he not know the rules
under the energy Act requiring a request for proposals for new wind energy, or did he know the rules
and just decided to ignore and go around them to give his friends a contract? That is why it is in the
courts today. Please clarify. Did you not know the rules, or did you just want to go around them?
Hon. S. Graham: Clearly, we know that a number of projects are occurring in the Moncton region
which would not have occurred under the former government. There is a new $90-million casino.
The former Conservative government . . . What would David do? The former government could not
even come out with a responsible gaming strategy, which we did. There is $20 million invested in
the restoration of the Petitcodiac River. What would David do? We still do not know what the
position is on that side of the Chamber.
Clearly, today, we know that, by working with New Brunswick-based businesses, we are going to
source out every single opportunity. There are rules in place, and, today, we are following those
rules and letting wind power develop in New Brunswick. I am even more encouraged by the fact that
we are now reaching out to people like Dr. Yves Gagnon, from the Université de Moncton, in
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developing community wind power projects. There is a potential for 2 500 MW of wind power to
be developed in this province. The former Minister of Energy could not construct . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Premier.
Mr. Alward: What we have today is a Premier and a Minister of Energy who are speaking out of
both sides of their mouths. At one time, they are saying that they are independent, and, the next, they
are saying that they are directly involved in decisions taken by NB Power. To the Premier, will he
confirm that statements that he and his minister made earlier this week concerning the arm’s-length
arrangement with NB Power are inaccurate? Clearly, the Premier and the minister have lost the trust
of this House and, most importantly, the people of New Brunswick.
Hon. S. Graham: I respect the Leader of the Opposition, but he has to put down the script and
actually listen to the debate that is occurring in this Chamber. What was said was very clear. We had
a business proposal, we took it to the board, the board looked at it, and it said no. The process
worked. It let 300 MW of wind power be tendered. Today, we have three companies from outside
New Brunswick investing in this project. Clearly, the arm’s-length process worked.
Mr. Alward: And they got sued. The people of New Brunswick have been sued over it. This
certainly has been a disappointing and frustrating week for New Brunswickers. While we are going
through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression, this government has chosen
to further pad the wallets of the province’s high-paid civil servants instead of helping those who
need it the most. What is more, the minister and the Premier have not been forthcoming with the
people of New Brunswick in their role in the operation of NB Power. In doing so, they have both
shown contempt for every New Brunswicker. After everything that we have learned this week, I
think it is fair to say that New Brunswickers have lost confidence and trust in the minister
responsible for NB Power. Will the Premier do what is right, remove the Minister of Energy from
his portfolio, and replace him with someone who is capable of doing the job?
Hon. S. Graham: The member opposite asked what we would do. Today, New Brunswickers have
to ask the question: What would the Conservative Party do? What does the Conservative Party stand
for? The members opposite have yet to tell us what their position is on reforms to French immersion
in this province and how we are going to improve our education system. They have yet to tell us
what their position is on health care reforms. They stood up in this Chamber and passed a motion
saying that they wanted eight regional health authorities and more bureaucracy in New Brunswick.
023 11:35
Is that the position of the Leader of the Opposition this morning? Does he want more duplication
in health in New Brunswick? What is his position on the Petitcodiac River? One day, he is for it, and
the next, he is against it. It all depends on who is in the Chamber that day.
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Clearly, we are making decisions on this side of the House. We are leading, and I can proudly say
that there is no team I would rather lead with than this team. The people who lost confidence in
government were the people of New Brunswick in 2006, when the Conservatives were defeated and
this government was elected.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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===========================================================================================================================================================================================



ORAL QUESTIONS 10 QUESTIONS ORALES
December 16, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 16 décembre 2008
Appointments
Mr. Alward: In June of 2007, this government committed to a new era of openness and
transparency by announcing that it would develop and implement a lobbyist registry for the province
and that it would pass a lobbyist registration Act by the end of 2008. There was no mention of this
item in the recent speech from the throne. There was no mention of it in the Premier’s speech two
week ago. In fact, we have not heard a thing from this government at all since it tabled the report.
018 14:10
It is clear that this government does not take the issue seriously. We are approaching the end of the
year, and the government is going to miss its own deadline. My question to the Premier is: When
is the legislation going to be tabled?
Hon. S. Graham: I am not sure that this is the most pressing issue across New Brunswick today,
but it is an important question, so I will answer it. The fact is that our government has looked at this
important registration tool. The costs, though, are substantial, and that is why I have reached out to
my Atlantic Canadian counterparts on the Council of Atlantic Premiers. I have written to each of
them. There was a recent CAP meeting where we publicly stated that we were looking at developing
a registry for the region as a whole, to share resources to try to bring down the costs and, at the same
time, to provide greater transparency.
Mr. Alward: Today, it is a way for the Premier to postpone any debate on this issue.
In March of 2007, while Derek Burney was still Chairman of NB Power, we questioned the
government on when it was planning to announce Francis McGuire, cochair of its election
campaign, as the new Chairman of NB Power. The Premier refused to answer the question, but,
within a few months, he had appointed Mr. McGuire to head NB Power. We all know what the story
has been ever since then. The Minister of Energy, the Minister of Finance, and the Premier have
approved six-figure bonuses and retroactive pay increases implemented by Mr. McGuire. My
question is for the Premier. Will he confirm today that he is planning to announce that the other
cochair of his 2006 campaign and current lobbyist, Doug Tyler, will be named within days as the
new Deputy Minister of Policy and Priorities?
Hon. S. Graham: I can tell you what has been postponed in this Chamber: a debate of any
substance. The Leader of the Opposition is not going to hold a policy convention for over a year.
This opposition has yet to take position on anything of substance, yet its members will stand up in
this Chamber and make accusations every single day. I can tell you that the prerogative to move
forward on the appointment of deputies is the Premier’s. There is a current vacancy, and I will be
filling it when I feel it is appropriate.
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Mr. Alward: It is only an accusation when the Premier confirms that it is not going to happen. Doug
Tyler chaired the Liberals’ transition team when they came to power, and he served as an interim
chief of staff for the Premier. He was also the person who lobbied this government and NB Power
on behalf of Atcon in the SkyPower affair. The government has talked about NB Power being
broken, but it was the current legislation that prevented the government from handing out a contract
that would have cost New Brunswickers an extra $150 million. Now, the government wants to put
the man who was paid to try to circumvent the Act in charge of revising the Act. Does that make a
lot of sense? Does the Premier think that putting Doug Tyler in this role shows good government?
Hon. S. Graham: I can say this very clearly today: Our government has moved boldly on a number
of energy projects, through the leadership of the Minister of Energy. Today, after seven years of
inactivity on wind power development in this province, the best that the former government could
come up with was a project that failed to materialize in Grand Manan. It made a big announcement,
and then, it did not do the work.
Today, in Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, through the local cooperative, a very important project is
actually being constructed. TransAlta, in Albert County, is developing the largest wind farm in
Atlantic Canada as we speak. Acciona, in the Bathurst region, is now developing a wind power
project as we speak. The criticism rings hollow on that side of the Chamber when those members
say that there is inaction on a number of energy fronts. We are making progress, and I am proud to
say that the team on this side of the Chamber is getting the job done.
Mr. Alward: This afternoon, the Premier is at his very best at spin, spin, spin, but he is not prepared
to answer a simple yes-or-no question.
019 14:15
New Brunswickers need to know whom Mr. Tyler has been lobbying for the past two years. We
need to be able to monitor those interests being advanced. Is it the people of New Brunswick whose
interests are being advanced or the people who have been represented by Mr. Tyler? Before the
government hires lobbyist Doug Tyler as the new Deputy Minister of the Policy and Priorities
Committee, will the Premier commit to making Mr. Tyler’s conflict of interest declaration public,
so that New Brunswickers can see Mr. Tyler’s client list and how often he lobbied the government
on their behalf?
Hon. S. Graham: Today, we see an opposition so void of substance that it is now falling into
personal attacks. Clearly, as I have stated before, the prerogative of appointing deputy ministers is
one that I have, as Premier, and I will fill the vacancy of the Policy and Priorities Deputy Minister
when I see fit.
I want to reiterate that the questions the opposition should be asking should concern the status of the
nurses’ contract negotiations as we move forward, the status of tax reform in New Brunswick, or
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the status of the economy and where we can move forward. However, the number one issue for the
Leader of the Opposition today is: Who is going to fill a deputy minister’s position that remains
vacant? This is the most pressing issue that the Leader of the Opposition has. It reflects the lack of
substance and depth on any policy issue that the opposition currently has.
Mr. Alward: My questions today go to the very rot that has set in with this government. They point
very much to the judgment process that is lacking in this government. The Deputy Minister of Policy
and Priorities is responsible for moving the government’s agenda forward. Mr. Tyler has been
representing clients and trying to influence the government’s agenda. The Premier should be doing
more to protect the interests of New Brunswickers. The government wanted to give out a contract
to the company represented by Mr. Tyler, and that contract would have cost an extra $150 million
more than necessary. The Electricity Act prevented the government from doing it. The government
has said that the Electricity Act is broken, it wants to reform it, and it wants lobbyist Doug Tyler to
do it. Again, does the Premier think that he is exercising good judgment in this decision? The more
the skin is peeled off the onion, the more it smells.
Hon. S. Graham: I am not sure who the scriptwriter for the Leader of the Opposition is this
afternoon, but to address the member from Charlotte, we were in his riding yesterday, making a very
important announcement on the twinning of Route 1. In fact, for seven years, that project sat vacant.
He could not deliver on it. In fact, the road contractors had to cut the trees on the road that Sheldon
Lee started when he was Minister of Transportation. The member from Charlotte could not deliver
on a number of projects on the health care front. I am glad to see, today, that this minister is
delivering in that region.
However, it comes back to the Leader of the Opposition. I would gladly debate a number of
substantial issues across the province, but this is the number one pressing issue today for the Leader
of the Opposition. Clearly, as Premier, I have the prerogative to appoint deputy ministers. It is an
issue that I take as being very important, because our deputy ministers play a critical role and
provide valuable services . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
NB Power
Mr. Northrup: We have taken a position on this matter.
What I am going to talk about in the next couple of minutes is very, very important to the people of
New Brunswick. On Friday afternoon, the Board of Directors of NB Power would not award
bonuses for the upcoming 2008-09 season. It is a great thing for New Brunswick. The good people
of New Brunswick expected the government to do the right thing and urge the board to rescind the
retroactive salary increases on the bonuses. Will the Minister of Energy go back to the board, and
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not recommend, but direct them to rescind the retroactive salaries secretly paid to the board
members?
020 14:20
Hon. Mr. Keir: I notice that the member for Kings East said “the upcoming season” as if it is a
game. I appreciate the fact that the opposition thinks it is a game, but we, on this side of the House,
do not. As everybody is aware, the Minister of Finance has written a letter to all Crown corporations
and all boards to urge them not to move forward with their bonus programs. As announced last
Friday, NB Power has agreed.
Mr. Northrup: We do not play games on this side of the House. It is funny how we sometimes
forget the things we say; however, the good people around this place can remind us of what we say.
I want to quote something that the Minister of Energy said last year. The exact date was April 12,
2007: “It is typical of the fearmongering of the opposition. I want to make it clear to all New
Brunswickers and to this House today that there will be no bonus program for NB Power.”
Hon. Mr. Keir: I am not sure that there was a question there, but that word was kept. There was no
bonus program for that given year. When I stood up in April 2007, the bonus program would have
been for the previous year, and no bonus program was put in place for that year. Let me be clear,
because the message seems to be getting lost: It was the previous government that put forward the
contractual requirement for those bonuses. It followed through with that contractual commitment
as well.
Mr. Northrup: The Minister of Energy is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has no idea
what he is talking about when he talks about the bonus program. The executives and the nine little
elves all got their bonuses when they were supposed to, and they got them behind the back of the
Minister of Energy. This is my question for the Premier: Will he replace the Minister of Energy?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I agree that there is probably somebody in this House who does not understand, so
let me take the time to explain. In April, 2007, we stood up and said there would be no bonus
program for that year. That year would have been 2006-07. When the bonuses were paid in July
2008, it was for the years 2006-07, when that program was completed. Sorry, it was in 2007-08
when that program was completed. If the member for Kings East has trouble understanding that, he
can ask the question again and I will give him another answer again.
M. Volpé : Comme le dirait Robert Pichette : Le gouvernement libéral est composé d’amateurs sans
talent.
My question is for the Minister of Energy. We learned last week that the Minister of Energy was
unaware of bonuses and retroactive pay hikes that were approved, even though a copy of the minutes
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ORAL QUESTIONS 10 QUESTIONS ORALES
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of NB Power were on his desk. Mr. Minister, are you ready to admit this afternoon that you failed
in your duty to New Brunswickers and failed in your position?
Hon. S. Graham: Due to the repetitive nature of these questions for the past week . . . The fact is
that the opposition members have no issues of policy to discuss in this Chamber because they have
yet to hold a policy convention; they have, once again, delayed in having one. I want to reiterate
what this minister has done to forward the energy policy and position New Brunswick as an energy
hub for the Eastern Seaboard. While the former minister would not leave New Brunswick to visit
stakeholders and to position New Brunswick as an energy hub, this minister has worked tirelessly
to show that we are open for business. The key indication is that, today, we have under construction
300 MW of wind power; a study is under way to harness tidal power; and there are two initiatives
dealing with alternative green energy sources. The former minister, the current member, could not
get one bit of that work done over seven years.
Mr. Volpé: The energy hub was announced in Saint John in 2002 when I was Minister of Energy.
Ma prochaine question est pour le ministre de l’Énergie. L’an dernier, le ministre de l’Énergie
n’était pas au courant que la Politique de non-débranchement du service d’électricité du premier
ministre Graham ne fonctionnait pas, que plus de 1 000 abonnés avaient été débranchés et qu’une
personne était morte de froid.
Monsieur le ministre, êtes-vous prêt à admettre cet après-midi que vous avez failli à votre tâche et
que vous avez failli aux gens du Nouveau-Brunswick?
021 14:25
Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member opposite for the question. The fact of the matter is that the no-
disconnect policy has been working. Last year, the number of no-disconnects in the province
between November 1 and March 31 was just over 600. In the last year of the previous government,
the number of no-disconnects between November 1 and March 31 was over 1 150.
M. Volpé : Le ministre ne semble pas comprendre le terme « débranchement ». Son premier ministre
avait dit : « aucun débranchement ». Je vais laisser aux gens du Nouveau-Brunswick la définition.
The minister was not aware that the Electricity Act required a call for proposals for any new
generation of power, and he led a private company to invest over $100 000 in a project that NB
Power told the company it could not do without a request for proposals. Mr. Minister, are you ready
to admit this afternoon that you failed that company? You failed in your duty. As a minister, you
failed New Brunswickers. For all those reasons, the minister has no choice but to leave his seat to
somebody else who can bring back trust within the department, and also the trust of New
Brunswickers.
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Hon. S. Graham: I answered that question on Friday. Clearly, an economic opportunity was
presented to the government. It involved the manufacture of wind power components on the
Miramichi. Our government took that proposal to NB Power. The board evaluated it, through due
process, and said: Under the existing legislation, here is what needs to be undertaken. A request for
proposals needs to be issues. That process was followed. Today, we have three
companies—TransAlta, Acciona, and Suez—doing business in the province. Our government will
make no apologies today for helping the people of the Miramichi to overcome the trials and
tribulations of seeing various pulp and paper mills close in that region. If we can diversify the
economic base in that region, we will leave no stone unturned. The best the opposition can do is to
criticize. It has yet to provide one concrete idea on how to help the people of the Miramichi.
Health Care System
Mrs. Blaney: Does the Minister of Health feel confident that the newly aligned and centralized
system of health care delivery has the capacity to deal adequately with the hiring of health care
professionals?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: In a recent inquiry, Mr. Justice Creaghan gave great accolades to the
government with regard to the new structure being more conducive to safety, and it is. Also, the
system of health, in the past two years, has undergone some very substantial changes—some good
changes. We have the second highest nurse-to-population ratio among the Canadian provinces, and
we have the second highest ratio of doctors to population. That is very good work.
Mrs. Blaney: Is the minister aware that four intensive care beds, or 25% of the beds at the intensive
care unit of the Saint John Regional Hospital, have been closed because there are not enough nurses?
Apparently, the positions have been unfilled, and there are many such positions that have been
unfilled for months. The central office has neglected to fill them. Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: The current regional health authorities, like the former ones, hire all the nurses
and physicians that are required. There were about 225 or 230 vacancies identified when we came
to power two years ago with regard to nurses, and we have 140 net new nurses in the past two years.
Mrs. Blaney: The minister has become very good at deflecting, deferring, and taking no
responsibility. As I recall, the minister himself was in charge until September. These positions have
been unfilled for months.
022 14:30
Is the minister aware that operating rooms are underutilized, because there is insufficient staff to run
them? By insufficient staff, I mean nurses in particular. Is the minister aware that a lot of these
operating rooms are going completely underutilized, because there is insufficient staff? People have
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not been hired, and positions have gone unfilled. It is not just in the ORs or in intensive care,
although these are two areas of critical need. Is the minister aware?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I am fully aware of the implications of the Sullivan report. As indicated by
Justice Creaghan, the integration of the health care system as we brought in with the restructuring
allows many more opportunities, one of which is with regard to real-time wait time for provincial
institutions. That will be up and running by the fall of 2009. We also have, in our health care plan,
respect for the scope of practice of nurses so that they are able to practice in the field in which they
are trained. That means that we will bring in midwives, which will take some of the load. We have
pharmacists who are now prescribing. We have also brought in other health care individuals who
provide better opportunities for nurses in the field. Also, we have a quality lifestyle work style
committee that has been formed, pursuant to the health plan. With regard to nurses, we have also
undertaken that we will have a fourth-year loan forgiveness program in place by the end of the
mandate, so we have done very well.
Mr. Holder: Now that the Minister of Health has been brought up to speed on the fact that there is
significant strain on the OR in Saint John, I am wondering if he can tell New Brunswickers how
many heart patients are on an elective surgery list, as opposed to an urgent list.
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I will certainly take that under advisement. The heart program in Saint John is
one of the best in the world. It does outstanding work. Saint John has undergone a lot of changes
with regard to health care in the last two years. We have a medical education program that will be
up and running. A medical education building is being put in place. We have extended the hours at
St. Joseph’s Hospital. We have an ER that is being expanded, for over $30 million. We also have
a specialty training program in internal medicine, and there will be more announcements in January.
Mr. Holder: I hope the minister can get back to the House with some specific numbers, because the
fact of the matter is that a growing number of New Brunswickers are on that elective surgery list,
heart patients. Can the minister confirm today that, once patients have a surgery date, they are taken
off the wait list? It is our understanding that they are.
Hon. Mr. Murphy: The reason that we have regional health authorities in place with very qualified
CEOs and administration and a very capable and dedicated medical staff at the New Brunswick
Heart Centre is to ensure that the proper methodology is used. I trust that they are using the proper
methods to ensure that the patients are brought forward as they should be, when it is medically
necessary, to ensure that their procedure is done.
Mr. Holder: This is another smoke-and-mirrors job by this government. The fact is that they say
that people are taken off the waiting list when they get that surgery date, just to bring the wait times
down. Can the minister confirm that this is the case in New Brunswick today?
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Hon. Mr. Murphy: I do not know if the member opposite is alleging any wrongdoing at the New
Brunswick Heart Centre. I have always been of the belief that they are very dedicated physicians
and administrators of the heart program. It is one of the best in the world. It is certainly among the
very best in Canada. I think it is somewhat disheartening to hear the member from Saint John blast
the New Brunswick heart program, because it is very, very good.
Appointments
Mr. Alward: This afternoon, we are very concerned that we heard the Premier downplay the
importance of good judgment and ethics in decisions about hiring the highest level of staff within
this government. We have a Premier who has belittled the types of questions that are being asked
today, when, in reality, they go to the heart of what this government is all about.
023 14:35
My question for the Premier is this: Will he confirm today that he is about to hire Doug Tyler as
Deputy Minister of the Policy and Priorities Committee for the province of New Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: Maybe the Leader of the Opposition should return to his script. This is the same
question that he asked at the very start of question period. I very clearly said that, as Premier, I am
given the responsibility of naming deputy ministers in key, critical positions to move the
government’s agenda forward. It is no different from the past Premier, and it will be no different
from the next Premier. These are important positions that need to be filled. The Prime Minister also
carries such responsibilities. I know that, right now, he is looking at naming a certain number of
Senate seats that are vacant in Ottawa. When you are given the responsibility of leading the
province, you make the best judgment possible. I am proud of our stable of deputy ministers in New
Brunswick today. These deputy ministers are reforming health care, education, postsecondary
education, and our taxation system. Where the former government failed to make any substantive
changes over the seven years of its mandate, we have accomplished more in our first two years than
it did in its seven years.
Mr. Alward: Let’s be very clear. This afternoon, the Premier said that he, along with Mr. Tyler,
lobbied to have a company be able to circumvent the Electricity Act of New Brunswick to see
economic development take place in the Miramichi. Certainly, all members here want to see
economic development take place in the Miramichi, but that is not the question. The Premier is
refusing to answer the question of whether he is going to announce Mr. Tyler as the next Deputy
Minister of Policy and Priorities. Can the Premier confirm today that, when he does . . .
(Interjections.)
Mr. Alward: This is very serious. When the Premier does announce Mr. Tyler as the Deputy
Minister of Policy and Priorities, will he make a commitment that he will make public the conflict
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of interest documentation that will show Mr. Tyler’s client list and show the lobbying that he has
been doing?
Hon. S. Graham: I fail to see the logic of the Leader of the Opposition. I will use a prime example.
Today, our forest industry is going through some major, major challenges. To address this, we have
a deputy minister, Tom Reid, working in the Department of Natural Resources, whom we promoted.
However, we went to the private sector and hired the services of Paul Orser, who worked for UPM-
Kymmene and a number of other stakeholder groups in the Miramichi region. This individual
worked in the private sector but made a decision to work for government now. The Leader of the
Opposition is saying today that anyone who works in the private sector cannot work for government.
I am clearly stating today that, when we have the opportunity to recruit the best people and to bring
forward an agenda of change and transformation for this province, the best that the Leader of the
Opposition can offer is to delay his policy convention by six months and to attack private citizens
in this province.
Mr. Alward: The Premier can do all he wants to do to try to divert from the real issue here today.
Very clearly, the Premier has a problem with poor judgment. Very clearly, we are showing that there
is a question of ethics. Very clearly, we are showing that there is a question, at the very least, of the
perception of conflict of interest. Is the Premier prepared to table, publicly, documentation on Mr.
Tyler’s client list and the work that he has done, lobbying various departments and agencies in the
province of New Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, the decision has not been made. Today, the Leader of the Opposition is
speaking hypothetically. What about this in the future? What about that in the future? The Leader
of the Opposition should be fixated on the questions and the challenges of the day.
I will repeat this. We are continually looking to recruit the best people. We recruited Jim Hughes
from Quebec. He is a leading expert on social development policy and has worked with a number
of organizations across the country.
024 14:40
Is the Leader of the Opposition saying today that we should not be recruiting individuals of this
calibre? He is indeed calling into question the judgment of the Premier to go out and hire the best
individuals to serve New Brunswick. Shame on the Leader of the Opposition. There are people who
want to serve this province, and he is saying that they should not do so.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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Budget
Mr. Alward: Let’s look at the difference between the two sides of the House. Governing is not a
joke. There is a big difference between the two sides of the House today.
Six weeks ago, I sent a letter to the Premier, offering to work with him and with the Finance
Minister as they deal with the current fiscal challenges that New Brunswick faces, along with next
year’s budget. What did the Premier do? He blew us off. He said he was not interested.
This week, the federal Minister of Finance sat down with opposition parties as they developed this
year’s budget. What did the opposition parties say? They said that it was responsible and that it was
an excellent process. My question for the Premier today is this: Is he prepared to rescind his last
decision and accept our offer to work with him as his government develops a budget to deal with
the financial challenges we have now?
Hon. S. Graham: As we stated at the start of this session, there are challenges on the horizon. New
Brunswick is not immune to global economic conditions. In fact, today, we have seen the United
States federal treasury take extraordinary measures to help to stimulate that economy, by dropping
interest rates to 0%. We are seeing major retailers discounting their prices prior to Christmas; there
are a number of sales.
That is why our Minister of Finance has provided a true and accurate update of the province’s
finances. Other provinces have not done so. On top of that, we have been realistic in our growth
expectations for this year. We have downgraded the growth from 1.8% to 1.0%. We have also
revised our forecast for next year to show 0% growth in the province and a potential contraction in
the New Brunswick economy. This is the first time in decades that we have seen a potential
contraction in our economy.
Because of this, we have outlined a comprehensive four-point action plan. In that plan, we talked
about the importance of infrastructure investment and tax reform.
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Alward: It is very clear this morning that the Premier cannot answer a yes-or-no question. It
is very clear this morning that the Premier is not prepared to show a different type of leadership,
working cooperatively to find solutions for New Brunswickers.
This government has no credibility when it comes to taxation. This government cut the HST rebate
for New Brunswickers. The first thing that this government did when it came to government was
to break its promise. The Premier broke his promise by increasing personal income tax, by
increasing small business tax, by increasing corporate tax. Today, I am asking the Premier: Why is
he standing alone, blowing in the wind, when every other jurisdiction is looking at a reduction in
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consumption taxes? He is looking at increasing consumption taxes. He is hurting our most
vulnerable, our low income earners, our low-income seniors, and our small businesses.
Hon. S. Graham: New Brunswickers are looking for a different kind of leadership. They are
looking for leadership from a government that actually makes decisions and takes action. That was
why they elected this government in 2006.
It is important to note the history of the previous Conservative government. In our first budget, we
stood up and made strategic decisions. I remember one such decision—investing in moose fencing.
The Leader of the Opposition at the time, then the Finance Critic . . . I am not sure, maybe he is
Finance Critic today, because they cannot determine who is Finance Critic on that side of the House.
The point is, he stood up and said that they would not have taken that initiative as a government.
They would not have invested in moose fencing. They cannot stand up and applaud those directions,
then criticize them in this House.
It is the same today with the record investments in infrastructure—$1.2 billion. The opposition
members stand up and say that the debt of the province is going to increase, and they criticize that
decision. The fact is, when you build infrastructure, it is like building a home. You have to take out
a mortgage and pay it down over a set period of time. We have been up-front with New
Brunswickers. Yes, we are going to invest in infrastructure. Yes, it means an increase in the debt of
the province, but at the same time . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
022 11:30
Tax Reform
Mr. Alward: Up-front with New Brunswickers—breaking their commitments and breaking their
promises . . . That is not what being up-front is about. Raising taxes is not what this government is
mandated to do. It did not run on that mandate in any way. This government said that it would be
about transparency. This government said that it would be about accountability. This government
said that it would be about openness. It is just the opposite.
The sham of a plan that the Minister of Finance brought forward today does nothing for the lowest-
income earners in New Brunswick. It does nothing for small business in New Brunswick. What does
it do? It helps big business and high-income earners. My question is for the Premier. Does he
support that plan?
Hon. S. Graham: After a week of questions that were personal, I welcome the debate on tax reform
in New Brunswick today, because these are the questions that the Leader of the Opposition should
have asked weeks ago. Clearly, today, New Brunswick is at a crossroads. We have a decision to
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make in this Chamber for the students in the gallery and New Brunswickers across this province.
Do we want to continue with the status quo? Do we want to continue to see the economy of New
Brunswick contract? Do we want to see our young people continue to leave this province? Or, do
we want to put in place a tax regime structure that is going to encourage these students in the gallery
today to remain in this province to work? It is going to bring more New Brunswickers back home.
It is going to put more money into the pockets of New Brunswickers, and they will have a decision
on where to spend and to invest it. The plan that we have brought forward, in broad strokes, sets out
those initiatives, and I support that plan one hundred percent.
Mr. Fitch: I want to thank the member for Madawaska-les-Lacs for responding to the papers that
were received today, because he was at every one of those meetings. He heard what the people said.
What they said is not what you delivered today. The one thing that is concrete today is that there will
not be a carbon tax. Wow, you learned something from Stéphane Dion, who found out the hard way
that carbon taxes are not very popular. The other thing that you could have done here today is say
that there would not be an increase in the HST, because that received little support too. While
jurisdictions like Great Britain are reducing the value-added tax by 2% to stimulate the economy,
you are leaving us in a gray area. Why not give the economy the information that it is looking for,
the stimulus that it is looking for? Why not tell us today that you will not hurt the economy by
increasing the HST?
Hon. S. Graham: The critic must be a little insecure this morning, spending the first 20 seconds of
his response explaining that he is the Finance Critic. Clearly, today, we have important decisions
to make, and our government has reached out to work with the government of Canada. Today, the
Prime Minister is saying that provinces should harmonize their sales taxes. Frank McKenna brought
forward that transformational reform in this province, while many other provinces have still not been
able to deliver that. The government of Canada also said that we should eliminate our corporate
capital tax. This year, our government is eliminating corporate capital tax in New Brunswick. The
Prime Minister is also saying today that we should reduce our corporate income tax to 10 points.
Today, the Minister of Finance is saying that we are going to meet that challenge. We are even going
to go into single digits. We are going to be more competitive than Nova Scotia, Prince Edward
Island, and many other provinces across this country.
Mr. Fitch: I think the Premier is the one who is insecure today, because he has not taken a question
for the last three weeks almost. He has taken one or two every now and again. However, he has an
audience here today, so he will be up on every question, I am sure.
The final report from the Select Committee on Tax Review is something that the Premier has talked
about for weeks, but this report is like a cappuccino coffee with too much froth. You think you are
getting something strong, but all you are getting is hot air and bubbles. Can the Premier tell us today
if he is going to hurt the economy by increasing the HST?
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023 11:35
Obviously, there is going to be a shrinkage in that revenue. If the members opposite continue with
this spending spree as they have done in the past couple of years, there will be a significant deficit.
We have the projections for 2008-09. What is the deficit? Obviously, you have done the projections.
What is the deficit that you are projecting for 2009-10?
Hon. S. Graham: The opposition complains when I answer questions and complains when I do not
answer questions. The reality is that, today, we have launched an important discussion on tax reform
for all New Brunswickers. The onus of this tax reform is to build an economy in New Brunswick
where we can keep our young people in the province. If we remain on the path we are on today . . .
We have an aging workforce and fewer tax filers, and we will have shrinking revenue to pay for the
social programs that New Brunswickers hold near and dear to their hearts. That is why we have
brought out a plan. As a government, we are committed to tax reform. We are lowering the corporate
income tax. We are lowering personal income taxes. We are going to find a mechanism to put more
money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers.
I want to be very clear today. It is not the preferred option of government to increase the HST. That
is why, when we go through the budget exercise, we are going to look internally for efficiencies
within the system and plow that back into tax reform as part of our comprehensive plan to stimulate
the economy of New Brunswick.
Mr. Fitch: The only complaint we have about the Premier is that, whenever he gets up to answer
a question, he does not answer the question that is posed. That is unfortunate, because the people
need to know. People need to know why you raised the taxes on small businesses when you took
power. You raised personal income tax when you took power. You raised the tax for medium-sized
businesses, and, today, in your report, you are talking about reducing the corporate portion for large
businesses. Why, as you continue on this spending spree, do you continue to ask the low-income
earners, the poor, and the small and medium-sized businesses to finance your spending spree? Why
do you continue to ask the middle-class citizens to look after the rich and the friends of the Liberal
Party?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government is committing, today, to position New Brunswick as an energy
hub in North America. We have seen the benefits in Alberta, through the development of its energy
hub and its tax reform, in terms of the growth of its economy. The fact is that many New
Brunswickers are now paying their taxes in Alberta, even though they live in New Brunswick. The
fact is that, through the competitive tax regime, they have made a strategic decision to call Alberta
home. The tax reforms that we are putting forward today will allow those New Brunswickers to
return home. The pipe fitters, welders, and carpenters are not the rich people of New Brunswick.
They are the working individuals who are going to build this province. The reforms that we are
putting forward are going to bring them back home to New Brunswick.
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Mr. Volpé: The Premier said that businesses are filing in Alberta. Our rate for small business was
1.5%. Alberta was 3%. Now we are at 5%. I am convinced that they are now, but they were not
before.
Property Tax
My question this morning is for the Minister of Finance. In the document he tabled this morning,
there is no mention of property tax. It was part of the report. It is not in there. The intent was to
increase the rate in the local service districts in New Brunswick by 65¢. I know that the Finn report
that was supposed to be tabled earlier this year and which the municipalities have been waiting
for . . . Maybe Santa Claus will bring it, but it was supposed to be tabled this fall. It has not been
tabled yet. I am asking the minister this morning: How much money will the 65¢ increase for the
LSDs bring to government? It will not go to the local governments; it will go back to government.
For LSDs and businesses in LSDs, the money goes back to government. How much money does that
represent for the government?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I am pleased to get a question from one of my many critics over there. They
cannot seem to make up their minds about exactly who the critic is. Obviously, the member for
Madawaska-les-Lacs was not listening to my statement, because I did talk about property tax. I did
say that government was going to require more time to go through the various recommendations that
were made on property tax. The Finn report will be coming out shortly, and it will have additional
recommendations in terms of property tax.
024 11:40
As well, as I mentioned in the statement, we want to put in a place a mechanism that is open and
transparent. At the end of the day, there is just one taxpayer. Whether it is municipal, provincial, or
federal taxes that are being paid, there is one taxpayer. That is whom our interest is in. That is who
we want to make sure has more money in his or her pocket at the end of this tax reform. We will be
providing further details in the months to come.
Mr. Volpé: We do agree there is only one taxpayer, who has been hit very hard by that government.
Il y a deux ans de cela, le Nouveau-Brunswick a été la seule province à augmenter les taxes et les
impôts. Quelle a été le résultat de cette décision? C’est notre province qui a eu la plus grande
augmentation en pourcentage du taux de chômage au Canada.
Cette année, le premier ministre veut encore augmenter la charge financière imposée aux gens du
Nouveau-Brunswick. On peut parler des autres provinces. Selon les informations qu’on reçoit dans
les journaux, la façon la plus rapide d’activer l’économie en cas de crise, c’est de réduire les impôts
sur le revenu des particuliers pour que ceux-ci réinvestisse leur argent dans l’économie locale. Cela
donne même des résultats plus rapidement que les investissements dans les infrastructures.
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Again, it is the only jurisdiction in the country. They are going the other way.
My question will be for the Premier. Why are you not listening to your own fiscal document that
says that people and businesses move to where the fiscal base is the best? We were there a few years
ago. You went back. Are you ready this morning to commit to bringing it back to at least where we
were in 2006? New Brunswickers were paying . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Hon. S. Graham: Let’s be very clear. Our government is committed to tax reform, and we are
committed to meeting the challenge of the government of Canada to lower our corporate income tax
rate. The government has set out a challenge of 10 points. We are going to hit single digits in New
Brunswick.
As well, we are committed to simplifying the tax code for personal income tax in the province. We
are committed to putting more money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers and, at the same
time, creating an environment so that young New Brunswickers can return home and so that young
New Brunswickers can stay home—the children and grandchildren of parents in this province. The
parents of this province want their sons and daughters to remain in this province, and we are
committed to tax reform that not only stimulates the economy but also keeps those New
Brunswickers here.
Mr. Volpé: This morning, the Premier seems to be ready to answer questions. He spoke to an
audience earlier. Living within their means is what New Brunswickers are doing. When the
economy goes down, they have to reduce their expenses. They cannot borrow on the future
generation. That is what the Premier is doing. Earlier today, we talked to the students who were
here. They will be the ones paying the debts of this government.
The Premier has been increasing the debt by $1 million per day since he has been in government,
and that is not enough. The Minister of Finance came down last week and said: I need $263 million
more than was approved for my budget last spring. Why? An increase in fuel. People who have been
fueling their vehicles around this province know that the price has been going down, not up. The
time of the year that we need it is now, for heating our buildings and for the school buses and plows
that are on the road. The price is going down, and last week, he said that he needed to increase his
budget. Can they explain it? Can the minister or the Premier explain why they need more money to
pay for fuel when it is going down?
Hon. S. Graham: This, again, signals the inaccuracies of the opposition members, because they are
standing and saying that they do not want the debt to go up. That means they are against the
community college in Edmundston that is being built and the community college in Saint John that
is being built, as well as the reforms to the community colleges in Bathurst and in Moncton. It also
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means they are against the roads that are being built in this province that had been abdicated by their
government for more than seven years.
This government today is building roads at a record rate to put New Brunswickers to work. We are
investing in our infrastructure. We are investing in the future of our province, in the children and
in the young students who want to remain here. The tax reforms that we are putting in place and the
reductions in personal income tax are going to benefit significantly small businesses. The majority
of small business owners today file under personal income tax reductions, and those reductions are
going to be much bigger under our government than the former government ever dreamed.
025 11:45
Health Care System
Mrs. Blaney: We have known for a while that there is a definite problem in the Department of
Health, and the problem is the minister himself. The Premier has been reluctant to deal with issues
relating to the Department of Health, and his reluctance means that our province has a leadership
void on the health file.
The minister has lost private health information. He has created a language crisis in health care
administration and delivery. The minister has consistently put his own personal image ahead of
quality health care through shameless self-promotion. My question for the Premier is this: What is
the Premier going to do to ensure that the minister stops putting his own agenda ahead of provincial
health care issues?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: The member opposite has raised some questions with regard to the trauma
system. The trauma system committee has Dr. Dubinsky, the author of reports on it, as well as Dr.
Girotti, another specialist from Ontario. There are vice-presidents, CEOs, and various health
professionals. They make the decision as to who the coordinator is.
The fine lines of the trauma system development were with Dr. Dubinsky when the report came out.
He indicated that two to three years would be adequate time to set up the trauma system that is being
set up, and it is on time. That takes us into the fall of 2009-10. There will be money in place in the
spring and money in the following budget. I would suggest that the member opposite contact Dr.
Furlong, one of her former colleagues, who says that things are proceeding as they should.
Mrs. Blaney: I think the minister lives in a bubble. This is such a clear example of the leadership
void that I was talking about. The people need to hear from the Premier on this file, and he keeps
deferring to his minister, who is causing the problem. There is major frustration within the system;
it is actually palpable. There is an incredible level of mistrust between the minister and the medical
community. We have nurses who voted overwhelmingly to strike—a sign of mistrust and frustration.
We have doctors who fear for their jobs. We have waiting lists that do not reflect the real numbers
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of people waiting. We have a provincial trauma system that has been continually delayed by this
minister. Worst of all, this minister has created a language crisis such as we have not seen in a
generation.
You cannot lead with your head in the sand. My question to the Premier is this: What is your plan
of action to build bridges to health care professionals?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: We have a very high percentage of New Brunswickers who are very satisfied
with the quality of service in their official language, in all hospitals. I would suggest that the
member opposite read the New Brunswick reports. There have been many constitutional challenges,
to this government and to previous governments, over the course of the past 20 years. There is a
great dialogue that goes on between the linguistic communities, and it has worked well. It has
evolved to this point in time.
Since 2006, we have created a uniform ambulance system; that had not been done in seven years.
We have a trauma system that is being built. We have brought in more doctors than have been
brought in in well over 10 years; we have 110 net new doctors. Also, we have the second highest
ratio of nurses to population of all the Canadian provinces. We have the second highest ratio of
physicians to population in Canada. Also, as you know, we have commenced with pharmacists
prescribing. We have brought up the question of midwives. We have brought oncology to northern
New Brunswick. We have brought dialysis to northern New Brunswick. We have brought a medical
education building and program to Saint John, and there has been an extension of the ER there. We
have brought in far more than the previous government ever did.
Mrs. Blaney: Yesterday, we witnessed a Premier who likes to avoid dealing with conflicts. To avoid
talking about an ethical issue related to his government, he suggested that we talk about the
province’s deficit. That is desperation. The Premier would rather talk about the fact that he has taken
our province into a deficit than deal with questions of ethics and judgment.
Leadership has to be more than talking about doing things. It means actually having to make tough
decisions related to your own leadership. The Premier has a responsibility to be engaged in files that
are of great concern to New Brunswickers. Again, how is the Premier going to repair the damage
caused by his Minister of Health on health care issues? How is he going to ensure that it will not get
any worse?
026 11:50
Hon. S. Graham: I would like to remind the member opposite that she was a member of Cabinet
in a Conservative government which ran two back-to-back Conservative deficits in this province in
2002-03 and 2003-04.
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It is imperative that, when you are faced with challenges, you deal with them. While the former
Conservative government promised medical schools in New Brunswick, this government is actually
delivering them today. While the former Conservative government promised a single ambulance
provider in New Brunswick, it is this government that is delivering on that today. While the former
government promised to put midwives into the system, it never brought forward legislation. This
government is delivering on that today. Finally, I am so proud that our province is only the second
in Canada to give pharmacists the ability to prescribe certain medications. We are taking a
leadership role, and this government is delivering those reforms to the health care system.
Potatoes
Mr. MacDonald: My questions are for the Minister of Agriculture and Aquaculture today. As the
minister will know, the northwest region of this province received more than 19 inches of rain from
June to September of this year. Potatoes were left in the ground, and those dug, in some cases, are
now breaking down in storage. Prince Edward Island announced a multimillion-dollar plan to help
support potato and grain growers. My question for the minister today is: Does this province plan to
follow suit?
L’hon. M. Ouellette : Merci pour la question. D’abord, je dois dire que la situation est certainement
sérieuse pour les producteurs de pommes de terre de la province. Cette année n’a pas été facile, bien
que, selon des régions, il y a des producteurs qui ont très bien réussi. Il faut dire qu’il y a trois
différentes périodes dans la production de pommes de terre. Il y a la période de semence, et au cours
de la période où ce produit a été semé, c’est sûr et certain que cela n’a pas été facile pour certaines
régions. Les pluies torrentielles ont causé beaucoup de dégât, mais, par contre, il faut dire que nous
avons des programmes en place et ils fonctionnent très bien. Des personnes du ministère étaient sur
les lieux et ont pris l’information nécessaire et celle-ci a été envoyée. Déjà beaucoup de ces
personnes ont déjà été compensées pour les problèmes arrivées pendant le semence.
Mr. MacDonald: We cannot start this process in March or April when the farmers are preparing
to plant or deciding if they are going to put in a crop at all. New Brunswick received more rain than
Prince Edward Island this year. That is a fact. The potatoes are breaking down in storage. That is
a fact. Our potato growers need action from this government. Can the minister give us a timeline for
announcing a package?
L’hon. M. Ouellette : Encore une fois, je dois réitérer que les personnes concernées et mon
ministère s’occupent du problème qui existe dans la province. Mais avant d’en arriver à savoir s’il
y aura des compensations, il faut d’abord s’assurer qu’il y a eu une évaluation de la situation.
Comme je l’ai dit tout à l’heure, il y a la période d’ensemencement qui est très importante et il y a
aussi la période des récoltes qui est également très importante et la période d’entreposage. Alors,
il faut absolument qu’il y ait en place une évaluation pour ces différentes périodes pour s’assurer
à quel point il y a du dommage pour les producteurs. Suite à cela, il y a des programmes en place
comme l’assurance-récolte, et si le problème devient trop onéreux et qu’il est déclaré désastreux,
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à ce moment-là, il y a un autre programme qui peut venir en place, mais à la demande de l’Agence
de la pomme de terre qui nous demande de faire un appel auprès du gouvernement fédéral. À ce
moment-là...
Le président : Monsieur le ministre, le temps.
027 11:55
M. Mockler : C’est aberrant d’entendre les réponses du ministre de l’Agriculture et de
l’Aquaculture ce matin. Nous n’affrontons pas une crise mais plutôt un désastre, et c’est lamentable.
Depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir du ministre de l’Agriculture et de l’Aquaculture, son attitude vis-à-vis
de l’agriculture est déplorable. Il fait la sourde oreille à nos revendications lorsque nous affrontons
une telle crise économique. Ma question est simple, et les gens de chez nous et de chez lui attendent
une réponse. Le ministre de l’Agriculture et de l’Aquaculture mettra-t-il en place un programme
pour venir en aide financièrement aux agriculteurs et aux agricultrices de l’industrie de la pomme
de terre et de l’industrie céréalière immédiatement, sous forme de prêts garantis et de fonds de
roulement? On veut une réponse, Monsieur le ministre. Il est temps de vous réveiller et de passer
à l’action.
L’hon. M. Ouellette : Le député de Restigouche-la-Vallée devrait savoir que, s’il y a un
gouvernement qui a nuit à l’agriculture dans la province du Nouveau-Brunswick, c’est bien le
gouvernement précédent. On n’a qu’à penser à l’année 2000, lorsque vous avez combiné le ministère
de l’Agriculture avec celui des Pêches et de l’Aquaculture. Vous avez complètement oublié le
ministère de l’Agriculture. Quand on est arrivé au pouvoir, en 2006, la première chose que l’on a
faite, c’est d’organiser un sommet pour justement avoir une consultation qui n’a jamais été vue dans
la province du Nouveau-Brunswick. Nous avons demandé à l’industrie de l’agriculture de collaborer
avec le gouvernement pour essayer de donner une vision à l’agriculture, une vision qui n’existait
pas par le passé. Alors, je crois que...
Le sénateur est vite à se lever. Je crois que notre ministère n’a pas de leçon à recevoir.
Le président : La période des questions est maintenant terminée.
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Reports
Mr. Alward: ‘Twas the week before Christmas, and what could the people of New Brunswick
expect from this government? They could expect a secret hiring of a lobbyist as Deputy Minister
of Policy and Priorities. They could expect a report to come before the Legislature, in the last days
before Christmas, that would see increased taxes for New Brunswickers. Today, they could expect
a report on local governance. The Premier obviously forgot to stand up and make a minister’s
statement on it.
My first question is simple. Over the past few weeks and months, there has been a report which has
been promised for months and which has certainly been shelved up to this point. My question to the
Premier is this: He has raised the expectations of communities for months. Will the Premier act on
the report immediately, or will it be shelved?
Hon. S. Graham: Clearly, our government has embarked upon a number of areas of
transformational change. We have seen it in the health care system. Today, pharmacists are
prescribing for the first time in this province; we are the second province in the country to have this.
We have seen important changes in postsecondary education. We have a new community college
in Edmundston, as well as better integration between our universities and our community colleges.
We have seen transformational change in our education system. We have physical education
specialists in the system, as well as investments our trades courses. We are also seeing important
increases in our literacy scores.
Also, yesterday, the Minister of Finance announced transformational change in our taxation system,
to bring more New Brunswickers back home.
The last area of change was local governance. Today, I want to thank Mr. Finn publicly for the
extensive work that he has undertaken over the past year. However, the world has changed
considerably since Mr. Finn began this work. That is why our government is accepting this report
while, at the same time, putting reforms to local government on hold. The top priority is the
economy, and that is what our government is going to do in the new year.
Mr. Alward: This is quite incredible today from a Premier who has talked about the positive
attributes and the transformational change that the report on local governance would bring. One
would assume that that transformational change would be positive for local communities. Very
clearly, today, we have a Premier who is saying that it will be shelved. We have a Premier who had
raised expectations among communities that positive attributes would be coming forward from this
report. The reality is that the impact of this report would be a downloading of services and a
downloading of costs to local communities. That is the real reason this is being shelved. Mr.
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Premier, what has changed? If this report was going to bring positive attributes originally, why are
you not prepared to bring it forward now?
Hon. S. Graham: I am not sure where the Leader of the Opposition has been for the past six
months, but the global economy has changed considerably over the past six months. Today, the
number one priority of this government is the economy. The Leader of the Opposition cannot even
hold a policy convention, because he shelved the date for which it was initially scheduled.
020 14:20
Today, I want to tell the Leader of the Opposition: Our government is focused, this winter, on
starting a number of key infrastructure projects that are going to put New Brunswickers to work. We
are committed to finding efficiencies within the budget process. This report is a comprehensive one
which undertakes a number of initiatives with respect to providing greater representation in our
province, as it deals with municipal governments, in a more efficient and effective manner. What
is clear today is that there was a price tag attached to this report. At this time of economic restraint
and of prioritizing the needs of New Brunswickers, we recognize that this report is an important
process that was undertaken, but our priority is the economy.
Mr. Alward: The Premier is not answering the questions. Clearly, this is a package on local
governance. The government had raised the expectations of the municipalities throughout the
province. A number of the members here were actually part of a government that forced
amalgamations on communities, such as in the Edmundston area, the Saint John area, and the
Miramichi area. My question to the Premier is very simple: Given the history of the Liberal Party
and its relationship with communities, with this report and the recommendations coming out of it,
are you going to force amalgamations on communities? How will you engage people in the process?
Hon. S. Graham: Maybe the Leader of the Opposition is not listening to the answer that I provided
to him this afternoon. Maybe he needs his script back. What we said was that this is an important,
comprehensive report. We recognize today that people want change at all levels of
government—local, provincial, and federal. Municipal governments are a key priority. The people
of this province value their local communities. Our government values the work of local
communities.
At the same time, the world has changed considerably since September. There is a cost to
implementing this report and the work that was undertaken. At a time of fiscal restraint, at a time
when our government’s key priority is putting New Brunswickers to work, giving New
Brunswickers an opportunity to get the best education system in this province and in this country
is our focus. The member opposite is making allegations, but he has not heard what we have said.
The report is on hold until we have the fiscal capability to move forward with transformation in local
government.
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M. Volpé : Le premier ministre vient de nous dire aujourd’hui que ce rapport rejoindra les autres
rapports sur la même tablette. C’est un premier ministre qui s’est levé à plusieurs reprises au cours
des deux dernières années et qui a promis mer et monde. Il a promis que tout serait basé... Ne vous
en occupez pas de la gouvernance, car un rapport s’en vient, et toutes les réponses y seront. Les gens
seront tous contents. Tout le monde sera content de la réforme fiscale. Avec Claudette Bradshaw,
tous les problèmes sociaux seront corrigés. Ces rapports se trouvent tous sur la même tablette. Il est
un premier ministre qui n’est pas capable de prendre une décision, sauf quand c’est le temps d’aider
ses amis. Il peut trouver des millions pour aider ses amis.
Ce matin, le premier ministre nous dit que cela coûtera trop cher. Quel serait le coût d’implanter ce
plan?
L’hon. S. Graham : Notre gouvernement s’est embarqué dans un programme de réformes
ambitieux : la réforme dans les soins de santé, dans l’éducation postsecondaire, dans le système
d’éducation et dans le système d’imposition. Aujourd’hui, nous avons reçu un rapport qui est bien
écrit par un expert, Jean-Guy Finn, au sujet de la gouvernance locale. Quand M. Finn a commencé
ce rapport, les priorités d’hier étaient certainement différentes de celles d’aujourd’hui. En raison de
la crise économique mondiale, aujourd’hui, notre gouvernement a un plan d’action clair pour
stimuler l’économie. Il créera aussi de l’emploi pour les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick qui ont perdu
leur emploi en Alberta et en Ontario et qui reviennent ici, au Nouveau-Brunswick. Aujourd’hui,
nous avons dit que, en raison de la situation économique, nos priorités sont en place. Notre priorité,
c’est l’économie.
021 14:25
M. Volpé : J’espère que les élèves qui sont ici vont se rendre compte du niveau de compétence de
notre premier ministre. Ce dernier nous parle d’une crise économique au Nouveau-Brunswick.
Cependant, la semaine dernière, le ministre des Finances s’est levé et nous a dit qu’il prévoyait que
les revenus seraient plus élevés que prévus. Oui, les revenus pour la province vont être plus élevés
que prévus ; pourtant, il dit qu’il y a un problème économique.
Le problème n’est pas dans les revenus mais dans les dépenses. Je vais poser ma question une autre
fois au premier ministre. Il nous dit qu’il ne peut pas implanter le plan du rapport Finn à cause du
coût. Étant donné qu’il dit que c’est trop élevé, il doit en connaître le coût. Par conséquent, j’ai une
question bien facile pour le premier ministre : Quel serait le coût d’implanter la réforme du rapport
Finn?
L’hon. S. Graham : Si on veut que ce rapport soit un succès, il faut le mettre en place totalement.
On ne peut pas diviser ce rapport et implanter une portion aujourd’hui et une autre portion dans
quelques années.
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M. Finn est très clair : on doit mettre en place ce rapport d’une façon totale pour qu’il soit un succès.
De voir les attaques personnelles aujourd’hui de ce député devant les élèves indique une chose :
lorsque ce député est frustré, il ne peut pas faire un débat propre. La seule chose qu’il peut faire,
c’est de m’attaquer. Je veux dire aujourd’hui que notre priorité, c’est de stimuler l’économie et de
prendre avantage pour mettre en place le plus gros budget de capital de toute l’histoire de notre
province. Après sept ans d’inaction en éducation postsecondaire à Edmundston, on va mettre en
place un nouveau collège communautaire, quelque chose que vous n’avez jamais fait.
M. Volpé : Le premier ministre nous a dit lui-même, et vous l’avez entendu, Monsieur le président,
qu’il ne peut pas implanter le rapport Finn à cause du coût trop élevé. Il me semble que ma question
est facile. Quel en serait le coût? S’il nous dit que le coût est trop élevé, c’est qu’il est au courant
combien cela va coûter. Quel en serait le coût? Pour les élèves, vous savez, c’est le même premier
ministre qui augmente la dette de la province de 1,2 million par jour. Il se fait des amis avec cela,
mais une fois de plus je vais lui poser la même question.
Maybe translation is a problem. What is the cost of implementing the Finn report? You said that the
cost was too high, and we cannot afford it. What is the cost?
Hon. S. Graham: The work that has been undertaken is an important process. The Department of
Local Government has received the report and is now doing a proper review of the report. It is our
understanding that, to incorporate this report . . . This report cannot be incorporated piecemeal. The
commissioner was very clear that, to see success, it needs to be implemented in its entirety. Today,
New Brunswickers do value the level of government they receive at the municipal level, but, at the
same time, they want efficient and modern services at an affordable price. It would take millions of
dollars to implement this report. At this point, we are very clear: With the budget process that we
are embarking upon, where every program and service is under review, our government is not going
to start new programs at this cost when we are trying to find efficiencies internally. I would
encourage the member opposite—who, yesterday, was Finance Critic, and, today, is Local
Government Critic—to read the report. We have yet to hear whether or not he endorses this report.
Property Tax
Mr. Betts: The Minister of Local Government said that property tax is not a problem, but, this
government, in two years, has done nothing with respect to property tax relief, especially for seniors.
For two years, the government has avoided making any decisions on governance, unconditional
grants, and taxation by hiding behind the Finn report. The government released the report on
taxation just before the summer, so there was no discussion on it. It is releasing this report just
before Christmas, so there is no debate or discussion on this. It is just like yesterday, when the
government allowed no discussion on the capital estimates. The government is doing a disservice
to New Brunswickers. They want a full debate and discussion on the issues. What does the
government have to hide by releasing this report again, at the last minute, right before Christmas,
to avoid proper debate, discussion, and scrutiny?
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022 14:30
Hon. S. Graham: Yesterday, when the Minister of Finance outlined the reforms to taxation, he
clearly indicated that this government is going to address the issue of property taxation. We have
indicated that when the Legislature returns this March, a budget will be tabled, and we will be
embarking on taxation reform. Taxation reform puts more money back for these individuals in the
gallery, to create opportunities for these students to return to New Brunswick or stay in New
Brunswick. Taxation reform that is going to move into single digits for corporations could put us
in a much better position that other jurisdictions in Canada. We are committed to taxation reform,
and that includes property taxation reform.
Mr. Betts: The government’s report on taxation said: We want to put more money in your pockets.
Actions speak louder than words, and, for the last few years, they have had their hands in our
pockets. They raised corporate tax to 13%, small business up to 5%, personal income tax . . . They
did not give us back the HST rebate. The $63 million we would have had certainly would have
helped New Brunswickers to the tune of roughly $1 100 per family. I would like the Premier to be
honest with New Brunswickers and lead by example. If you want tax reform, simply reverse all the
tax increases you have made in the last two years.
Hon. S. Graham: Again, this government is leading by action. When the members opposite stand
up, they are quick to say: Do everything we did. However, they are also quick to say: We embrace
everything you have done. I want to tell you today that investing in postsecondary education, a $160
million investment this year in capital infrastructure . . . This is an issue that sat dormant for seven
years. If the opposition members are quick to criticize this government’s actions, they also have to
be quick to realize that we are investing in the future of this province, and the future of this province
is in the gallery today. For seven years, in the community of Edmundston . . .
Durant sept années, la collectivité d’Edmundston a attendu une décision sur l’éducation
postsecondaire, et c’est notre gouvernement, un gouvernement libéral, qui a finalement fait un
investissement de 35 millions — le plus élevé de l’histoire — pour l’intégration du collège
communautaire et de l’université de Moncton, campus d’Edmundston.
Mr. Betts: Lowering taxes actually stimulates the economy. We proved that in seven years. The
opposition members on the taxation committee voted against the report because New Brunswickers
said no to raising the HST. People in Greater Moncton—Champlain Mall, Trinity shopping, and
Costco—depend on the retail sector for our economy. The Premier was negotiating with the Prime
Minister to increase the HST before this report was even out. Yesterday, the government hinted that
it might delay the increase in the HST to soften the blow before Christmas. In the paper, we read
about the rampant spending, the spending of $60 million on private institutions, money for Liberal
friends to write reports, and needless surveys. There is information about listening to people,
changing the logo, political financing, and political advertising. These are a waste of money. Now,
they are asking civil servants to pay for their spending.
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Will the Premier be honest with the people? Do the right thing and say, right here and right now, that
you will not raise the HST.
Hon. S. Graham: We are standing right here today having an important debate on taxation. We are
clearly committed to lowering corporate income tax in this province. We are clearly committed to
taxation reform, because it was a Liberal government that reformed taxation with the harmonization
of the sales tax. It is this Liberal government that is eliminating corporate capital tax in New
Brunswick. We are also committed to putting more money back into the pockets of New
Brunswickers and to creating an environment where more New Brunswickers will return home.
With this spring’s budget, we will be making significant personal income tax reductions by
simplifying the tax code. I stand here to say, categorically, that by looking prudently at all
government departments internally, we will find those savings. That is the priority of government
and that is the direction in which we are going to be moving.
Petites et moyennes entreprises
Mme Dubé : Tout ce qu’on entend, c’est qu’on diminue le nombre d’emplois au lieu d’en créer
partout dans la province. Ma question concerne les petites et moyennes entreprises. Nous avons
attendu longuement, comme les entreprises de cette province, pour voir quelles seraient les actions
de ce gouvernement pour aider les petites et moyennes entreprises à traverser la crise actuelle. Le
premier ministre a lui-même indiqué que nous commençons à vivre cette crise.
023 14:35
Nous avons besoin d’actions concrètes. Ma question est très simple. Où sont vos initiatives pour
aider les petites et moyennes entreprises de la province à se développer?
L’hon. S. Graham : Vous n’avez qu’à regarder le budget de capital qu’on a déposé la semaine
dernière. On parle d’un investissement de 1,2 milliard de dollars, le plus grand budget de capital
dans l’histoire de notre province.
It will create more than 6 000 person-years of work in this province. Those are jobs for small and
medium-sized businesses through this capital budget investment.
Mme Dubé : Tout gouvernement présente un budget de capital à chaque année et il doit faire des
investissements partout dans la province. Ce n’est pas ce dont on parle. On parle d’une crise
économique. On sait que les petites et moyennes entreprises de la province sont notre plus grand
employeur.
Ma question est très simple. Nous avons même proposé des solutions sur le parquet de la Chambre.
Je répète ma question. Où est l’aide pour les petites et moyennes entreprises? Le Conseil
économique du Nouveau-Brunswick attendait quelque chose, mais on ne voit rien. Je donne la
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chance au gouvernement de nous dire où sont ses actions concrètes pour aider les petites et
moyennes entreprises, soit le plus grand employeur au Nouveau-Brunswick.
L’hon. S. Graham : C’est une bonne question. Au cours de la dernière année et demi, notre
gouvernement a investi plus de 27 millions de dollars pour aider les petites et moyennes entreprises
de la région du Madawaska.
On peut mentionner des entreprises. Il y a Joseph Guy Dupré, dans le secteur de l’agriculture. Il y
a aussi : B.J.L. Enr., Entreprise Maxime Fortier, Gagnon Plomberie & Chauffage, Marie-Eve
Barbier, Rodona Trapping Supplies, Steve Mini Excavation, le Groupe Savoie Inc., la scierie de J.D.
Irving à Grande-Rivière et l’Atelier Gérard Beaulieu. Il y a une liste d’entreprises dans votre région
qui ont profité des investissements faits par notre gouvernement.
N’oubliez pas que le plus grand investissement, c’est 40 millions de dollars pour Fraser Papers, la
plus grande entreprise à Edmundston. Cette entreprise est certainement ouverte aujourd’hui grâce
au travail que le gouvernement a fait en collaboration avec la compagnie.
Mme Dubé : Comme je l’ai dit, tout gouvernement doit faire des investissements dans chacune des
régions. Le premier ministre se vante d’aider Fraser Papers alors qu’il ne leur a donné qu’une
garantie de prêt. Voilà l’aide que le gouvernement a apporté dans la région. Il faut le noter.
Il est clair que le gouvernement actuel n’a aucun plan pour aider les petites et moyennes entreprises.
Tout ce qu’il a cité, c’est ce que le gouvernement doit faire année après année pour stimuler
l’économie et aider certaines entreprises.
Ma question est très simple. Il y a des petites et moyennes entreprises partout au Nouveau-
Brunswick, dans chacune de nos régions. Quel est votre plan? Je crois que le premier ministre nous
a encore dit qu’il n’en a pas. Il est urgent de proposer un plan pour aider les petites et moyennes
entreprises. Il n’y a absolument rien dans le rapport ou dans les déclarations du ministre des
Finances pour aider les petites et moyennes entreprises.
Je répète ma question à l’intention du premier ministre. Quel est votre plan pour aider l’ensemble
de la province? Vous pourriez ramener le taux d’imposition à son ancien niveau, soit 1,5 %. Le
gouvernement a augmenté de 500 % le taux d’imposition des entreprises. Le gouvernement pourrait
le ramener à 1,5 %. Je demande au premier ministre s’il est prêt à faire cela?
L’hon. S. Graham : J’ai seulement indiqué que, dans la région du Madawaska, notre gouvernement
a investi plus de 67 millions de dollars pour aider les entreprises. C’était dans une seule région. Le
but était de créer des emplois et de maintenir ceux qui existent déjà. Cependant, on fait bien plus que
cela.
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Après 7 ans au pouvoir, l’ancien gouvernement conservateur n’a pas fait d’investissement pour le
collège communautaire à Edmundston. Notre gouvernement a investi, la semaine dernière, plus de
35 millions de dollars dans la région du Madawaska dans le cadre de la réforme de l’éducation
postsecondaire. L’opposition a décrié fortement cette réforme à la Chambre, mais elle dit
aujourd’hui que c’est un bon investissement. Notre gouvernement a fait des investissements dans
l’éducation postsecondaire. Aujourd’hui, on en voit les bénéfices.
024 14:40
Health Care
Mrs. Blaney: Yesterday, we saw the resignation of one of the top doctors in the province. Today,
the Minister of Health said, on CBC Radio, that the doctors in RHA B, Zone 2, were suffering from
a case of hysteria and that medical directors come and go. You may find it funny, but it is not. That
the Minister of Health would show such a blatant disrespect for our medical community is deeply,
deeply offensive. The Minister of Health has made it his personal mission to put politics before
policy. He has made it his personal mission to insult as many health care professionals as possible.
Will the Premier immediately intervene to correct the gross misconduct of his Minister of Health?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: At no time did I say anything remotely similar to that. There is no transcript of
any radio interview that will ever depict in any way, shape, or form comments similar to what the
member opposite said. I find it amazing that the member opposite has been the critic for four weeks
now and that she has not asked one single question that affects health care more than 10 mi from her
own home. Dr. Furlong, with whom she used to sit and who is the chairman of the trauma
committee, has, in the CBC interview from this morning and in the Telegraph-Journal, completely
contradicted everything that the member has alleged. He has indicated that the committee is going
to select someone in due course. Apparently, five or six individuals are interested. He has indicated
that we are on schedule with the Dubinsky time lines. Health care is advancing very carefully and
very well in New Brunswick. The trauma system is a provincial system. It is not a local system. Dr.
Furlong said that it was hard to be a year behind, as alleged by the member, when the committee has
only been at it for a year.
Mrs. Blaney: The last time I checked, the trauma system was a provincial system. The last time I
checked, the New Brunswick Heart Centre was a provincial system. For the minister to suggest that
I have not been discussing provincial issues is absolutely false. So far, the minister has heard from
the entire medical community in the Greater Saint John area. A physician has resigned. Nurses are
poised to go on a provincewide strike. There are acute staffing shortages around the province,
including in the ICU trauma units. How many people does the Minister of Health need to hear from
before he begins to listen and give attention to the crisis that is looming in both our provincial
trauma system and our heart care system? How many people does the minister need to listen to
before it completely falls apart?
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L’hon. M. Murphy : Je vais continuer à écouter tous les gens de cette province, y compris ceux du
nord Nouveau-Brunswick.
Rothesay is not Northern New Brunswick.
On va tous travailler ensemble avec le nord du Nouveau-Brunswick, les régions rurales ainsi que
toute la province envers le programme provincial, comme le centre de traumatologie.
We will also talk about the heart program and all the provincial programs that the member has been
bashing for the last several days. She bashed the ICU, the administration, the heart program, and the
committee on trauma. These people have all worked very hard. They have great reputations. The
hysteria that the member opposite is trying to create is not something that is benefiting health care
anywhere in this province. It is better to talk about ideas or concerns rather than this short election
for something later this week.
Mrs. Blaney: The only one doing any bashing around here is the Minister of Health. He has bashed
doctors. The minister has an apparent insatiable desire for power and control. What began as a
personal dislike for one doctor has now transcended into a dislike for an entire medical population.
Why? It is because they actually dared to push back. How dare they push back at the Minister of
Health? Will the Premier intervene immediately to restore confidence and communication between
health professionals in this province and the Department of Health?
025 14:45
Hon. S. Graham: Today, I think it is important that we maintain cool heads in this debate. We have
heard the Leader of the Opposition saying that he is going to practice a different kind of politics.
What we have actually seen on the other side of the House is the politics of division, the most
dangerous type of politics that any party can play in this province. We are elected to serve every
single individual in this province.
Dr. Dennis Furlong, a respected former member of this Chamber on both sides of this House, stated
the following in today’s paper.
“We are searching Canada and elsewhere where somebody may be interested,” Dr. Dennis Furlong
said Wednesday. “We have not rejected anybody, nor have we interviewed or accepted anybody.”
The key requirement of this position is that it be staffed as a bilingual position to serve a provincial
trauma system. That is key, and the committee must endeavour to find the best qualified individual
who meets these key requirements.
Today, what this member is asking is that the committee unilaterally appoint the first applicant,
without undertaking a proper search.
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Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Ambulance aérienne
M. Mockler : On va parler du bilan libéral, ce qu’on appelle la transformation libérale qui met en
danger la qualité de vie des gens du nord du Nouveau-Brunswick. Ici, je veux faire un plaidoyer afin
que le ministre donne ce qui est dû au nord de la province.
Le système de santé actuel est dans une crise, surtout en ce qui a trait au transfert des patients pour
des services spécialisés vers les hôpitaux du Sud. Ici, je parle des patients du Nord qui doivent aller
dans le sud de la province. Les experts le disent : les transferts de patients par ambulance aérienne
prennent trop de temps. Le temps d’attente est inacceptable ; on met en péril la qualité de vie et la
vie de nos résidants.
Ma question est la suivante : Afin de sauver des vies dans le nord de la province...
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Mockler: Time. It’s all about time.
Le ministre de la Santé et le premier ministre peuvent-ils nous assurer qu’ils vont mettre en place
un service d’ambulance aérien pour le nord du Nouveau-Brunswick?
Le président : Le temps pour les questions orales est écoulé.
L’hon. M. Murphy : Un service aérien sera décidé par le comité de traumatologie qui en train de
former un tel comité. D’ici un ou deux ans, ce sera tout décidé par ce comité. Toutefois, le présent
gouvernement, depuis ses deux ans au pouvoir, a fait beaucoup plus que l’ancien gouvernement
pendant sept ans. Nous avons établi un plan pour la construction d’un hôpital psychiatrique, qui va
commencer dans quelques mois, à Campbellton. Nous avons commencé la dialyse partout dans le
Nord. Nous avons commencé les services d’oncologie pour les patients du Nord. Nous avons aussi
ordonné l’agrandissement de la salle d’urgence à l’Hôpital de Tracadie ; toutes des choses qui n’ont
pas été faites pendant les sept ans au pouvoir de l’ancien gouvernement. De plus, nous avons
commencé et complété le réseau d’ambulance intégré unique, alors que l’ancien gouvernement n’a
rien fait pendant sept ans.
Le président : La période des questions est maintenant terminé.
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Reports
Mr. Alward: How do we ever follow either one of those? That is the question today.
Premier Graham has now been Premier for more than two years, and in two years, he has gone from
someone who spoke of bold transformation to someone who was not ready to govern, and then to
someone who, with debacles like French second language, postsecondary education, and health
reform, clearly was not capable of governing. Now, with the shelving of the taxation report and,
yesterday, the Finn report, even before it actually came to the Legislature, he is someone who does
not want to govern.
My question today is for the Premier. Will the Premier inform the House as to when he will take
action on the Finn report? We want to know when he is prepared to move forward.
Hon. S. Graham: It has been an ambitious two years since our government was elected to make
decisions for the province. We started with postsecondary education reforms which the opposition
members criticized at the time but embrace today. These are important reforms that will see
integration of our community colleges and universities. There will be success in the transfer of
credits, and we will also be dealing with the issue of student debt load. That was why, this year, we
froze tuition costs within our universities.
Also, today, I look at reforms in health care. We have moved from eight regional health authorities
to two—something that the Leader of the Opposition said last session that he would turn back with
a motion that he brought forward in this House. We are also looking at a single ambulance provider
today. Pharmacists are prescribing for the first time in the province. These are significant reforms.
016 11:00
There are also reforms in education. Community schools are now being implemented. We see more
physical education specialists and trades teachers in the system. At the same time, while it was a
controversial decision, changing the entry point of early French immersion was required in order
to deal with a number of issues in the education system.
This week, this minister has committed to taxation reform. It is a reform on which the Leader of the
Opposition has yet to take a position. Clearly, we are committed to lowering corporate income taxes
and personal income taxes.
Mr. Speaker: Premier, time.
Mr. Alward: As in the last four weeks of the Legislature, the Premier has refused to answer the
simple questions that were asked. The face and the life of a community are built and are created in
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that community by the people who live in the community, not in a glass tower in Fredericton.
Communities are real, with real people and with real aspirations. A Premier cannot stand up, make
changes, and disinvolve communities. My question is for the Premier. Will he inform the House
today as to whether he is prepared to force amalgamations on communities?
Hon. S. Graham: I want to finish the first question, and I will answer the second. Clearly, we stated
yesterday that, because of the economic situation facing the province—a situation that I do not think
anyone could have predicted at the end of 2007 . . . In fact, just this week, the government of
Canada, under Stephen Harper’s leadership, has said that there is going to be a deficit in Canada.
That was something on which we were up-front with New Brunswickers at the start of this session.
We were one of the first jurisdictions to bring forward an economic stimulus package.
In case the Leader of the Opposition has not noticed, North America is going through a recession,
and New Brunswick is not immune to that recession. That is why the economy is the number one
issue that this government will be dealing with in 2009. We have been clear. Because of the price
tag associated with the local government reform, we are putting that reform on hold. I was also very
clear: At the start of that process, there would be no forced amalgamations.
M. Volpé : Monsieur le premier ministre, vous avez démontré aux gens du Nouveau-Brunswick que,
en 2006-2007, vous n’étiez pas prêt à gouverner. En 2007-2008, le fait de mettre sur pied des
comités et de demander des rapports a démontré très clairement que vous étiez incapable de
gouverner. En 2009-2010, vous démontrez que vous ne voulez pas gouverner, parce que les résultats
des rapports et des commissions commencent à entrer, mais vous ne pouvez pas prendre de
décisions. Ma question au premier ministre, ce matin, est : Quand arrêterez-vous de jouer à la
politique et quand commencerez-vous à gérer le Nouveau-Brunswick pour la prochaine génération
au lieu de la prochaine élection, comme vous le faites présentement?
Hon. S. Graham: I have been blessed. I have been given an opportunity that only 30 people before
me have been afforded. As the 31st Premier, I recognize the importance of every single day and how
quickly a mandate can escape you. Instead of waiting seven years to make a decision, like the former
Conservative government, our government is moving aggressively on a number of key reforms. We
have yet to hear the position of the former Leader of the Opposition. Is he in favour of going back
to eight regional health authorities—something that his former government created, a tangle of
bureaucracy with eight silos? This member voted on a motion in the last session. Still, we have yet
to hear what the opposition stands for. What does the Conservative Party stand for? Does it want
more bureaucracy in health care? In terms of the postsecondary education reform, this member from
Madawaska was quick to criticize, but, today, our government is investing $35 million in a new
community college that is driven by the community. There is integration between the Université de
Moncton and the community college in that community. Is this member now against that reform?
Mr. Speaker: Premier, time.
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017 11:05
Comité du premier ministre sur les questions acadiennes et francophones
M. P. Robichaud : Ma question ce matin s’adresse au premier ministre. Hier, celui-ci a annoncé
son Comité du premier ministre sur les questions acadiennes et francophones. Comme la plupart des
intervenants, l’opposition officielle a aussi été très surprise d’apprendre qu’un premier ministre, en
2008, a besoin d’avoir un comité pour le conseiller sur les questions francophones et acadiennes,
lorsqu’un tiers de la population du Nouveau-Brunswick est francophone et acadienne. De plus, 75 %
de la population du comité de Kent, représenté par le premier ministre à l’Assemblée législative, est
francophone et acadienne.
Donc, ma question au premier ministre est la suivante : Quels sont les critères qu’il a donnés à ce
comité? Quel est le mandat du comité, étant donné que c’était très flou hier dans son annonce?
Quelle est la durée du comité? Quel rapport le comité va-t-il donner au premier ministre et quand
ce rapport va-t-il lui être donné? Voilà des questions très simples pour le premier ministre ce matin?
L’hon. S. Graham : C’est dommage ce matin de voir le député de Tracadie-Sheila critiquer des
gens comme Maurice Basque, Roland Gauvin, Lori-Ann Cyr, de Saint-Basile, Wanita McGraw, de
Tracadie-Sheila, Jeanne Comeau, de Bathurst, Annie Lévesque, de Balmoral, Édouard Allain, de
Fredericton et l’ancien juge Guy Richard. Je veux aussi mentionner Marc Duguay, de Caraquet. Ce
sont des personnes qui veulent servir notre province, et ce que j’ai demandé aujourd’hui aux gens
de cette province, c’est une chance de faire avancer notre province — une province qui est
exceptionnelle aujourd’hui dans la confédération, étant donné que nous sommes la seule province
officiellement bilingue.
Je suis fier de voir qu’il y a des membres d’un comité qui veuillent donner des conseils, et, en même
temps nous dire comment on pourrait améliorer...
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Écoles
M. C. Landry : À titre de porte-parole en matière d’éducation, cela me fait plaisir de poser ma
question au ministre. En premier lieu, j’aimerais surtout remercier les parents, les enseignants, les
directions d’école, les conseils d’éducation et le personnel de soutien qui travaillent à l’amélioration
de l’éducation de nos jeunes.
J’ai une question pour le ministre de l’Éducation, et je lui demande comment il peut expliquer à la
population de Grand-Sault qu’un financement de 10 millions ne sera pas accordé en 2009-2010 pour
le projet de modernisation des écoles élémentaires, qui est la priorité numéro un du district scolaire
3?
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De plus, il y a la question de la polyvalente Roland-Pépin, dans la région de Campbellton. Il s’agit
d’un projet de rénovation de 5 millions afin de répondre aux besoins d’une école communautaire
que vous avez vous-même annoncée, Monsieur le ministre.
Je ne comprends pas, étant donné que, sous l’ancien gouvernement, un plan de 58 millions avait été
annoncé. Pouvez-vous nous confirmer que votre incapacité à démontrer l’importance de l’éducation
parmi le caucus...
Le président : Le temps, Monsieur le député.
L’hon. M. Lamrock : Je suis bien content que le porte-parole en matière d’éducation ait lu les
quotidiens et que, finalement, il soit capable de poser une question.
C’est évident que nous avons l’un des plus grands budgets de capital de toute l’histoire du Nouveau-
Brunswick : c’est presque le double du montant du premier budget de capital de l’ancien
gouvernement. Toutefois, il y a 14 districts scolaires, et bien que ce soit une priorité dans les deux
districts — nous avons l’engagement de le faire —, il y a aussi d’autres écoles qui ont besoin d’aide.
Je prends note que le député n’a pas dit quelle école sur la liste il voulait annuler. Comme toujours,
le Parti conservateur n’est pas d’accord avec les choix qu’on devrait prendre, mais on va faire ces
projets.
On the capital budget, we are certainly going to do those projects, but we have also put the emphasis
into the classroom. That is why we are able to fund 600 innovative teachers, why we have opened
50 community schools, why we have had the largest funding increase in Canada after seven years
of being in the funding basement, and why we have seen the largest increase in literacy scores since
testing began, unlike the stalled literacy scores of six years ago.
I will say this for the Conservative Party . . .
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Minister, time.
Mr. Fitch: The Minister of Education loves to talk, so we were surprised when he refused to take
any questions during his department’s capital estimates.
018 11:10
I know that everyone in Riverview appreciates the projects that came to Riverview. However, there
is a group of parents in Albert County who are wondering what happened to the new Gunningsville
School. It has 12 portables in disrepair and only 10 classrooms. A new Gunningsville School was
very, very high on the DEC’s priority list. When can these parents expect some action on a new
Gunningsville School in Riverview?
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Hon. Mr. Lamrock: Certainly, that is another project we hope to do. With 14 school districts . . .
There has never been a single capital budget, under any government, whether Liberal or
Conservative, that did the top priority in all 14 districts. In District 2, we started the new Moncton
school construction as part of this capital budget. That was the top priority of the district. There are
13 others, and we certainly want to get to them.
I would remind the member that, adding in the construction of the P3 projects, this is the largest
capital budget for construction projects that we have had. Certainly, we have done as many as
before. We know that, when the previous government was in office, it thought that was a good size
for a capital budget. However, we have not heard which project on the list the members opposite
would cut. Do they think the school in Dieppe should be cut to pay for the school in Gunningsville?
Would they cut the school in Restigouche?
Mr. Speaker: Minister, time.
Quarries
Mr. Huntjens: We know that Jamer Materials Ltd. made application with the Department of
Environment to move across Highway 127. The Minister of Environment stated that if there was
enough opposition from the public, no approval would be given. Considering the fact that a petition
with 700 signatures was tabled in the House last year condemning the expansion of the Bayside
quarry and wanting to halt any further quarrying, plus there was the meeting of people from Bayside
and Saint Andrews with the Minister of Environment expressing their objection to the expansion
of the quarry across Highway 127, and where the town of Saint Andrews has clearly spoken out
against this expansion in order to protect its watershed, will the Minister of Environment tell the
House what his government’s answer will be to Jamer’s application to move forward with the
expansion?
Hon. Mr. Haché: I thank the member opposite for the question. He is right. There is a company that
has applied for a rezoning. There is a process with respect to rezoning. It does not matter who it is,
we will follow the process. In that process, there will be public hearings. At that time, people will
have the opportunity to give their views. The decision will be made afterward. I want to assure the
member opposite and the people in his riding that they will have that opportunity to speak their
minds. At that time, we will make a decision.
Water Supply
Mr. Northrup: Water is a great concern on this side of the House. Last August, the present Premier
came to Penobsquis and promised that water would be flowing to the good people of Penobsquis by
the end of 2008. Will the Premier keep this promise, or will it be another broken one?
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Hon. Mr. Haché: I thank the member for the question. Again, that is a commitment that we have
made, and we plan to honour it. However, sometimes, for different reasons, we cannot do it on time,
but, certainly, our government and the government before us made that commitment. We will
honour it.
At the same time, I want to say that we really do feel for the people in the area who do not have
water. That is why our department and our government are working so hard to provide such a
needed commodity. We agree that, if you do not have any water in the house, it is terrible. At the
same time, it gives me the opportunity to encourage everyone in New Brunswick . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.
Nursing Homes
Mrs. Poirier: My question today is for the Minister of Social Development. A few years ago, your
department had a priority list that identified the nursing homes in the province that needed either
major renovations or totally new construction. I am aware that the Villa Maria in Sainte-Marie-de-
Kent, which is over 30 years old, was high on that list. I am also aware that the minister understands
the situation at the Villa Maria, for she personally took the time to visit the nursing home a while
back.
019 11:15
Thirty years ago, most of the residents living there still had the ability to drive their own cars or to
go out on their own to community events. Many were even still able to look after some of their own
personal care. Madam Minister, as you know, that is no longer the situation or the reality for the
residents of the Villa Maria of today. The structure and the equipment no longer answer the reality
of the needs of Level 3 or Level 4 residents. Can the minister confirm that the same still exists
today? Can she confirm that financing will be made available in the coming year for new
construction? When will it be?
Hon. Mr. Kenny: Thank you for my first question as the newly appointed Minister of State for
Seniors. I am glad to respond to that question. I take the department very seriously. Right now, in
the department, we are looking at all the nursing hones within the province, looking at where the
priorities exist. Right now, we will make sure, through the capital budget process, that we will put
the right investments in the right places.
Foyers de soins
Mme Dubé : Je ne peux terminer la session sans parler du projet de la Villa des-Jardins et du Foyer
Saint-Joseph de Saint-Basile. C’est un projet qui avait été annoncé, et le travail avait déjà débuté.
Comme le garage du gouvernement à Edmundston, on a vu le projet des foyers pour personnes âgées
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se faire annuler. Je regarde la ministre du Développement social, parce que c’est elle la responsable
et la gérante du portefeuille. Ma question s’adresse à un de vous deux. J’aimerais certainement
savoir et vous entendre dire que le projet des foyers de soins pour Edmundston, soit la Villa des-
Jardins et le Foyer Saint-Joseph de Saint-Basile, ira de l’avant dans le prochain budget qui sera
présenté à l’Assemblée législative, pour le mieux-être du personnel et, bien entendu, de nos
personnes âgées. Elles ont assez attendu.
Hon. Mr. Kenny: Thank you for my second question as the Minister of State for Seniors. I am very
proud to say that I met with the two groups the other day, just after being appointed about two weeks
ago. We had a very good discussion of that project, and it is a very good project. We will also take
that project under advisement as we are going through the budgetary process.
Mr. MacDonald: Perhaps the third time is the charm. My question is to the Minister of State for
Seniors. I want to know the status of the proposed renovations to the 31-year-old Nashwaak Villa,
in Stanley. When the member for Grand Lake-Gagetown was the minister responsible, he came out
and toured the facility, promising that we would hear back from the department within a month. That
was about six months ago now. The board has been waiting patiently, but patience is wearing thin.
Will the minister commit to some sort of timeline today? I hope it is not just another answer about
the capital budget, because this is not part of the capital budget.
Hon. Mr. Kenny: I have been advised of the situation with the nursing home in that area. It is a very
serious situation, and we are looking at it. We are monitoring it. The department is keeping a very
close eye on what is taking place there. As the new minister, I will make sure that we take a look
at that project in a very timely manner.
Highways
Mr. Williams: On October 7, 2008, the Premier made another recommitment to start work on the
twinning of Highway 11, from Shediac to northern New Brunswick. The Premier said the following
to the Times & Transcript:
“Stay tuned for an announcement,” Graham said in a meeting with the Times & Transcript editorial
board yesterday. “When our government makes a commitment we will follow up on it.”
Can the Premier tell New Brunswickers how long they will need to “stay tuned” before he makes
another announcement? Is this another broken promise?
Hon. S. Graham: There are two important issues today that need to be addressed. Number one is
the fact that the new asset management program is now underway in the member’s own riding of
Kent South. It is the Liberal government that is rehabilitating roads that deteriorated under the
Conservative government for a number of years. The member himself has acknowledged today that
there is more work happening in Kent South, with the new bridge in Cocagne and the roadwork that
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was done in Saint-Antoine, within the village limits, and also from Sainte-Marie to Saint-Antoine.
It is the Liberal government that is finally making the necessary infrastructure investments in Kent
South when the former minister could not deliver.
020 11:20
Pertaining to Route 11, which is something that the Conservatives promised for seven years, I was
shocked to learn that not one bit of work on this file had been undertaken in the Department of
Transportation. We have started that work; planning is under way. I had a very good conversation
with Prime Minister Harper on Monday about looking at ways we can partner. I hope that Senator
Mockler can help deliver the money for the twinning of Route 11.
Fisheries
Mr. Olscamp: Earlier this week, the Minister of Fisheries announced an accelerated marketing plan
for the inshore fishers and lobster fishers of our province, a fine step for step one. I congratulate him
on that, but I have a question. What is the minister proposing to do for the next step to offset the cost
of diesel fuel, which is really getting in the way of our fishers getting out to their product, and to
offset the high cost of bait? What will he do to help fishers and processors weather this storm and
make sure that they meet their financial requirements and not loose the investments they have made
over the years?
Hon. Mr. Doucet: I would like to thank the critic opposite for the question; I certainly appreciate
the question. I look forward to the critic being able to come to the department to see exactly what
we are doing and to see the work we are doing on our marketing efforts. The key ingredient is to
ensure that fishers get an adequate price for their seafood products. That is why we have been
working for quite a long period of time on the diversification of our markets. That is the road we are
going to continue on. We have to diversify our markets. We have been hanging our hat on the U.S.
market for a long period of time; it is time to change that and to diversify some of our marketing
opportunities.
Écoles
M. C. LeBlanc : J’aimerais tout d’abord remercier le ministre de l’Éducation pour la nouvelle école
Sainte-Thérèse. J’aimerais qu’il puisse procurer un dernier cadeau de Noël aux parents en
confirmant ce matin qu’un centre parascolaire sera bel et bien construit dans la nouvelle école
Sainte-Thérèse.
L’hon. M. Lamrock : Je suis bien content que, finalement, compte tenu de l’augmentation de la
population à Dieppe, il y a un projet pour l’agrandissement de l’école Sainte-Thérèse. On a eu
besoin d’un nouveau député nommé LeBlanc à Dieppe pour finaliser le projet, mais c’était sans
aucun doute bon pour la région. Je suis bien content qu’on l’ait fait.
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On a certainement parlé un peu avec les représentants du district scolaire 1 au sujet de l’avenir du
centre de la petite enfance dans le district. Ils sont intéressés à le garder. Bien que ce soit un projet
du district, il y a maintenant une demande pour un peu d’aide de la province. On veut certainement
le faire. On va travailler avec nos partenaires dans le district. J’espère qu’on pourra avoir de bonnes
nouvelles au cours de la nouvelle année.
Health Care
Mr. Jack Carr: This is a very important issue to families in my riding and also throughout New
Brunswick. Item 13 of the Disability Action Plan Strategy concerns the issue of funding home
ventilators so that people with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy can live longer and can also
live in their homes. For a person to stay in a hospital on a ventilator costs $1 500 a day, or $500 000
a year. If the government funded home ventilators, it would only cost $5 000 a year for that family.
The Premier promised last year to fund home ventilators, but there still has been no action on this.
In tough economic times, there would be clear savings by funding this program instead of forcing
New Brunswickers into hospitals. You cannot wait for the budget in April for this. My question for
the Premier is this: Will he keep his promise to look for savings and efficiencies, and will he also
keep his promise to immediately fund home ventilators? This will not only save taxpayers’ dollars;
it will also save lives.
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: As we know, and as the critic across the way knows, we have struck a
committee with the advisory council to the Premier on persons with disabilities to look at the issue
of ventilators and how we may be able to incorporate ventilators at home. We need to look at a lot
of issues with respect to ventilators to make sure they are safe. For instance, how can we have
backups for ventilators if the power should go out? It is a complex issue which we are working on
with the advisory council to the Premier on persons with disabilities. We are moving the file forward
with them.
Mr. Urquhart: My question is for any minister who will give us a positive answer.
021 11:25
(Interjection.)
Mr. Urquhart: Stay there. I may need you.
The fire hall in Harvey is in desperate need of being replaced. After a second year of asking, no
funds have been set aside, even for the preparation work for the facility. They have to park the fire
trucks outside. They have to stop traffic when they move in and out of the fire hall. Will the
government commit to work with the village of Harvey and the Harvey fire department, at least to
do the preparation work for a new fire hall in the village?
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Hon. B. LeBlanc: I am presently doing my estimates and will be giving an answer. We are
definitely working with the people, and we are committed to looking at that project. We will come
through with the answers for the member very shortly.
Air Ambulances
Mr. Mockler: Since the Premier speaks about Prime Minister Harper, I want to say that there is one
thing that we, on this side of the House, know about Prime Minister Harper: He keeps his promises.
I cannot say the same for the Premier.
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Mockler: I know that, whatever the Prime Minister will tell the Premier, the Prime Minister
will deliver for New Brunswickers.
Ma question s’adresse au ministre de la Santé. Les médecins du Nord, soit de Restigouche-Chaleur
et de la Péninsule acadienne, veulent de meilleurs services d’ambulance aérienne. Le temps des
études est terminé. Les médecins et le personnel infirmier sont très, très inquiets. C’est une question
de sauver des vies. Le ministre peut-il nous confirmer que nous aurons de meilleurs services
d’ambulance aérienne pour les gens du nord du Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: Since I was mentioned in that question, I want to answer. First, the Minister of
Health is definitely working hard to implement a provincewide single ambulance system which
brings equality to every region of the province, and we have made significant progress.
I want to take this opportunity, because, if the rumours are true, I want to state publicly that it has
been an honour serving with Percy Mockler. When I worked in the Department of Natural
Resources, I remember an opportunity I had to visit his home. He had a lot of Tory paraphernalia
across the wall. We had lunch together that day. I have to say that, over the years, while we may
have had differences of opinion—and he has been a bit of a political conniver every once in a
while—his heart is in the right place. On behalf of all the Members of the Legislative Assembly, I
hope you enjoyed your final answer in this Chamber.
M. Mockler : Étant donné que c’est ma dernière question pour aujourd’hui, car je vais revenir, je
veux dire au premier ministre que je ne me suis jamais caché lorsque j’ai frappé à sa porte. Vous
avez fait des choses pour ma population. Cependant, je veux vous dire qu’il faut réduire les temps
d’attente pour les résidents du nord du Nouveau-Brunswick quand il s’agit d’offrir de meilleurs
soins de santé. Nous savons que plus de 900 patients sont envoyés dans les hôpitaux du sud de la
province pour les services spécialisés. Nous avons besoin de services d’ambulance aérienne
adéquats pour notre population. Quel bel exemple à envisager, dans la région de Restigouche-
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Chaleur, soit des services d’ambulance aérienne qui serviraient toutes les régions francophones du
Nouveau-Brunswick.
022 11:30
Le premier ministre peut-il nous confirmer ce matin qu’on pourra dire à ma population que leur
cadeau de Noël sera d’avoir un meilleur service d’ambulance aérien chez nous, dans le nord du
Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: Today, I am very proud of the air ambulance system that started under a former
Liberal government. It is now seeing increased capacity, and we are also working in cooperation
with the other provinces to provide an air ambulance system that is second to none. It makes regular
trips on a daily basis to Montréal, to Halifax, and to points outside of our province to transfer
patients. We are always looking at ways to improve that service.
On a final and more serious note, our government has been able to establish a very good working
relationship with the government of Stephen Harper. In that relationship, we have stood shoulder
to shoulder to benefit the people of this province. We have put aside partisan politics, because that
is what New Brunswickers want. In an announcement yesterday, the government of Canada finally
recognized that there is a deficit, something that we have acknowledged in this Chamber. We have
been up-front with New Brunswickers. The federal government has also announced a $30-billion
aid package for Canadians, coming in January. If there is a new role that the member from
Madawaska will be taking in Ottawa, I hope that he will be fighting for our fair share of that $20-
to $30-billion stimulus package, on behalf of all New Brunswickers.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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IMG_1776nb

BE PATIENT!!! JUST SCROLL DOWN IF YOU LIKE THIS LITTLE BLOG...I'LL LINK IT ON THE SIDE BAR IN A FEW DAYS FROM NOW!!! I TIRED TO CUT IT BUT IT WON'T WORK!!! JUST BE PATIENT!!!!

You asked for it and now you got it!!! I really hate to blog all this BS in this blog but I will!!!

I'll change this particular with the new questions.

I'll post them in my link.

You people can debate the issues in there!!!!

For now...it'll take some space in the blog but it'll only be for a few days!!!

Enjoy!!!

UGH!!!!


ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
March 18, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 18 mars 2009
M. P. Robichaud : C’est la première période des questions orales après le dépôt du budget. Comme
le veut la tradition, je demande le consentement unanime de la Chambre pour ajouter 15 minutes à
la période des questions orales.
Le président : D’accord?
Des voix : D’accord.
Self-Sufficiency
Mr. Alward: Today, my first question is for the Premier, and it is very straightforward: Is the
Premier prepared to stand today and admit to New Brunswickers that New Brunswick is further
from self-sufficiency today than when his government took over?
Hon. S. Graham: Today, our province is facing challenges similar to those faced by every other
jurisdiction in North America, or globally, for that matter. I am optimistic for the future of our
province, as many New Brunswickers are today. We all know that when you set a long-term goal,
there may be bumps on the road to achieving that goal. Today, our government is taking steps by
investing record sums in capital infrastructure, as we announced prior to Christmas, and also by
creating jobs during the downturn in this economy, to help New Brunswickers cope with the
downturn and the recession. At the same time, we are balancing the strategic decisions, the difficult
decisions, that had to be made today. This is coupled with the comprehensive tax cuts that we have
put in place, which will help to stimulate New Brunswick’s economy. Because of this, I believe that
when the recovery occurs, New Brunswick will be in a much stronger position compared to many
other jurisdictions, and we will be on the road to self-sufficiency.
Mr. Alward: Perhaps today, with the Premier’s last words, he has admitted that the province is not
on the road to self-sufficiency. Clearly, since this government took office, it has been dealing with
a mountain. Just about two weeks ago, the Premier had the audacity to say in the media that we were
on track. The question is, What track? The net debt-to-GDP ratio will climb from 25% to 32% under
the Shawn Graham government. This will undoubtedly tarnish New Brunswick’s credit rating and
ability to borrow. Can the Premier explain how this moves us closer to self-sufficiency?
Hon. S. Graham: Just last week, we had a very important roundtable, and the Leader of the
Opposition was invited by a number of community groups to participate. This was not a roundtable
of government; it was led by community activists and people who wanted to engage in developing
and furthering the advancement of our province.
What I took away from that roundtable— and I hope the Leader of the Opposition came away with
the same message—was that, clearly, as leaders, New Brunswickers today are expecting us to
provide concrete plans to better the lives of our citizens. Our government, today, has presented such
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a plan. What is missing from the debate in the Chamber this morning is the Conservative Party’s
plan. We have brought forward a balanced five-point plan that we feel will help New Brunswick
through these difficult times. Families are being affected, make no mistake about it. When
individuals are losing their jobs in the mills, and when we look at a community such as Miramichi,
which has representatives here today . . . We are working proactively to engage companies to move
into these locations, and we provide support and access to capital for existing companies in the
Miramichi region. What I can say is that we have a plan, and it is the best plan to move this province
forward.
Mr. Alward: What is really ironic in the Premier’s last comments is this. I sat at the same table
where he sat last week, the roundtable on self-sufficiency. Do you know what the clear priority focus
of the people sitting around that table was? It was education, K-to-12. It was a focus on education
and literacy.
018 11:10
Apparently, the Premier was asleep at the switch at that meeting. What has the government done in
this budget? It has gutted education.
Le premier ministre peut-il expliquer comment un déficit de 740 millions de dollars cette année et
une hausse de la dette nette de près de 2 milliards de dollars sous sa responsabilité permettront au
Nouveau-Brunswick d’atteindre l’autosuffisance?
Hon. S. Graham: Yesterday, we released a five-point plan over four years to return to balanced
budgets. We also talked about the $1.2-billion capital infrastructure investment. We were one of the
first jurisdictions in North America to recognize the severity of the economic downturn. Yesterday,
we also released a plan, which I have to say has been received with very good comments, in fact,
even from the federal government. Yesterday, the federal minister fully acknowledged that New
Brunswick is moving in the right direction with its plan to lower taxes. We are also continuing to
invest in our health care and education priorities.
On the education front, I was pleased to see the student leaders acknowledging yesterday that, with
the substantial reforms in postsecondary education, we took one of the biggest jumps forward that
this province has seen in decades. The capital investments in Edmundston and Saint John are critical
investments for the future.
Finally, we have to have responsible management of government expenditures. Today, we saw the
member for New Maryland-Sunbury West stand up, saying that we need more money for unions.
The member for Edmundston—Saint-Basile stood up, saying that we need more tax cuts and that
we have not gone far enough. Then, the member for York said that, on top of all this, we need to
balance the budget right now . . .
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ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, time.
Mr. Alward: Let’s take it from Communications New Brunswick and the self-promotion of this
government. The ads taken out in newspapers are completely unacceptable. Talk about decision-
making.
Twice in the past two years, the Auditor General has called on the Premier to provide benchmarks
and financial updates to monitor the progress toward self-sufficiency, and, twice, the Premier has
ignored those recommendations. For the second year in a row, the Premier has ignored this advice
and refuses to show New Brunswickers the financial status of the province’s books. Can the Premier
explain what he is trying to hide from New Brunswickers?
Hon. S. Graham: I know that the Leader of the Opposition is recognizing today that the self-
sufficiency agenda is important for New Brunswick, and I appreciate that. There are different points
of view on how we can attain self-sufficiency in New Brunswick. As we saw at last week’s
roundtable meeting, self-sufficiency has different meanings for different individuals, and that is the
important part of this whole process. This is not the mandate of one government, one political party,
or one leader. It has to be engaged at all levels of society.
Charles Cirtwill, the Executive Vice President of the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market
Studies, said in the National Post yesterday: “the budget puts New Brunswick on the right track to
achieve its goal of self-sufficiency by 2026”. We know that there are challenges. Our government
has recognized those challenges, which are affecting families. Let’s not forget the individuals who
are out there, paying their bills, attempting to provide the best support for their loved ones, and, at
the same time, hoping that they have a job at the end of the day. Our government is cognizant of
that, and we want to make sure that we are there in a time of need. We presented a plan. What is
missing in this debate is: What is the plan of the Conservative Party?
Mr. Alward: Over the past couple of years, the Premier has been talking about 2026, trying to build
up people’s hope. Today, the reality of what is taking place in New Brunswick is that people are
hurting today. People are hurting all around New Brunswick. People cannot afford to pay their home
heating costs. What does this government choose to do? It chooses to increase the money that it
spends on self-promotion and on Communications New Brunswick.
019 11:15
Governments pride themselves on legacies. Obviously, this government has created a legacy of
fiscal incompetence. According to media reports, the Shawn Graham government has led our
province to the most serious deterioration of our province’s finances in history. At $2.5 billion, this
government will have managed to rack up more debt, in the shortest period of time, than any other
government in history. That is its legacy. To the Premier: Is this part of your government’s self-
sufficiency legacy?
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ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Hon. S. Graham: We were elected in 2006 on the Charter for Change platform, which included
the Self-Sufficiency Agenda. As Premier, yes, you have to provide hope for the future; yes, you have
to provide optimism for the province. I will never, ever, apologize for being this province’s greatest
cheerleader. I am willing to admit today that, when you set out bold transformational change for a
province, there are going to be challenges in trying to implement that change. We cannot shirk our
responsibilities. We cannot shirk the responsibility the electorate has given to us.
I know, today, that no economist predicted this downturn or the severity of this recession. Yes, we
have had to revise our growth forecast. We are in recession today in the province of New Brunswick,
and it is impacting people’s lives. That is why this government is providing the essential services
that are required in health care and education. We are making the difficult decisions, and those
difficult decisions include the spending restraint of $182 million that was tabled yesterday, yet,
every single one of the members opposite stood up and said that they would reverse those cuts. If
they are going to reverse . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Alward: Obviously, the Premier has been asleep at the switch again, as he was last week at the
Round Table on Self-Sufficiency. This morning, we came forward with an opportunity to directly
cut Communications New Brunswick, to eliminate the self-promotion and the advertising that has
been taking place in the province. It is completely unacceptable. That is a clear choice that this
government has not made. As you know, I believe in tax cuts. However, I must admit that the tax
cuts that happened yesterday are a sham. It took just 15 minutes for this government to break its
word and increase taxes by $135 million, which has impacted people in New Brunswick over the
last two years. Yet, it is going to take them four years from now to bring it back to 2006 levels. If
the tax cuts are meant to stimulate the economy, as the Minister of Finance said yesterday, can the
Premier explain what he was thinking when he increased the taxes in 2006? Was he trying to
destimulate the economy?
Mr. Speaker: I want to clarify one thing before the Premier answers. This is the second question
that I have allowed to go to 1 minute and 20 seconds, so the answer will be equal in time.
Hon. S. Graham: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me begin by saying that, last week, when I invited
the Leader of the Opposition—and I did put the request out for him to participate in the Round Table
on Self-Sufficiency—the Leader of the Opposition gave me his word that he would not play politics
with that roundtable. Yet, today, he is saying that I was asleep at the switch at the roundtable. That
is not the word that the Leader of the Opposition gave me. He promised the people of New
Brunswick that he would provide a different kind of leadership. I expect him to keep his word and
not to play politics with such an important group of individuals who are dedicated to moving this
province forward. What occurred around that table, inside that meeting . . . It was a closed meeting.
I would appreciate it if he would honour his agreement on that.
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020 11:20
I would also like to state today that, with the plan to lower taxes, this is the single largest tax
reduction in our province’s history. It is a $380-million reduction that will position New Brunswick
with the lowest corporate tax rate in the country. It is also going to position New Brunswick with
a simplified personal income tax code second only to Alberta.
The member for Madawaska-les-Lacs stood up yesterday saying that he supported tax cuts.
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. S. Graham: Then the Minister of Finance said . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Alward: This morning, the Premier is saying that they want to hear from us about our ideas and
where we want to go. Before Christmas, I wrote a letter to the Premier, inviting me, along with our
Finance Critic and the previous Finance Minister . . . We were prepared to sit down with this
government and look at the fiscal challenges. However, what did the government do? The Premier
sent a letter back to me in January, saying: Due to your constitutional obligations, we are not in a
position to ask you to work with us.
That tells you the real nature of this government. New Brunswickers have lost two and a half years
of progress under the Shawn Graham government. Yesterday’s flip-flop on taxes confirms that this
government has no vision and has been steering New Brunswick in the wrong direction. Will the
Premier admit today that he made a mistake by increasing taxes in 2007?
Hon. S. Graham: The Leader of the Opposition is complaining that he was not sitting at the Cabinet
table, involved in the budget process. However, he has an opportunity today to present their plan in
its entirety. We presented $182 million in spending restraint. Difficult decisions had to be made.
Every single member opposite stood up and said: We do not like the cuts that have been imposed.
The member for York said: I am against the Mactaquac Provincial Park closure in winter. The
members opposite said that they were against the ferry services being downgraded or closed. There
is a whole litany of areas where the members opposite are saying: Make cuts, but do not touch me.
That is not what governing is all about. You have to treat everyone fairly. You have to make difficult
decisions.
Aujourd’hui, notre gouvernement a pris des décisions difficiles. Ce qui manque dans ce débat
aujourd’hui, après tout le temps de préparation pour la session, c’est le plan de l’opposition
officielle. Où est le plan du Parti conservateur? Aujourd’hui, les gens d’en face critiquent beaucoup,
mais ils n’ont aucune vision pour l’avenir de notre province.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Mr. Alward: It has taken a couple of years, and the Premier still has not figured out which side of
the House he is sitting on. We have offered to collaborate in many areas, including on a roundtable.
The Premier invited me to the meeting last week. This side of the House came forward with the idea
of a roundtable on the economy. There are certainly many other examples. Unfortunately, this
morning, and certainly over the past two and a half years, we have seen that the Shawn Graham
government has broken its promises time and time again. There are examples in the budget
announced yesterday that are broken promises from the government’s own previous commitments.
Can the Premier explain why he has broken so many of his Charter for Change promises? Why
should New Brunswickers believe him now about his commitment to reduce taxes?
Hon. S. Graham: There seems to be repetition in the questioning. The Leader of the Opposition
seems to be debating the level that the government is allowing them to participate in the debate.
Well, this is the Chamber for debate. As I said, we presented spending restraint to the tune of $182
million. We have yet to hear where the opposition stands on the wage freeze. Are the members
opposite in favour of the wage freeze, where everyone is treated equitably across the board, where
we have a number of unions that have signed on? Are they against the wage freeze? These are
important areas for debate on which we need clarity today.
I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition is choosing to criticize me for a closed-door
meeting that we had on the Round Table on Self-Sufficiency. I participated in that in good faith, and
I know that the Leader of the Opposition did as well. I hope that the next meeting will not have those
details brought forward to this Chamber. However, I can say today that circumstances have changed
considerably.
021 11:25
We brought forward our platform in 2006, and the majority of those commitments have been met.
However with the economic downturn and the severity and rapidity of this downturn and the impact
it has had on New Brunswick families today, we made a conscious decision . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Budget
Mr. Fitch: Today the headlines read: “Bad news budget”. This government is trying to hide behind
that bad news by wrapping it in tax cuts. If the government had listened to the opposition and
listened to the public and actually kept its election promises, it would not have increased taxes two
years ago, but then it would have nowhere to hide today.
The number one point of this five-point plan that the government has talked about is back to
balanced budgets in four years. However, the Minister of Finance excluded the pensions costs of
$300 million in order to project that he would be back on track in four years. The question I have
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ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
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for the Minister of Finance is this: Is that $300-million cost of pensions actuarially calculated, or
is it just a shot in the dark?
Hon. V. Boudreau: We have been trying to figure out where the opposition is on the budget we
tabled yesterday. The opposition seems to be all over the map and does not seem to have a unified
position whatsoever, but I would draw the opposition members’ attention to their federal colleague
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who said that the government of New Brunswick’s budget will build
its business tax advantage by reducing its corporate income tax rate. He further said: “I am
encouraged by the progress being realized to date and believe that businesses and the citizens of
New Brunswick will benefit significantly from the provincial government’s proposal to reduce its
corporate income tax rate to 10 per cent in 2010.”
I could go on. Kevin Gaudet, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said his
organization was pleased to see New Brunswick moving toward a flatter tax system similar to
Alberta’s and called the budget one of the most fiscally prudent that the country has seen in some
time. I quote: “Other provinces should be paying attention.”
Mr. Fitch: Talking about being all over the map, the Minister of Finance failed to answer my
question, which was pretty straightforward and simple. What we are trying to establish here is that
there is a five-point plan. This is Point 1. He cannot even answer the questions on his first point.
People are angry, and we have lots of statements that we are going to read later on in the next couple
of months. The point I am trying to make here today is that people are angry because governments
have tried to hide behind smoke and mirrors, at times, in budgets. I am giving the minister an
opportunity to clear the smoke, put down the mirrors, and tell the people . . . Taking the pension
calculation out of this budget, which is projected to be balanced in four years, is not actuarially
accurate. I want the minister to tell the people today whether this will be a balanced budget in four
years or is this just more smoke and mirrors.
Hon. V. Boudreau: I was definitely going to get to the member’s question, but I wanted to get those
quotes on the record. These are people that you quote quite often.
When it comes to the pension returns, we said very clearly yesterday that we are not going to . . .
The pension markets are going to come back. This is a long-term situation. The pensions are going
to correct themselves. We estimate them, as we speak, to be in the vicinity of $300 million.
What is not clear is, again, the opposition saying that we should have cut an additional $300 million
out of the budget. That is what I am hearing. We put $182 million worth of restraint in this year’s
budget, realizing we cannot tackle it all in one year. That is why we laid out a four-year plan to
address the deficit. What I am hearing from the opposition is that we should have cut even deeper
to account for those pension returns, which are not controlled by us but by the markets. We are
confident they will correct themselves in due time.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 14 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Mr. Fitch: I am just asking the Minister of Finance to be honest in his actuarial accounting of the
pension plan in the future. He is telling the people it is a balanced budget in four years. We are
disagreeing. These numbers do not point to a balanced budget. If he wants to quote, why does he
not quote his leader, who said: There will be no deficits on my watch.
022 11:30
We can go on and on about quotes, but let’s settle this another way. If we cannot agree on whether
or not this would be a balanced budget in four years, let us ask an independent body. Let us go to
the Auditor General. If the Minister of Finance asked the Auditor General about the figures on page
12 of the English copy and on page 14 in the French copy, does the Minister of Finance think that
the Auditor General would, in fact, agree that in four years, this would be a balanced budget?
Hon. V. Boudreau: We have said very clearly that we are not going to let the downturn in the
pension markets affect the services provided by the government. What I am hearing from the
opposition is that we should be slashing every program and that we should be massively laying off
civil servants to make up for that $300 million. We believe that $300 million is an entry in the books
but not something that we feel we need to slash and cut government services and programs to make
up for. Pension plans are a long-term investment. That is something that is going to correct itself
over the long run, and we believe that we need to address what is more of a structural deficit, which
is the $442 million identified in the same documents that the member is referencing. We will have
that deficit beat within the next four years.
M. P. Robichaud : Je vais tenter d’avoir un peu plus de succès ce matin que mes deux autres
collègues. Vous savez, la plupart des médias ont dit du budget déposé hier qu’il contenait de très
mauvaises nouvelles. D’ailleurs, les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick se demandent ce matin si ce
n’était pas un cauchemar qu’ils ont vécu hier soir au cours de la journée de la Saint-Patrick.
Le ministre des Finances a admis dans tous les médias ce matin que la meilleure manière de stimuler
l’économie était de réduire les taxes et les impôts. Le ministre des Finances admettra-t-il une fois
pour toute que le fait d’augmenter de 135 millions de dollars les taxes et les impôts, comme il l’a
fait au cours de l’année financière 2007-2008, était une erreur?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Ce que je trouve très curieux aujourd’hui, c’est que l’ancien porte-parole de
l’opposition en matière de finances a vanté, hier soir, notre programme de réductions des impôts.
Aujourd’hui, il est silencieux. Je trouve cela bizarre.
L’opposition ne semble pas pouvoir prendre une décision. D’un côté, un député a dit qu’il faut offrir
plus de réductions d’impôts, alors qu’un autre nous dit qu’il ne faut pas en offrir autant. Quelqu’un
a dit qu’il faut éliminer davantage de programmes et de services, mais quelqu’un d’autre a dit qu’on
ne devrait pas le faire.
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Le député d’Oromocto-Gagetown a été très clair dans les journaux quand il a dit que ce n’était pas
le temps maintenant d’éliminer des programmes et des services. De l’autre côté, le député de
Riverview nous dit qu’il faut en éliminer davantage afin de compenser pour les pertes au niveau des
pensions. Alors, j’aimerais bien avoir une position claire de la part de l’opposition.
M. P. Robichaud : Notre position est très simple. Nous posons des questions faciles au ministre des
Finances. S’il avait l’intégrité de répondre à nos questions, les réponses devraient également être
très faciles. Nous posons une question très simple. En 2007-2008, le gouvernement libéral, sous sa
direction, a décidé d’augmenter les taxes et les impôts de 135 millions de dollars alors qu’il n’y avait
pas de déficit à l’horizon. Il n’y avait pas de situation économique mondiale comme celle avec
laquelle on est aux prises aujourd’hui. À ce moment-là, le gouvernement a dit que c’était une très
bonne chose d’augmenter les taxes et les impôts de 135 millions. Hier, le ministre nous a annoncé
une diminution des taxes et des impôts en nous disant que c’est la meilleure façon de stimuler
l’économie et de créer des emplois.
Donc, à mon avis, la question est très simple. Le ministre des Finances admettra-t-il une fois pour
toute que l’augmentation de 135 millions de dollars des taxes et des impôts en 2007-2008 était une
erreur, qu’elle n’était pas nécessaire et que c’est une des raisons pour laquelle le Nouveau-
Brunswick est aux prises avec un déficit aussi majeur aujourd’hui? C’est parce qu’on paie le prix
de leurs actions de 2007-2008 aujourd’hui.
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Le député de Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou peut s’exciter tant qu’il le voudra
à la Chambre. Les faits parlent d’eux-mêmes. Le chef de l’opposition s’est prononcé contre un taux
unique d’imposition sur le revenu des particuliers. La députée d’Edmundston—Saint-Basile vient
tout juste de se prononcer contre un taux d’imposition sur le revenu à deux taux et deux tranches.
023 11:35
Hier soir, aux nouvelles de Radio-Canada, le député de Madawaska-les-Lacs a dit que les baisses
d’impôt que nous avons offertes à la population du Nouveau-Brunswick étaient bien acceptées par
la population du Nouveau-Brunswick et par l’opposition officielle. Nous parlons de réduction
d’impôt depuis bien longtemps. Notre plan et les discussions pour réduire les impôts ont débuté bien
avant la crise et continueront bien après la crise pour mieux positionner le Nouveau-Brunswick afin
de pouvoir tirer pleinement avantage des rebondissements que nous verrons dans l’économie une
fois que la tempête sera passée.
M. P. Robichaud : Les paroles venant de la bouche de ce ministre des Finances qui nous parle de
réduction de taxes et d’impôts, lorsqu’il les a augmentés en 2007-2008 quand la situation
économique ne l’imposait ou ne l’exigeait pas, sont de la foutaise, de la bouillie pour les chats.
Personne ne va manger de cette salade.
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Ma question au ministre des Finances est très simple. Il se plaît à citer des gens qui sont en faveur
de ce budget. Pourquoi ne cite-t-il pas Denis Losier qui, à la radio de Radio-Canada, a dit ce matin
qu’il avait certaines préoccupations quant au fait que vous alliez atteindre l’équilibre budgétaire dans
quatre ans? Vous pourriez le citer lui aussi. De plus, c’est un de vos anciens ministres libéraux.
Pourquoi le ministre ne cite-t-il pas certains économistes qui dénoncent également le budget déposé
hier? Pourquoi ne cite-t-il pas tous ceux et celles qui disent que le gouvernement n’arrivera pas à
l’équilibre budgétaire dans quatre ans?
La question est très simple, Monsieur le ministre. Répondez-y donc une fois pour toutes. Allez-vous
admettre que c’était une erreur, en 2007-2008, d’avoir augmenté les taxes et les impôts de 135
millions de dollars et d’avoir créé la situation économique avec laquelle le Nouveau-Brunswick est
aux prises aujourd’hui à cause de votre inaction, de votre manque de jugement et de votre manque
de vision?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : La raison pour laquelle je n’ai pas besoin de citer davantage les gens à
l’extérieur de la Chambre, c’est que j’ai suffisamment de citations du côté de l’opposition pour
démontrer que celle-ci n’a de position claire sur aucun dossier par rapport à ce budget. À la fin de
la journée, c’est très clair : nous offrons la plus grande réduction d’impôt dans l’histoire de la
province du Nouveau-Brunswick. Dès cette année, 144 millions retourneront dans les poches des
contribuables du Nouveau-Brunswick. Au bout de quatre ans, 380 millions de dollars retourneront
dans les poches des contribuables du Nouveau-Brunswick, ce qui nous placera parmi les provinces
les mieux positionnées au Canada pour tirer pleinement avantage du rebondissement de l’économie.
Taxation
Mr. Betts: New Brunswickers are hurting. Many people with investments saw them drop to half of
what they were last year. Businesses are hurting. After two and a half years of raising our taxes,
yesterday, in the budget speech, the government said that lowering taxes would stimulate the
economy. On the road to Damascus, they have finally seen the light. Where were they two and a half
years ago? They forecast a $400-million deficit, saying that that was what we had left them; the
Auditor General said no. They forecast a surplus for last year, and there was a $265-million deficit.
The tax cuts do not even bring us back to where we were. They have raised personal income tax by
4.5%, small business tax by 500%, and property tax by 40% in the past five years. They have raised
corporate tax; they have just brought it back to where we were. Who is to say that this government
will even be in power when these big tax decreases come in? There is no guarantee of that. In 2006,
we proposed a cap on property taxes. The government said: No, we are going to have to study it.
What will the government do right now to give property tax relief?
Hon. V. Boudreau: Again, it is very difficult to get any clear direction from the opposition
members as to where they stand on anything that was presented yesterday. I want to be crystal clear:
Yesterday, we tabled what will be the most significant onetime tax reduction in the province’s
history. We have heard very clearly from New Brunswickers that they want to pay lower taxes. We
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are going to be giving more tax money back to New Brunswickers. We will be doing it this year,
next year, and in the two years after that. In the two and a half years we have been here, we have
provided relief on the gas tax. We have provided relief in many areas. The opposition conveniently
tends to forget about those things. We will be giving more money back to New Brunswickers than
ever before, and we will do that within the four-year implementation plan.
024 11:40
Mr. Betts: The government is not even going to give back what it took away. It has had its hands
in our pockets for the last two and a half years. Some 95% of our businesses in this province are
small businesses, and the government has done nothing to reduce that tax rate. We lowered it from
1.5% to 1%, but the government raised it to 5%. The government said, in the budget, that it just
decided to take action in December. The Auditor General, in 2007, said that this province does not
have the economy to sustain tax increases. That was a year and a half ago. Why did the government
only see the light in December?
Instead of a cap on property taxes, the government said that it would do a study. Instead of lowering
small business tax, it raised it. Instead of lowering corporate tax, the government raised it. Instead
of lowering income taxes, it raised them. Seniors and those on fixed incomes cannot sustain 9.2%
or 7% increases in property taxes. The government is asking for a wage freeze. Is it now prepared
to offer a property tax freeze?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The member opposite says that there is nothing in this budget for businesses.
It is funny, because various business stakeholders were out yesterday, saying that they saw lots of
positive in this budget. They saw reductions in corporate income tax. They saw the ceiling for small
business corporate income tax raised. They have seen improvements to the small business investor
tax credit. They have seen improvements to the labour-sponsored venture capital tax credit. Other
credits have been put in place to help our forestry sector and to help our energy hub move forward,
so we have done lots for business in this budget.
In terms of the property tax accountability mechanism that we have talked about, this morning, the
member for Riverview said in the newspaper: If I were still Mayor of Riverview, I would not be in
favour of this mechanism. Then, you have the member opposite saying that we should be putting
a cap on assessments. We have looked at this, as have many other jurisdictions. Fair market value
is the way to go, but we need to have this accountability mechanism for municipalities, local service
districts, and the province to follow.
Mr. Betts: We certainly have no problem with the tax cuts that are outlined. It is just that they do
not go far enough. Things are not even back to where they were when we left government in 2006.
The small business tax was down to 1.5%, and we proposed to bring it down to 1%. This
government raised it to 5%. You have to look at the record. Are New Brunswickers better off now
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than they were two and half years ago? Are New Brunswickers paying more or less? I propose that
they are paying at least $1 000 more, in four areas alone.
The HST rebate, which the government promised, was wiped out by a bill that it brought in. It was
$63 million, some $200 per household. The increase in home heating costs is between $300 and
$400 per year. The government won the Orimulsion case and a settlement of over $300 million. That
could have been turned into rebates for heat increases. They increased the income taxes by 4.5%,
which is another $200. Property taxes increased by 9.2% in the Moncton area, another $300. That
is $1 000. Why does the government not bring in legislation which would help municipalities get
revenues other than just with property tax increases that people cannot sustain? They do not mind
paying 2.5% or 3%. That is fairly sustainable. However, seniors and people on fixed incomes cannot
sustain yearly increases in property taxes of 9.2%, 10%, or 11%, as was experienced in Dieppe.
Hon. V. Boudreau: The bottom line is that our plan for lower taxes, which was tabled in this
Legislature yesterday, is going to provide over $380 million in tax relief to New Brunswick
individuals and businesses of all sizes within the next four years. That is more than the opposition
members ever dreamed of when they were on this side of the Legislature. It positions us well to take
full advantage of opportunities for recovery, once this crisis is behind us. The federal Finance
Minister thinks that we are going in the right direction. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation thinks
that we are going in the right direction. Unfortunately, the opposition is going into so many
directions that we cannot even keep track.
Mme Dubé : Il y a tellement de mauvaises nouvelles dans ce budget que je peux vous dire qu’il est
certain que nous aurons du travail et du plaisir à la Chambre à faire ressortir tous ces éléments. Le
gouvernement d’en face nous dit que nos idées viennent de partout. Cependant, selon l’approche du
gouvernement actuel, augmenter les impôts était une bonne chose pour l’économie. Maintenant, le
gouvernement nous dit que réduire les impôts est une bonne chose pour l’économie. Cela nous dit
carrément que le gouvernement n’a pas de vision et qu’il n’est pas capable de gouverner.
025 11:45
Ma question est très, très simple ce matin et s’adresse au ministre responsable des petites entreprises.
Nos petites entreprises supportent 95 % de l’économie au Nouveau-Brunswick. On sait que ce sont
les plus grands créateurs d’emplois. On sait qu’elles ont été touchées au cours des dernières années
par toutes sortes d’augmentations. Dans ce budget-ci, il y a des miettes pour aider les petites et
moyennes entreprises, qui sont les plus grands stimulateurs de l’économie. Pourquoi le ministre des
Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick ne vient-il pas en aide aux plus grands créateurs d’emplois?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: Yesterday, the Federation of Independent Business came out in support of the tax
measures. We believe this is a very balanced approach. There is tax relief for large business; there
is tax relief for small business. Many businesses in the province operate not as incorporated
businesses, and the entrepreneurs pay personal income tax. By reducing the personal income tax,
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we are allowing them to have more money in their pockets to invest in their business. Additionally,
we have raised the limit from $400 000 to $500 000. Therefore, more businesses will qualify as
small businesses and be able to take advantage of that. We have made incredible changes to the
Small Business Investor Tax Credit program, raising the limit from $80 000 to $250 000 and
allowing more people to participate in that fund. We have also made a very positive change to the
Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Tax Credit program, raising the contribution from $5 000 to
$10 000 and the rate from . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mme Dubé : Je pense qu’il est très clair que les petites et moyennes entreprises au Nouveau-
Brunswick n’ont pas un porte-parole à la table du Cabinet pour défendre l’économie du Nouveau-
Brunswick et pour les aider.
Ma prochaine question est au ministre des Finances. J’espère qu’il sera en mesure d’y répondre.
Votre collègue vient de dire qu’il y aura une réduction d’impôt sur le revenu des particuliers. On
parle peut-être ici de 200 $, parce que, selon ce qu’on connaît du budget, on parle ici de l’aide aux
plus grandes corporations. Pour les petites et moyennes entreprises — ce sont les plus grands
créateurs d’emplois —, il n’y a rien, que des miettes, dans votre budget. Comment le ministre des
Finances, qui se dit un grand promoteur de l’économie, peut-il déposer un budget de zéro dollars
pour aider les petites et moyennes entreprises à créer de l’emploi au Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: The honourable member speaks as though she would like us to move away from
a two-bracket personal tax system to a four-bracket system. The business community came out very
solidly yesterday indicating that this is a strong move to make businesses more competitive and that
all business will benefit from these changes. It is somewhat ironic that the position of the opposition
is that we should revert to a four-bracket system when the business community itself endorses what
the government has done.
Mme Dubé : Il n’y a pas de porte-parole à la table du Cabinet avec le ministre des Finances. Le
premier ministre pourra peut-être répondre à cette question. Comment peut-il justifier que, dans ce
budget, des miettes sont offertes aux petites et moyennes entreprises, qui supportent 95 % de
l’économie du Nouveau-Brunswick — 95 %? Le gouvernement aide les grandes corporations, mais
il donne zéro dollars aux petites entreprises. Lorsqu’il est entré au pouvoir, ce même gouvernement
a augmenté de 500 % les impôts des petites entreprises. Elles ont subi une augmentation de leurs
impôts et une augmentation de leur évaluation foncière. Elles ont eu des hausses de tarifs
d’électricité, comme tout le monde. Comment le premier ministre explique-t-il que son budget actuel
n’aide pas à son plus grand créateur d’emplois? Comment le premier ministre peut-il vanter son
budget en tuant l’économie?
L’hon. V. Boudreau : Premièrement, la Fédération canadienne de l’entreprise indépendante, qui
représente les petites et moyennes entreprises, a annoncé publiquement hier qu’elle était en faveur
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du budget. Le Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, qui représente en grande partie les
petites et moyennes entreprises du Nouveau-Brunswick, a dit publiquement être en faveur du
budget. Qu’est-ce que la députée d’en face veut de plus? Plus tôt aujourd’hui, dans une déclaration,
la députée d’en face a dit que deux tranches d’imposition, ce n’est pas acceptable et qu’il devrait y
en avoir plus. Cependant, en réduisant le régime à deux tranches d’imposition, nous donnons
davantage de bénéfices au niveau des impôts à nos petites et moyennes entreprises. Beaucoup
d’entre elles ne sont pas incorporées et font une déclaration d’impôt sur le revenu des particuliers.
Alors, elles vont bénéficier davantage à ce niveau que si nous retournons à un système de quatre
tranches d’imposition au Nouveau-Brunswick.
026 11:50
Mr. Holder: When it comes to small business tax relief in this province, this government’s plan is
a sham. There is absolutely nothing in this budget that helps small- and medium-sized businesses.
The government moved that threshold back to where we had it two years ago. If it is good stimulus
now, why was it not good stimulus then?
My question is to the Minister of Finance, or the Sheriff of Nottingham, as I often like to call. Will
he acknowledge that there is absolutely no tax relief for small businesses that earn under $400 000
and less in revenue? Mr. Speaker, when will he do something for those small businesses that are
getting lost in the shuffle?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The member opposite, once again, is all over the map. The opposition has used
up so many positions, that it has resorted to personal insults and name calling. I want to be very clear
that our five-point plan that we tabled in the Legislature yesterday is going to provide tax relief. It
is going to provide lower taxes for every single taxpayer in the province of New Brunswick, whether
they file on the personal side or the corporate side. Many of our small businesses do not file on the
corporate side, they file on the personal side. That is why we are reducing the personal income tax
to the levels that we are reducing them, to give maximum benefit to every taxpayer, whether you
are an individual or a small business owner. We are also increasing the ceiling for small businesses.
We are making improvements to the Labour Sponsored Venture Capital Fund . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time. The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 15 QUESTIONS ORALES
March 20, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 20 mars 2009
Self-Sufficiency
Mr. Alward: Last year, the Finance Minister mentioned self-sufficiency 28 times in his speech. This
year, it was mentioned only 8 times. Clearly, the Shawn Graham government is backing away from
this agenda. Is the Premier ready to admit that he is failing to move New Brunswick toward self-
sufficiency and that, in fact, the province is further from self-sufficiency today than it was when he
took office?
Hon. S. Graham: I am not sure who is doing the research for the opposition office. Last year, I
remember them criticizing us for mentioning self-sufficiency too much in the budget speech. This
year, they are criticizing us for not mentioning it enough. It is a continual flip-flop that we see on
the other side of the House.
The reality is that, today, New Brunswick is facing an economic crisis, with challenges that every
other jurisdiction in North America and across the globe is facing. I am confident today, with the
record investments we are making in building our road infrastructure. Also, in our community
college infrastructure, there are record investments in Edmundston, Moncton, Bathurst, and Saint
John. Investments in deferred maintenance at our community colleges will create over 6 000 person-
years of employment this year alone. I am confident that these investments, coupled with the fiscal
restraint that we are bringing forward—$182 million in restraint in this budget . . . We are making
the difficult choices today, and I am more confident than ever that, when the recovery occurs, we
will attain self-sufficiency in this province.
Mr. Alward: Every day when we rise in this House, the Premier spins a lot but he does not answer
the questions. It is very clear today, with the increase in the deficit, with the deficits that we will see
over the long term, and certainly with the increase in the net debt, that New Brunswick is further
from self-sufficiency than ever before.
Taxes
My second question to the Premier today is this: Will the Premier come clean with New
Brunswickers and explain why he raised taxes two years ago when he clearly admits today that it
was a mistake?
Hon. S. Graham: When we introduced the largest capital budget in our province’s history in
December, ahead of many other jurisdictions, we said to New Brunswickers that it would increase
the debt in our province.
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017 11:05
It is similar to any New Brunswicker who is purchasing a home today. You have to borrow the
money to purchase that home, and then you pay it down over a period of time.
Today, our government has made a decision that, to stimulate New Brunswick’s economy, we are
going to have to borrow money to build critical infrastructure. It is similar to what the federal
Conservative government is doing today. If the Leader of the Opposition is against our plan to put
New Brunswickers to work, why is he not standing up in this Chamber today, criticizing the federal
government for its stimulus package? I can tell you today that, by working in cooperation with the
federal government, we are going to put New Brunswickers to work in this time of required action.
You cannot applaud the capital budget in December and then criticize it today.
Mr. Alward: It is very clear, again, that the Premier refuses to admit the huge mistake that the
government made two years ago, when it increased taxes for every New Brunswicker and for every
business in New Brunswick. What is more, given what the Premier is saying today, the reality of
what is taking place is that the government is borrowing to pay for its groceries. The Auditor
General has already questioned the validity of the government’s budget projections. It is obvious
to the Auditor General and probably to everyone else in New Brunswick that the government does
not have the ability to manage the finances of New Brunswick. Will the Premier admit this morning
that the Auditor General is right and that his government’s budget numbers are wrong?
Hon. S. Graham: I am going to allow the Minister of Finance to speak in more detail about the
budget in a few moments, but I think that it is important to note that we respect the Office of the
Auditor General and that we value his comments. He deals in numbers. Our government also has
to deal with numbers, but we also have to deal with people, and we have to make sure that we treat
people compassionately and fairly. The Leader of the Opposition is asking why we are doing things
differently today from two years ago. The fact is that, two years ago, we were not in a recession
which is gripping every government across this country and across the world.
I can tell you today that we have a five-point plan that many leading economists are saying is the
right one. In fact, yesterday’s National Post editorial, “New Brunswick shows the way”, says:
This would be bold enough coming from a traditional ‘have’ province such as Alberta, B.C. or
Ontario. But coming from New Brunswick it is downright staggering.
It is talking about our budget. The editorial goes on:
Just a decade ago, we could have expected a N.B. premier to be howling for more federal transfer
payments . . .
Mr. Speaker: Premier, time.
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Mr. Alward: The disrespect that we just saw from the Premier of the province is unbelievable. If
this government had not increased taxes like it did two years ago, everyday families in New
Brunswick would have been able to deal with the recession with which we are dealing today.
Economic progress does not come on the backs of New Brunswickers. It happens because of New
Brunswickers.
Government Finances
The Shawn Graham government is heaping over $2.5 billion onto the backs of our people. The
Auditor General has asked for, and New Brunswickers deserve, the assurance of a debt-reduction
strategy. Will the Premier tell the House when and how New Brunswickers will see this debt repaid?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I find it amazing that the Leader of the Opposition could suggest to the House
today that a budget that we tabled two years ago has caused an economic meltdown around the
world. That is what the Leader of the Opposition is trying to make New Brunswickers believe today.
018 11:10
We tabled a very clear 5-point plan—we were one of the first jurisdictions that brought forward a
plan—on how we were going to deal with this global situation. The federal government and four
provinces have tabled budgets so far this year, and all of them are talking about deficits and
increasing their debt in the short term. Everybody has a plan or hopes to be able to get out of it. We
have a very concrete plan. What we have not yet seen is a plan from the opposition. Yesterday, the
Leader of the Opposition got up and said: We cut taxes faster and deeper. We pay down the deficit
faster and decrease the debt faster, but we would not cut any services, programs, or jobs. If anybody
in this room can tell me how those three statements add up to one plan, I would like to hear it.
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Alward: Perhaps the Minister of Finance needs to take a lesson in history and go back to seven
years of balanced budgets and to seven years of reducing the net debt of the province from $7 billion
down to $6.5 billion. This government, through its mismanagement, increased taxes in its first
budget in 2007-08, and, again last year, it was the only government in Canada to increase taxes. This
government has run a deficit in every year of government. Absolutely. This government has
increased the net debt of the province.
My question this morning is for the Premier. As part of my plan to focus on the basics, I will be
pleased to table a motion later today which will call on the Premier to provide a long-term plan for
deficit and debt reduction. This will include requesting time lines for financial benchmarks, as
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requested by the Auditor General. Will the Premier commit this morning to respecting that motion
and tabling this plan before the end of the session?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The opposition is still stuck in the past, just as it was stuck in the past when it
was in government and living under McKenna’s shadow for seven and a half years.
We tabled a plan on Tuesday. On Tuesday, we tabled a concrete plan that is going to get New
Brunswick out of its deficit, stimulate the economy, and give the single biggest tax reduction ever
seen in the province’s history. We are going to do that while continuing to invest in our priorities,
such as education, social development, postsecondary education, and health care. However, to do
that, we also have to show some restraint in some other areas, and we have yet to see a concrete plan
from the Leader of the Opposition. He is trying to be everything to everyone, and it just does not add
up. It simply does not add up.
The Opposition Leader has also been quoting the Auditor General a lot lately, and I have the utmost
respect for the Auditor General. However, one thing that I can say is that, since we formed
government, we have not had qualified statements from the Auditor General, unlike the opposition
when it was in government.
Mr. Alward: Again, the Finance Minister needs a lesson in history. It was the McKenna
government that added $3 billion to the debt of New Brunswick. The Lord government reduced the
debt by $500 million.
Let us go back to the Premier. This is a serious question. The Auditor General has called for a long-
term plan to reduce the deficits and the net debt. Will the Premier stand up today and support our
motion, and will he present a plan to the House before the House adjourns at the end of this session?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I thought, for sure, that I saw the Leader of the Opposition sitting there on
Tuesday when I tabled the budget and the plan for lower taxes in New Brunswick. We have tabled
our plan. We are still waiting for opposition members to table theirs.
I would bring your attention to page 12 of the document. We are not hiding anything that the
Auditor General has referenced, which appears in today’s newspapers. It is all on page 12. All that
opposition members have to do is look at what we have tabled. A four-year plan is there. We
acknowledge that there is still going to be a deficit of $273 million in 2012-13. It is right there on
page 12 of the document. If they had taken the time to read it, they would know that.
019 11:15
What we said was that we are not going to slash government programs and services to make up for
a pension shortfall that we believe will correct itself over the long term. We are dealing with the
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portion of the deficit over which we believe we have some control, and we have yet to hear a plan
from the Leader of the Opposition.
Budget
Mr. Fitch: The story of the Minister of Finance has changed from Tuesday. On Tuesday, he said
that there would be a balanced budget in four years. Today, he is saying it is not a balanced budget.
I guess you can say that we were right, and they were wrong. That is what we were looking for:
honesty and transparency for the people of New Brunswick.
Page 12 of the document, to which the minister just referred, talks about a minus $300-million
expense to the pension plan. Could the minister share with us today whether he has the minutes of
the quarterly meetings of the pension board in the province of New Brunswick? Will he share the
minutes showing the projection for the next four years of minus $300 million in the pension account
expense?
Hon. V. Boudreau: Once again, everything that we have wanted to communicate is there, on page
12. The opposition seems to be insinuating that we are not being up front. All the information is on
page 12 of the document. All members have the document. It refers to the surplus, the extraordinary
pension expense, and the surplus or deficit, excluding the extraordinary pension expense. We took
a conscious decision. We felt that we did not have to slash and burn in the civil service and in
programs to make up for something that we feel will correct itself.
Not one single person in this room can predict what is going to happen in the markets next year, in
two years, or in three years. We based the information on gathering all the data and input that is out
there, but, at the end of the day, we felt it was important to address the part of the deficit over which
we had control. That is the plan that we have brought forward for New Brunswickers.
Mr. Fitch: The minister is talking about making conscious decisions. The conscious decision the
members opposite made on Tuesday was to tell people that there was going to be a balanced budget
in four years. Today, the minister is admitting that this is not the case and that there is actually going
to be a deficit.
Does the minister agree with the Auditor General’s statements? The Auditor General said that a
four-year plan to return to balanced budgets does not actually return to us as balanced budgets. He
thinks it is important for people to know that the government is actually predicting deficits for each
of these four years.
Why did the minister tell the people that there was going to be a balanced budget? We now have the
Auditor General, the opposition, and the minister himself retracting that statement and saying that
there is going to be a deficit. Why did the minister not tell the people the exact story?
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Hon. V. Boudreau: Again, the Auditor General is saying nothing today that is not in this document.
On page 12, we refer to the fact that, in the year 2012-13, there will be a deficit of $273 million. It
is right there, in black and white. Two lines down, it says that there is going to be a surplus of $27
million, excluding extraordinary pension expense. We have said it all along; we have been up-front
and totally transparent with New Brunswickers. For some reason, the opposition cannot seem to
register that. So far, every province that has come forward with a budget has been predicting deficits
for future years, including the federal government. We have tabled what we believe to be a very
realistic, five-point plan that will stimulate New Brunswick’s economy, provide lower taxes for New
Brunswickers and New Brunswick businesses, continue to invest in our priorities, show restraint,
and attack the deficit.
Mr. Fitch: The minister has to refer to this as a four-point plan, because we just debunked point
number one. It is important to make that point because, two years ago, the Liberals put the taxes up.
020 11:20
Today, they are putting the taxes down, but they cannot remember the statements they made two
years ago as to why they put them up, that it was due to the structural deficit and it was the way to
go. It seems to be convenient amnesia. You see, there is an election in 2010. When we win in 2010
and bring in the budget in 2012, we are going to do the proper accounting. If, in fact, it is not a
balanced budget in 2012, as these people have led the people to believe, the Liberals will stand in
opposition and they will say: Mr. Speaker, when we were here in 2010, we said there would be a
balanced budget in 2012.
Does the minister agree with the Auditor General’s comment that it is not a balanced budget
projection and he did not give the people of New Brunswick the accurate facts and figures on
Tuesday?
Hon. V. Boudreau: It is amazing. We have yet to see a plan from the opposition. I am hearing from
the member for Riverview that we should be cutting an additional $300 million worth of services,
jobs, and programs to make up for the pension expenses. That is what I am hearing. If the member
opposite is not saying that, he needs to explain clearly the opposition’s position. On one hand, they
say that they are going to eliminate the deficit and pay down the debt, but, on the other hand, they
are not going to cut any programs or services or jobs. By the way, they are going to reduce taxes
even further and deeper than we have done. Until somebody on that side of the floor can explain to
me how those three things are going to add up, it is impossible. We have a plan. It is a plan that will
provide the single biggest tax reduction to New Brunswickers.
Programme d’aide pour l’énergie domestique
M. P. Robichaud : Mes questions ce matin s’adresse au ministre de l’Énergie. Le ministre de
l’Énergie avait annoncé en grande pompe l’automne dernier le programme Gens de coeur, Coeurs
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au chaud, pour venir en aide aux gens qui avaient besoin d’aide à payer leur facteur d’électricité ou
de chauffage. Selon le communiqué de presse émis par le gouvernement même, le programme devait
être offert de janvier à avril 2009. Cette semaine, on a été mis au courant de la fin du programme
le 18 mars 2009. Le ministre de l’Énergie admettra-t-il que son programme n’a pas respecté ce que
le gouvernement avait annoncé l’automne dernier? Va-t-il admettre également que des milliers —
je dis bien des milliers — de gens du Nouveau-Brunswick n’ont pas eu accès à ce financement,
malgré le fait qu’ils étaient admissibles aux critères annoncés l’automne dernier par le ministre et
le gouvernement?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member opposite for the question and, frankly, I welcome the
opportunity to debate this issue. I find it a little humorous that, for 20 minutes of question period,
they are talking to the Minister of Finance and the Premier about how they are going to cut more in
future budgets, yet, the very first question after saying they are going to cut more is: Why did we
not put more money into programs?
I absolutely welcome the opportunity to debate this. Since the program was announced in
November, the opposition has done a job of framing the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes Program as
the only program within government to help folks with home heating in the winter months. That is
shameful. The fact of the matter is that either the opposition does not understand our programs or
there are other reasons they are framing that as the only program. I know that the Minister of Social
Development would love to talk about the wonderful social programs that our government has put
in place . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
M. P. Robichaud : C’est vraiment évident ce matin que le ministre de l’Énergie ne veut pas parler
du programme qu’il a lui-même annoncé l’automne dernier. Ma question est bien simple. Le
gouvernement a annoncé un programme qui serait effectif à partir du mois de janvier jusqu’au mois
d’avril. Certaines gens ont cru l’annonce du ministre et prévoyaient faire une demande entre le 18
mars et le mois d’avril. On ne sait pas si le programme devait prendre fin le 1er avril ou le 30 avril.
Le ministre n’a pas été clair, mais il parlait du mois d’avril. Le ministre va-t-il admettre que des
milliers de personnes n’ont pas pu avoir accès au programme à cause de l’erreur qu’ils ont commise?
021 11:25
De plus, en cette Journée internationale de la Francophonie, j’aimerais ajouter que l’information sur
le programme n’était surtout pas disponible aux francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick. Lorsqu’on
a cliqué sur le site Web de l’Armée du Salut et qu’on a demandé l’information en français en
cliquant sur « Français », on nous a référés au site de l’Armée du Salut du Québec. C’est une insulte
à la dualité linguistique du Nouveau-Brunswick et une insulte aux communautés francophones du
Nouveau-Brunswick. Le ministre de l’Énergie va-t-il corriger cette erreur et faire en sorte que le
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programme soit disponible jusqu’a la fin avril afin que des milliers de francophones qui étaient
admissibles puissent avoir accès au programme?
Hon. Mr. Keir: The Warm Hearts, Warm Homes Program was one portion of a $6.4-million
program. Let me talk about Francophones, northern New Brunswick, and the opportunities there.
I heard the opposition say from the beginning that northern New Brunswick was not going to have
the opportunity to be involved in this program. In this program of New Brunswickers helping New
Brunswickers, 45% of the over 2 200 families that were helped were from northern New Brunswick.
M. P. Robichaud : On ne reconnaît pas la mesure et la grandeur d’un gouvernement par le luxe de
son avion ni par la qualité du Cabinet du premier ministre. On ne reconnaît pas la grandeur d’un
gouvernement par le nombre de publicités qui font l’autopromotion du premier ministre. On
reconnaît la grandeur d’un gouvernement par la façon dont il traite les plus vulnérables de notre
société.
Le gouvernement actuel a failli à sa tâche. Monsieur le président, si vous allez naviguer sur le site
Web de l’Armée du Salut et que vous cliquez sur « Français » pour avoir de l’information en
français sur le programme en question, on vous référera à l’Armée du Salut du Québec, et vous
n’avez pas accès à cette information. Il y a des milliers de francophones qui n’ont pas accès à cette
information. Ils n’ont pas pu faire la demande parce que le programme a pris fin avant le temps
prévu et parce que, si on veut l’information en français, on nous réfère au site du Québec. Je
demande au ministre, en cette Journée internationale de la Francophonie, d’avoir le courage de
régler ce problème. Je demande aussi aux députés et ministres francophones de ce gouvernement
de se lever une fois pour toutes pour la communauté francophone et de corriger ce dégât.
Hon. Mrs. Schryer: I really welcome this opportunity to be able to talk about the energy
supplement plans that our government has put in place. The Minister of Energy is right. We engaged
in a $6.4-million comprehensive plan, with the most vulnerable always foremost in our minds. That
is why we took the time to target and make sure that the money went to the most vulnerable. It is
very important that all MLAs get this information out to their constituents, to the people in need, so
that people know that the programming is there and will continue to be there.
We have seen record increases. We have an emergency fuel supplement program available to every
person in New Brunswick. That was doubled, a record 104% increase. That program went from
$270 to $550, available to every New Brunswicker who needs it. We also had increases in our
electrical fuel supplement for people in Social Development. To date, since we took power in
2006 . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
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Services d’ambulance
M. C. Landry : Ma question est pour le ministre de la Santé. Suite au dépôt du budget du ministère
des Finances, les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick ont été informés que le gouvernement va réintroduire
des frais de 130 $ pour le transport par ambulance. Ceci est une attaque contre les aînés et les plus
vulnérables du Nouveau-Brunswick. Monsieur le ministre, croyez-vous que la population du
Nouveau-Brunswick fait un usage abusif des services d’ambulance?
022 11:30
Hon. Mr. Murphy: Between 2004, when the free service was introduced, and just a few days ago,
the usage of ambulance services increased by 45%.
Les plus vulnérables de la province seront protégés par les politiques du ministère du
Développement social. Ces services seront gratuits pour les personnes qui pourront prouver qu’elles
sont bénéficiaires d’aide sociale.
Those who are on social assistance and who are the most vulnerable in society will have their costs
covered by the Department of Social Development.
M. C. Landry : Le ministre nous dit que certaines gens seront couverts par le ministère du
Développement social, mais ce n’est pas équitable pour les plus vulnérables, car certaines personnes
n’ont pas accès à ce programme. C’est évident que le ministre de la Santé et le premier ministre sont
plus intéressés à augmenter leur budget de communications à 6,6 millions afin de mousser leur
image qu’à maintenir la gratuité des services d’ambulance. Monsieur le ministre, pouvez-vous
déposer à la Chambre les études qui démontrent les augmentations et les abus auxquels vous faites
référence?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: An estimates process will unfold very shortly, and details will be provided at
that time. We were the only ambulance service in Canada that was free. Since coming to power in
October 2006, we have brought in a uniform ambulance service that will probably be one of the very
best in North America. It certainly already rivals Nova Scotia’s, which is the best in the country. We
have quicker response times, and we have more paramedics. Some 100 new paramedics will be
hired during the summer months. More ambulances are on the road. There is better care, a global
positioning system, and better dispatch. It is unified. Rural New Brunswickers are better supported
and protected, and I think the record speaks for itself.
Mr. C. Landry: The Minister of Health should be ashamed to stand in the people’s House today.
Who are you, Mr. Minister, to pass judgment on what is a frivolous call or not? You are not a doctor.
Would you prefer that someone not make a call? Would you prefer that they called a cab or that they
drove themselves to the hospital? I am appalled. I want to know this: Are you going to be okay with
these fee increases when someone dies at home because they hesitated to make that call?
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Hon. Mr. Murphy: The system that has been in place for the past year is providing better and safer
service for all New Brunswickers. We expect that there will be somewhat of a decrease in calls for
the ambulances. That will ensure that those who are in need, because of the circumstances that they
are in, whether illness or trauma, get the response as quickly as the benchmark that is in place, and
perhaps even more quickly. The savings in our contract from fewer calls from those who have
alternate means of transportation, under normal and careful circumstances, will allow us to bring
in, yet again, more paramedics, more ambulances, and more service. All of these things were done
in the course of the past two years, and I remind the member opposite that he was the second-in-
command in the Department of Health for seven years and that he did not do that.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 17 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Advertising
Mr. Fitch: We are all aware of guerrilla advertising in the media—in-your-face advertising. In the
last couple of days, we have heard it on the radio. We have seen it on TV. We have seen it on Web
sites. It is certainly in the newspaper, with its full-page inserts and ads. It certainly comes at no small
expense. I am wondering if the Minister of Finance can tell us the full cost of the promotion of his
budget to the people of New Brunswick.
Hon. V. Boudreau: I want to respond to that question, and also to a comment that was made during
Statements by Members. The opposition told us that we had lessons to learn from our federal
counterparts. When I look at the federal government, it released a stimulus package to stimulate
Canada’s economy. We released a stimulus package to stimulate New Brunswick’s economy. The
federal government is promoting tax cuts. The provincial government is promoting tax cuts. The
federal government put out a five-year plan to return to a surplus position. We have released a four-
year plan to return to a surplus position. We are following the federal government’s example, or
maybe the federal government is following our example. We are doing what is needed in order to
bring the economy back.
Mr. Fitch: Obviously, the minister was not listening to the statement. It was a Liberal member who
raised those issues about Ottawa.
I wanted the minister to clarify something, and I asked him a question about the cost of his
advertising campaign to promote his budget. Does he not know what the cost is, or is he just trying
to hide it?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I would even take this a step further. Again, the member for Tantramar was just
saying that we need to follow the federal government’s example and that we need to do what the
federal government is doing. There is a banner on the bottom of the front page of today’s Telegraph-
Journal; it is the federal government promoting its tax package, promoting its budget. If you open
that newspaper to page A5, there are more advertisements—colour advertisements, paid for by the
federal government—promoting the federal government’s budget. We believe that is important,
because New Brunswickers need to know what is in the federal government’s budget, what is in the
federal government’s tax plan, what is in the federal government’s stimulus package. They also need
to know what is in ours, so we are also informing New Brunswickers on what is going on in New
Brunswick, as well as the various elements of our five-point plan to bring the province back to
prosperity.
Mr. Fitch: Once again, the Minister of Finance is wrong in his statements. The statement that was
made came from a Liberal Web site.
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Last week, we debunked the first point of the Liberals’ five-point platform to get back to a balanced
budget in four years. Today, I think we will find that the fifth point is falling by the wayside. The
fifth point was responsible management of government expenditures. The communications budget
two years ago was $2.7 million; now, it is up to $6.6 million. The minister cannot even tell us how
much he is spending on advertising his budget. The people of New Brunswick want to know,
because this is one of the choices and priorities of this Liberal government. That is why this goes
to responsible management of government expenditures. The government will charge people
ambulance fees, yet it will spend $6.6 million on communications. These are some of the serious
things that people want to talk about. How can we believe that the government is serious about
managing its expenditures when it does not even know the cost of its own advertising campaign?
015 10:55
Hon. V. Boudreau: Once again, we, as a government, feel that it is important to let New
Brunswickers know what we are doing to weather this economic storm. We have a very concrete
five-point plan that is going to provide the single-biggest tax relief that New Brunswickers have ever
seen in the province. New Brunswickers need to know what is going on in this province and how
their government is reacting to this crisis. It is no different from the various leaflets, ads, and
pamphlets that used to be sent out by the former government, which would send out prebudget and
postbudget documents all the time. It is important, because New Brunswickers need to know what
their government is doing. They need to know how their government is dealing with this crisis. By
informing them with these different media tools, they are going to understand fully that their
government has a concrete plan and that it is showing leadership in a time of crisis.
Mr. Fitch: I certainly hope that the minister adds in those advertisements the fact that, two years
ago, the government put up taxes. Two years ago, it hit the people of New Brunswick, the small-
business owners, and individuals. Now, the government is trying to claw back the political capital
that was lost.
Pensions
If you do not know or cannot manage the expenses of the promotional budget, maybe another area
would be of interest. What about pension costs? It was mentioned by the Auditor General. It is a big
factor in your future projections and in some of the things that you are trying to spin about balanced
budgets.
Have you met with John Sinclair, the CEO of the New Brunswick Investment Management
Corporation, to discuss returns, pensions, expenses, and asset allocation of the pension funds of the
province? Have you met with Mr. Sinclair?
Hon. V. Boudreau: In terms of how we have chosen to deal with the pension deficit, it is very clear
when you go to page 13 of our budget document, the very first paragraph. I will read it into the
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record just to make sure that the opposition hears it. Maybe those members did not hear it the first
time.
For purposes of the four-year fiscal plan, the government has excluded the extraordinary pension
expense of $300 million annually that is the result of global financial market turmoil. While this
expense affects the province’s bottom line results, pension plans are designed for the long-term and
we expect volatility in the short-term. The government is not prepared to let this extraordinary
downturn in the market affect decisions that it makes on the levels of taxation and services to New
Brunswickers. As a result, we have excluded it for purposes of our four-year fiscal plan.
We have been very clear with our intentions. We have yet to understand fully the intentions of the
opposition, because its members have no plan.
Mr. Fitch: Once again, the minister is now changing his tune. On Friday, he said that the part that
the government controls between revenue and expenses is still going to be in the deficit. That was
said on Friday, and we on this side disagree with that. The minister was not being straightforward
with the people of New Brunswick. He has not even met with John Sinclair.
The Auditor General is suggesting that the minister should be giving better direction to the pension
board on how it invests the money and what the risk tolerance is for the province of New Brunswick.
Some of the projections that the minister is toting and talking about in the Legislature are suspect,
because they may be higher than a certain risk tolerance that the province should take. The Auditor
General suggested that there may be a need to take on more risk in order to meet the objectives, the
expected returns, of the pension plan in future projections.
Can the minister clarify today whether he is willing to direct the pension board to take on more risk
with the investment money of the province of New Brunswick to meet the objectives and stated
return that he is projecting in his budget?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I wanted to get to the opposition’s question regarding my meetings with the
CEO of the NBIMC, but I also wanted to make sure that the record was clear on what we have been
saying, because the opposition keeps trying to twist what we have put out there in terms of
information.
016 11:00
With regard to meeting with the CEO of the New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation,
I do that on a regular basis. Our deputy minister also sits as an ex officio board member of the New
Brunswick Investment Management Corporation. We are always fully apprised of what is going on
over there. As a matter of fact, I signed a document yesterday that is going to have them come
forward to the Board of Management to explain the returns and the situation in the pension markets.
So, we do have regular communication with the New Brunswick Investment Management
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Corporation. I have full confidence that it will continue to do the best job it can, considering the
global market situation.
Mr. Fitch: I think we have clearly debunked Point 5 here today. The minister does not know the
cost of promoting his budget. He does not understand that he should be meeting with John Sinclair
and talking about pension expenses. Certainly, when it comes to this budget, it is looking more like
a sham all the time. The government MLAs are backing away from it as fast as they can, as if they
never heard about the cuts to the ferries. Some of the ministers are looking for money elsewhere.
The Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour is looking to Ottawa for help, as
is the Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs on the justice system. The government has chosen
to cut people in New Brunswick, cut social workers, cut DOT garages, and cut ferries.
This is either a very orchestrated play where the bad guy, the Minister of Justice, says he is going
to cut all these things and the minister says: Wait, do not cut mine. It is either an orchestrated play,
or these are severe cuts that will leave a deep, deep scar in the province for many, many years to
come. Which is it?
Hon. V. Boudreau: I understand the frustration of the member for Riverview, because he does not
recognize what a plan is. This government has a plan. We tabled a five-point plan as to how we are
going to deal with this economic crisis. Obviously, the member of the opposition is not familiar with
putting a plan together and moving it forward. That is why there is some confusion.
We have said all along, and I said last week, that we are going to continue . . . My colleagues are
continuing their discussions with their federal colleagues to see how much of the federal
government’s budget and stimulus package will apply to the province of New Brunswick. With the
numbers that we presented last week, I said, very clearly, that there are no federal dollars within
these various envelopes because we have not yet received any clear direction from the federal
government as to what monies we can expect. We know we are going to get some, and my
provincial colleagues are simply doing the work that they should be doing by dealing with their
federal counterparts. This is a government with a plan that is going to produce many results.
Tendering
Mrs. Dubé: We have spent the past two weeks with this government, looking for answers, looking
for some glimmer of hope that it has acknowledged its mistakes so that they will not be made again.
We asked about the budget and the programs that have been cut, and we heard spin. We just heard
it again. Today, New Brunswickers need answers. They need to know that they are getting the best
for their tax dollars. Will the Minister of Finance commit today to end the massive sole-source
contracts and ensure that all tax dollars are spent on tendered contracts?
Hon. V. Boudreau: The current government does everything it can to promote the various projects
that it has to bring forward. We comply with the Acts, whether it be the Public Purchasing Act or
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the Crown Construction Contracts Act. We comply with these pieces of legislation, and we do
everything possible to move forward with projects.
On est en train de d’établir un plan de relance de 1,2 milliard de dollars.
There are going to be lots of projects all over the province. An awful lot of work will be done by my
colleague the Minister of Supply and Services and his department. We are fully respecting the
various pieces of legislation that are in place.
Mrs. Dubé: In one department only, we on this side of the House found, and people need to know,
that $1.8 million, and a bit more, was given—sole-sourced, untendered.
017 11:05
The government needs to make sure that all businesses across the province have a fair chance to do
business with the government. Taxpayers need to make sure that their tax dollars are being spent in
the best way.
I am going to ask the minister responsible for approving those untendered contracts: Out of $1.8
million, how much did you really save without the process of tendering contracts?
Hon. Mr. Doherty: As you know, our department has invested some $1.2 billion in terms of getting
New Brunswickers out to work in projects that will employ New Brunswickers. These are huge
construction projects. We follow the Public Purchasing Act very, very carefully, and our objective
is to get New Brunswickers back to work in these tough economic times so they can, in fact,
contribute to the economy of New Brunswick and pay taxes to support the programs that we are all
very proud of.
Mrs. Dubé: The minister is spinning again. The people of New Brunswick do not buy it. Just to give
you a few examples, $1 000 a day was given to Roche Atlantic Consulting, $150 000 was for a
booth at Walt Disney World, $12 000 was for cabs in Orlando, and $225 was for an emergency
forestry consultant after the government had sat back and watched half of the mills across this
province close. Come on. The taxpayers deserve answers.
Les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick ont besoin de recevoir des réponses. Dans un ministère seulement,
on parle de 1,8 million de dollars. Le gouvernement doit s’assurer qu’il reçoit les meilleures offres
possibles sur la table, afin que l’argent des contribuables du Nouveau-Brunswick soit dépensé à bon
escient.
We are seeing mismanagement here again. Minister, you need to step up to the plate. Defend the
people of this province, make sure that all businesses in the province have a fair chance to do
business, and make sure that the taxpayers across the province are well-served.
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Hon. Mr. Doherty: As you know, we as a government are obliged to comply with the regulations
in the Public Purchasing Act, and this is, in fact, what our department does. We have many, many
big projects on the go in New Brunswick. I drove by the new courthouse in Moncton, which is
progressing very nicely. Two new schools are coming on board, as well as a courthouse in Saint
John and a new hospital in Dalhousie. These are all multimillion-dollar projects. We look forward
to getting shovels in the ground, and we look forward to employing New Brunswickers in tough
economic times.
Mr. Olscamp: No one is denying that the economic recession in which we find ourselves has forced
the hand of the Finance Minister. However, what is lost in the wake of this recession are the poor
management habits of this government prior to the onset of that recession. Be it a grant of $60
million to a financial institution, shelved studies, untendered contracts, or the purchase of an
airplane, the poor spending habits of this government have to be documented.
My question today is to the Minister of Fisheries: Can the minister confirm to the House today that
he was aware of an untendered contract valued at $32 475 awarded to G T A Fisheries Consultants
to carry out a study on the snow crab industry in New Brunswick?
Hon. V. Boudreau: In three quarters of the member’s preamble, he talked about the Minister of
Finance, and he talked about the budget spending of this government. I want to tell you that we have
been providing good government since taking office. We have been investing in the priorities of
New Brunswickers, such as education, health care, social development, and postsecondary
education. At the same time, we will be providing the single biggest tax relief to New Brunswickers
that they have ever seen.
018 11:10
We are going to be providing relief to our small, medium, and large businesses and to our citizens.
I do take offence to the comments of the member opposite, because we are providing a good,
responsible government that will continue to invest in the priorities of New Brunswickers.
Mr. Olscamp: In response to the comment by the Minister of Finance, my opening remark was
meant to mean that we respected the fact that your hand was forced to make decisions. On the other
hand, I have a lot of concern that the Minister of Fisheries was not able to get up and answer this
question. To whomever wants to answer this question, I will repeat it. Is anyone aware that an
untendered contract of $32 475 was awarded to GTA Fisheries Consultants to do a study of the snow
crab industry in the province of New Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Doucet: I thank the honourable member opposite. Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, and
as I understand it, the tendering process was followed. This went through public purchasing in the
Department of Supply and Services. Everything was out front.
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Mr. Olscamp: What is at issue here is two points. One is that a level playing field be created for
people who do business in this province, and two, that the taxpayers of New Brunswick are assured
that, when the government of this province goes out to tender, it gets the best deal it can to save
taxpayers money. In times of recession, that is doubly important.
To the minister, your deputy minister suggested in the Public Accounts Commitee that there was
a great possibility that there are other companies out there that could do the work of this particular
individual firm. My question to the minister is this: Were you aware before the contract was let that
GTA Fisheries Consultants is owned and operated by Gilles Thériault who is the brother of the
former premier of this province?
Hon. V. Boudreau: Once again, I cannot help but to take offence to some of the references and
insinuations that the member opposite is making. First of all, there are some very real reasons and
some very real exceptions in the Public Purchasing Act and the Crown Construction Act that justify
situations where you do not have to go to a public tender. For example, if a water main breaks in a
school, we cannot shut down the school and wait to go to tender for 30 or 60 days to fix the problem.
The member opposite is making all kinds of insinuations that things are being done. There are
situations within the existing legislation where exceptions are justified, where not going to tender
is justified. The opposition did many of them when it was in government, and that was fine, because
they are . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Tourism
Mr. MacDonald: The people of New Brunswick are offended by the Minister of Finance’s
spending.
My question today is for the Minister of Tourism. In the “Charter for Changing Your Mind”, we
heard a promise of $3 million in new funding for a tourism strategy for this province. Yet, in the
budget we hear there are tourism cuts. We are hearing there are significant cuts at Mactaquac
Provincial Park. My question to the Minister of Tourism is this: Is Mactaquac park going to bear the
lion’s share of those cuts or are those cuts going to be spread evenly across all of our provincial
parks?
Hon. Mr. Jamieson: I know that the member opposite has concerns about Mactaquac, and I
understand that. The $3 million he talked about is for marketing. We did cut back on the marketing
this year by $700 000. We used marketing increases over the last two years to improve our Web site
and to improve our marketing. We found that, because of those improvements, we do not have to
put more money into the Web site than what we have in this budget. Therefore, we were able to cut
back on the $700 000. We are going to cut back on some of our guide books that we are going to
make this coming year and their distribution, and that will help.
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019 11:15
With regard to Mactaquac, I certainly realize the concerns of the member opposite—and I have
addressed them as best I can—that this is a winter operation. It is the only other park besides
Sugarloaf that operates in the winter. We looked at the operation there and felt that there were not
really a lot of tourists using it. It was mostly the local community using the park. We felt that we
could make the cuts there and still sustain operations. People can still use the park, and that is the
important factor.
Mr. MacDonald: The promise was $3 million in new money. That was Point one. More
importantly, the question I am asking right now is this. The budget for Mactaquac Park in 2008 was
$1.6 million. The budget being proposed for 2009 is $1 million; that is a reduction of $600 000. The
most you will get in savings by cutting the winter service is $400 000. That means there is another
$200 000 that you have to find, and the only way you are going to find it is by cutting into summer
service. How much of the summer service will be cut?
Hon. Mr. Jamieson: Actually, we will improve on the summer service. We are putting some
additional capital funding into the campsite there. We are going to improve the number of three-way
hookups, so that more campers will be able to use the park. Also, over the past two years, we have
put over $10 million into capital expenditures across the province, in all of our parks, at all of the
attractions we have. We are increasing the infrastructure there. The previous government put
$500 000 into the capital budget, and we have put in over $10 million in the last two years. We have
improved the mess that the previous government left behind.
Mr. MacDonald: The operating budget is what I am talking about—the budget that actually
employs New Brunswickers. When you cut winter service, the best you could get was $400 000.
You have another $200 000 to make up. You are going to have to cut employees in the summer
months. How are you going to make up that shortfall? What will the summer service look like? Are
you going to offset job losses by awarding even more untendered service contracts?
Hon. Mr. Jamieson: The operating budget has gone from $26 million, when the opposition
members were in government, to $31.5 million. There is a big difference in the operating budget.
I can assure the member opposite that there will be no cuts to the summer program at Mactaquac
Park. I can assure the people there that there will be no cuts to summer operations. We are going to
improve the summer operations at Mactaquac, and we are going to make it an even better place for
the summer, spring, and fall.
Tendering
Mr. Williams: This Liberal government confirms that, within the past fiscal year, 1 145 untendered
contracts were allocated. That is 1 145 contracts given by this Liberal government without going
to tender.
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The Minister of Health chose to impose ambulance fees on New Brunswickers. That same Minister
of Health allocated an untendered contract, valued at $94 776, to Landal Inc., a company owned by
Aldéa Landry, a former Liberal minister. Can the minister tell the House today that this company
was unique? Why did no other company have the opportunity to tender for this job?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: Upon coming to power, we were faced with a critical situation on the Acadian
Peninsula. As we know, this was caused by the actions of the previous government. Aldéa Landry
had specific skills, and she was from the Acadian Peninsula. She had great skills in mediation; she
proved that she had the skills, the reliability, and the expertise to be able to resolve the difficulties
in the Acadian Peninsula, which were created by the previous government.
With regard to the tendering of this, we followed the Act. The request was sent to the Department
of Supply and Services and was approved there.
Mr. Williams: I guess the minister cannot justify this. He could not tell this House that there was
no other company in New Brunswick that could have done the same job. I think he failed to answer
that question.
020 11:20
Again, in terms of untendered contracts, my question is to the Minister of Supply and Services. Your
department allocated to that same company—Landal Inc., owned by Aldéa Landry—a contract
worth $74 469. Did your department give an exemption, and can you confirm whether that contract
was tendered or not?
Hon. Mr. Doherty: As you know, as a department, we follow the Public Purchasing Act. However,
there are situations which are unique; they require expertise in particular services, or they are
emergency situations. For instance, as the Minister of Finance pointed out, if a pipe breaks in a
school, it has to be fixed on an emergency basis. Perhaps we would be looking at a major project
where a New Brunswick company that employs New Brunswickers has the expertise right here and
can do the job. Yes, we follow all of our guidelines very carefully, but, in certain circumstances,
exceptions are made.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 18 QUESTIONS ORALES
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018 14:10
Ferries
Mr. Alward: It is quite ironic that, today, every MLA has on his or her desk a brochure that talks
about the heritage group and the history of some of the most beautiful parts of New Brunswick. It
is something that touches many of the people who sit in this Legislature.
Today, I want to commend the people of Queens and Kings Counties, and from all over the
province, who have come together to stand up and fight against the decision to cut cable ferries in
New Brunswick. These cable ferries are the fabric of small communities. Without this service, much
will be lost and, certainly, nothing will be gained.
Governments make poor decisions when they do not listen to people. Certainly, this Premier has a
record of reversing decisions on postsecondary education and on French second language because
it did not listen. My question to the Premier is this: Seeing the need to keep these ferries, will you
listen and reverse the decision you have made?
019 14:15
Hon. S. Graham: As the Leader of the Opposition knows, these are indeed challenging economic
times. In fact, today, Newfoundland and Ontario are going to present significant deficits in their
budgetary process. Here in New Brunswick, we are not immune to the global economic conditions.
In fact, we have brought forward a five-point plan, and two key components are spending restraint
and the responsible management of government expenditures.
This is not a one-year process. Next year and the following year as well, we are going to have to
constrain spending in New Brunswick, to bring us back to a balanced budget position. In fact, we
are going to constrain the growth in spending, next year, to 2%. That means that difficult choices
have to be made. I want to be very clear today that this team, on this side of the House, is prepared
to make those difficult choices to better serve the people of New Brunswick and, at the same time,
to lower taxes in this province.
Mr. Alward: I could not agree more. Governing is about setting priorities. What has this
government done? It chose to pay a per diem of $1 000 to ROC consultants for nontendered
contracts. The government made a decision to increase spending on self-promotion and
communications in this budget. Yes, this government is about making decisions—it has been
making poor decisions.
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Yesterday, the government said that it gave a 30-day reprieve on the execution. The people of the
Lower Saint John River Valley need a full pardon. The Premier, in his first answer, showed that he
is turning his back on the people of the Lower Saint John River Valley. I will give the Premier a
second opportunity to stand up and reverse this poor decision.
Hon. S. Graham: Our government truly understands today that, when you make difficult choices,
not everyone is going to agree. In fact, certain services that were offered in the past can no longer
be offered in the future when you go into spending restraint. However, that is what the people of
New Brunswick expect you to do when you are elected. We recognize that these difficult choices
will impact people’s lives, but we have also made the decision, in our five-point plan, to invest
strategically in health care and in education, to minimize the impact. That meant that we had to look
at other services in other departments.
Today, I recognize the fact that, with a four-year plan to return to balanced budgets, coupled with
the $1.2 billion in record investments in rural New Brunswick and in urban centres across this
province, the plan for lower taxes and, as I said, investing in the priorities of health care and
education . . . This is an important point in our province’s history. The fact is that other provinces
are looking at harmonizing their tax or increasing their sales tax. Here in New Brunswick, we have
made the decision to lower taxes for all New Brunswickers.
Mr. Alward: Let’s remember very quickly that, in 2007, this government made the decision to
increase taxes for every New Brunswicker and for every business in New Brunswick. That is the
record of this government. This government has set priorities, priorities such as increasing its
communications budget from $2.5 million to more than $6 million. That is what this government
is all about in terms of priorities.
One last time, to the Premier, this afternoon: You are turning your back on the people of the Lower
Saint John River Valley. You are turning your back on rural New Brunswick. You have an
opportunity to stand up and be counted, just as everyone else has. Will you reverse your poor
decision and bring back the cable ferries in New Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: As I have said before, discontinuing these ferries meant budget restraint in terms
of $1.5 million in annual operating costs. Over the next three years, to meet the requirements of the
Canada Shipping Act regulations, each vessel will need to be replaced at a total cost of $12 million,
so there is an issue of cost in the future. Our government has made a decision today to invest
strategically in a number of key areas such as health, education, and the core services of
government. We have also made a decision to lower taxes significantly for all New Brunswickers
to help stimulate the economy. We are also spending record investments in critical infrastructure
across this province to stimulate the economy over a two-year period. These are difficult choices
that have to be made, and our government is sticking by those decisions.
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020 14:20
Mr. Alward: Not only does this budget eliminate the ferry service in the Lower Saint John River
system, but it will also significantly reduce the ferry service to Deer Island in the winter months. The
residents of Deer Island are legitimately concerned that lives will be put at risk because of increased
delays in ambulance times. To the Minister of Health: Was your department consulted in this
decision to cut ferry service to Deer Island? Are you prepared to reassure the citizens today that you
will revisit this decision and push to have it reversed?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, when government made this decision collectively, each government
department had input in the decision-making process. Today, all members on this side of the
Chamber are meeting with stakeholder groups. These difficult times call for difficult measures. The
budget is having an impact, and our MLAs are meeting with the affected citizens.
Again, it is important to reiterate that we are in a global economic crisis today. Unless the
government makes prudent and important decisions, our economy will not recover. That is why,
today, I am proud of the fact that our plan for economic recovery is being talked about, nationally
and internationally, as being a bold, ambitious plan. It comes with difficult choices that have to be
made. However, I am confident that, with the strength of this team making these difficult choices,
which all former governments had to make, we will be better positioned for the recovery than many
other jurisdictions in North America. Yesterday, we saw a prime example of that, when Irving Oil
announced a potential investment in the energy hub. At a time when companies are saying that they
are not moving forward with projects, our province is still moving forward, full steam ahead, on a
number of economic development fronts.
Mr. Harrison: Mr. Speaker, may I speak from a seat other than my own?
Mr. Speaker: Is it agreed?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Harrison: The Premier has just indicated that he is not prepared to answer any ferry questions
by getting off on a tangent. Also, you do not make choices that impact people’s lives adversely; you
make other decisions. The increase in your communications budget alone would not only pay for
the three ferries we want for a year, but would also put three more on and still pay for those.
A small amount of operational savings is far outweighed by the loss of tax revenue from small
businesses when they cannot sustain themselves because people are going to drive by the
communities affected and because the ferry service is being curtailed. Schoolchildren will have a
longer day. Commuters will pay more for gas. People cannot get to their doctors easily. Ambulances
will lose valuable time. The list goes on. A saving of $1.5 million is not worth the anger,
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aggravation, frustration, inconvenience, and loss of way of life. What are the operational cost
savings, really? How can you justify them?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, I have answered this question today. I stated very clearly that our
government was faced with a number of difficult choices that had to be made. I know, today, that
those choices are impacting people in this Chamber, and they are impacting people across New
Brunswick. However, the reality is that we are not immune from the global economic conditions that
any other province or jurisdiction is facing in North America. Some jurisdictions are looking at
raising taxes. Some are looking at harmonizing taxes. Our government has made the strategic
decision to significantly lower taxes, coupled with strategic investments in infrastructure. We had
to look at spending restraint.
I can tell you today that that spending restraint meant annual operating costs of $1.5 million for the
ferry services. Also, to meet the federal government’s Canada Shipping Act regulations, it also
meant that, in the future, those vessels would need to be replaced, at a total cost of $12 million. We
recognize that the choices that we are making do have an impact in the future.
I want to set the record straight. The member opposite . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Harrison: Simply cut communications. Why give an extension of one month when the answer
is still no? The red herring of Transport Canada’s regulations is not only a guess by DOT in terms
of long-term savings, but within Transport Canada there are only rules in place for staffing ratios
and for additional lifesaving equipment.
021 14:25
Where do you get the $12-million figure to replace three small boats when the first large double-
sized ferry at Gondola Point was $3 million? What about refit of the Evandale hullout, which is
adequate for small boats? We always used to do it in the past. Are you prepared to examine a
realistic repair figure and use some of your debt-loaded stimulus money to solve this problem?
Hon. S. Graham: I want to set the record straight on the erroneous information presented by the
member opposite. The fact is, Communications New Brunswick has been cut, like all other
government departments, by 5%. There has been an amalgamation of services. It has been
streamlined under one department, but that department’s budget has been cut like all other
departments.
I want to go back to the issue of the safety of these vessels. It is my understanding that the Canada
Shipping Act regulations now state that a double-hull capacity is needed for buoyancy. The current
vessels do not meet that requirement.
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Again, we understand today that these difficult choices are having an impact on how people live day
to day, but as a government, we made a decision. We need to invest in our education system. That
means early intervention money today for our schoolchildren, who are being tested for the first time
ever in our province, and giving them the best resources and skills, which they need. That means
investing in our health care system today. That means giving the citizens more access to doctors and
nurses than they have had in the past. That is why we are working with our health care professionals.
That means . . .
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, time.
Mr. Harrison: Mr. Premier, your 30-day delay shows that you really had no real plan, you
conducted no research, and you have had absolutely no consultation. When is this government going
to learn that consultation is essential to democracy? Go back to your decision on postsecondary
education and French immersion. You rolled out ill-conceived policies with no consultation, very
little thought, and skewed statistics.
I would say that your rationale concerning the long-term refit of these ferries is, at best, premature.
Tell the people of these areas the real answers to the inevitable questions: Why are you doing this
to us? Where did you come up with your ill-conceived rationale?
Hon. S. Graham: I appreciate the questions of the member opposite, and as I said, we brought
forward a four-year plan to return to a balanced budget. We have also brought forward investments
in infrastructure and support for businesses across this province, which will create 6 000 person-
years of employment this year. We are investing in our priorities of health and education. I could
go through a wide range of programs that have been enhanced in this budget for those services. We
are also, at the same time, lowering taxes for all New Brunswickers, which is a key component of
the stimulus plan. However, to achieve those goals, we need responsible management of government
expenditures.
I know today that the opposition has stated that it will increase spending and, at the same time, lower
taxes faster than we on this side of the House. However, New Brunswickers cannot judge the
opposition’s plan because it has not been presented. We have indicated clearly today how we are
going to move forward to serve the people of New Brunswick, and we stand by those decisions
presented in this budget.
Mr. Jody Carr: The Premier said again that they are not prepared to reverse this decision, and it
is a shame. The Premier’s numbers are not adding up. Running a government is difficult. It always
has been difficult, but previous governments and previous government MLAs have stood up for the
essential cable ferry services on the Lower Saint John River because they recognized the importance
of these services. The money that the Premier has spent on $60 million for a bank giveaway, the
1 100 untendered contracts, would more than pay for cable ferry services. Increased education and
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health services are no good if you cannot get to them, and this government cuts off their road
services.
Can the Premier provide today the economic impact assessments and the impact on jobs in culture
and tourism that the decision to cut cable ferries has caused? Can the Premier provide the details
today of the impact this will cause?
022 14:30
Hon. S. Graham: I can tell you today that the plan that we presented to New Brunswickers in this
budget will have a positive impact in the long term. In fact, we have heard many stakeholder groups
say that New Brunswick is indeed now the place to situate for business economic development. In
fact, yesterday, we saw a prime example. Our government announced a new strategic investment
in a new corridor, partnering with the state of Maine. When companies today are looking to invest,
they are looking to New Brunswick.
To achieve the goals we had set out meant that we had to make difficult decision. I can empathize
today with the people who are being impacted by these decisions, because this budget does affect
many New Brunswickers. We feel strongly that the balanced approach we have brought forward is
the right approach, and we stand by our budget today.
Mr. Jody Carr: The people of the Lower Saint John River Valley and the people of New Brunswick
need more than empathy. The people of New Brunswick leadership. The people of New Brunswick
need smart government and responsible government. The Premier has been ill advised on the
importance of these cable ferries to their communities. Can the Premier do the right thing and
reverse this decision? The Premier, I guess, is just not up to the job. If he cannot manage difficult
situations . . . As I have mentioned, running a government is difficult. It always has been difficult.
Live up to your job. Provide leadership and reverse this decision. Instead of spending money on
budget propaganda, put it toward the priorities that really matter to communities. Put it toward the
priority of restoring cable ferry services, so that people can build up and become good communities
and be truly self-sufficient. That is not what we are getting from the Premier. Mr. Premier, will you
reverse this decision?
Hon. S. Graham: The priorities of New Brunswickers are very clear. Today, New Brunswickers
have asked us to move forward with a stimulus package. Was some governments across this country
are looking at harmonizing their taxes or increasing sales tax, here in New Brunswick, we are
significantly lowering taxes for all New Brunswickers. That is a key priority. This is the largest tax
reduction in our province’s history.
I can state emphatically that, with a $7.8-billion budget this year, we are making critical investments
in health care and education. We are still attempting to bring forward restraint in those two areas.
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We recognize that, next year, we will have to constrain spending again to a growth of 2%. That
means that further difficult decisions will need to be made.
The opposition members are saying today: Don’t cut anywhere. They are saying that, as we move
forward, we can lower taxes faster. We are bringing forward a five-point plan, and I can tell you that
investing in priorities and responsible management of government spending will allow New
Brunswick to recover ahead of other jurisdictions.
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Holder: The Premier obviously is not listening, because we have made all kinds of suggestions
here today as to where he can cut—starting with his own office, starting with Communications New
Brunswick and his own self-promotion plan. Maybe we need to see less of his face on TV promoting
himself, and more money going toward essential services in this province.
The budget states:
More efficiently managed public services is not a one-year exercise. As I noted earlier, this is only
year one of a multi-year initiative.
Can the Premier stand up here today and tell us unequivocally that ferry service at Evandale,
Millidgeville, Westfield, and Gondola Point will not be on the chopping block next year?
Hon. S. Graham: Now, the opposition wants to debate the government’s budget for the next fiscal
period. I can tell you today that we are debating the budget for this fiscal period. We have been very
clear: Responsible management of government expenditures is not a one-year challenge. There will
be challenges next year, and we will be looking at all government departments. I can say clearly
today that the Office of the Premier is taking a 5% cut in its expenditures, like all other government
departments. The facts will be presented in the estimates process, but I can tell you today that we
have given the citizens in that region an opportunity, over a 30-day period, to look at other
opportunities by working with the private sector. We will continue to provide all the information
that is required during that 30-day period.
I want to be very clear: The province of New Brunswick will no longer be providing services after
the expiration of that 30-day period.
023 14:35
Mr. Holder: One thing that is absolutely clear from that statement by the Premier just now is that
all those people who live around the Gondola Point ferry, the Millidgeville ferry, the Westfield ferry,
and the Evandale ferry had better be ready for next year, because not once, anywhere in that
statement, did the Premier say that they would be protected. His own Minister of Transportation
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gave an interview outside a little while ago and was asked that very question. He said: Well, next
year is another year. I am giving them another opportunity. Will they stand up today and tell us,
unequivocally, that those ferry services will not be touched next year?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, there is an estimates process in this House. During the estimates process,
we will be indicating to New Brunswickers where key investments will be made in each department.
The member opposite wants me to state hypothetically what next year’s budget is going to be. I can
state that, in next year’s budget, there will be another significant tax cut for all New Brunswickers,
which will allow New Brunswickers to save even more of their hard-earned money. To achieve that,
we are going to require that we move forward with the balanced approach that we presented. I can
tell you today that, as we move forward in this process, continued difficult choices will have to be
made.
Courts
Mrs. Blaney: This government is turning its back on a lot of people. As you can see, these people
are turning their backs on this government, and I do not blame them. It is terrible. I guess the
Minister of Health is going to be somewhat disappointed because my question is for the Minister
of Justice. The Minister of Justice has Justice Guerette’s report on his desk. This is a comprehensive
report that makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving the family court system. By
eliminating family court social workers and cutting legal aid, my question to the minister is this: Is
that consistent with the recommendations in Justice Guerette’s report?
Hon. Mr. Burke: I want to thank the member opposite for the question. In fact, Justice Guerette and
the family law task force, which our government appointed last year, have finalized their
recommendations for the improvements our government will be making to the family law justice
program we have in the province. Our government’s goal is to improve access to family law justice
for all women and children in the province, to improve access that is beyond our province to make
sure that we have the best family law system in the province of New Brunswick. We are preparing
a full governmental response to Justice Guerette’s task force. We will be tabling that response. Later
this year, we will also be announcing where we intend to pilot the new family law task force report’s
recommendations in New Brunswick.
Mrs. Blaney: Given that the minister certainly did not indicate that these cuts are consistent with
Justice Guerette’s report, and given that the minister has already indicated that he is out there
fighting to reinstate that money to his department, why would he make the decision to cut all these
social workers, who work primarily with women and children, and to cut legal aid, when it is already
as thin as it can be?
You say you want to extend the parameters. How can you possibly do that? Why would you make
this decision in the face of a comprehensive task force report that, by your very own admission—by
not saying so—is in direct conflict with the recommendations of the report? Why would you do this?
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Hon. Mr. Burke: Again, we will be tabling that report. When the member opposite has an
opportunity to read the report, I am sure she will be pleased with the task force recommendations.
The court social workers program was implemented in order to assist parties, especially those not
represented by legal counsel, with matters before the family court. In practice, those court social
workers were spending anywhere between 50% to 60% of their time doing something that was never
intended, which was preparing legal aid applications. With the enhancements to our family law task
force recommendations, and by implementing those recommendations, legal aid will now be doing
the intake. By doing the intake, we are going to be cutting considerable time in the delays for women
and children to get before family court judges. We will also be looking at the way individuals were
assessed, and the manner of receiving legal aid will be changed. This is a positive step that our
government is taking—a positive step for women and children and a positive step to make sure that
we have the best family law system in this country.
024 14:40
Mrs. Blaney: I fail to see how all these we-are-going-to-dos . . . In light of the fact that we do not
have this report and it has not been made public, why are you putting the cart before the horse?
There have been cuts to social workers in Social Development. Human development officer
positions have been cut. These are people who work primarily with women and children. There is
the elimination—elimination—of Family Court social workers. You have made cuts to legal aid, and
you have left thousands of people ineligible for the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program. These are
primarily women and children. You have systematically marginalized just about every vulnerable
group that is out there. How can the Premier justify—I know he is just about to get up and leave—all
of these decisions that marginalized and, in most respects, seemingly abandoned women and
children in particular?
Hon. Mr. Burke: Look, we appreciate the opposition’s questions with respect to this particular
process. Again, we will be tabling recommendations very shortly. There is a process with respect
to our estimates, and our department will be releasing them. However, I want to remind the member
opposite that neither our province nor any other province receives any money from the federal
government with respect to family law legal aid. That has been the number one priority for our
department, and it has been the number one priority for every single Minister of Justice in the
Atlantic region. We have called upon the federal government to ask for a dedicated revenue fund
to assist women and children in New Brunswick in gaining access to family law legal aid.
Unfortunately, the federal Conservative Party will not give us the funding. I would encourage the
member opposite to speak to her counterparts and to the senator who once sat in this Legislative
Assembly, to encourage the federal government to give the women and children of New Brunswick
access to family legal aid.
Mr. Urquhart: At a time when the economy is attacking us from all sides, the court system itself
should be the one area in which the people know they are going to be looked after. We know that,
because of these economic times, the courts are going to be called on more and more. Can the
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minister explain to the people of New Brunswick why he is eliminating the Small Claims Court of
New Brunswick, which was established in 1999—a court that allows the small people of New
Brunswick to have access to the big people of New Brunswick without going through a court
system? They could go in and have a matter of $6 000 or less identified. In Ontario, a province that
has more economic problems than we do, that limit has been increased to $25 000.
Hon. Mr. Burke: Again, I want to remind the member opposite that there is an estimates process
and that our department will be releasing our budgetary numbers during that process. However, I
want to remind the member opposite of something that all New Brunswickers should be aware of.
Our government has not eliminated the Small Claims Court process. You see, the members opposite
like to look at the budget, they like to look at the glaze of it, they like to point a finger, and they like
to blame us for cutting this or that and doing this or that. If the opposition members scratch below
the surface a little bit, they will recognize something.
With respect to the Small Claims Court process, we are simply transferring it to the Court of
Queen’s Bench. Now, New Brunswickers will have more access to justice. Now, New Brunswickers
will have an opportunity to go before a judge, to explain their case, and to have it heard
professionally and presented in a proper fashion. There has been no elimination of the Small Claims
Court process. It has simply been transferred to the Court of Queen’s Bench—where, I would
remind the member opposite, it once was, prior to 1995.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over. Order.
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012 13:45
Education
Mr. Alward: Over the last number of years, the Minister of Education has made no effort to hide
his feelings regarding tax cuts. In fact, in 2006, the minister said that it was immoral to pass debt
on to our children. This is coming from someone who supported a budget that will see our children
paying off the provinces net debt for decades and decades to come.
The Department of Education has seen cuts to various aspects of its budget, while the province’s net
debt balloons at an historic rate. Can the minister confirm whether he supports his government’s
plan to cut taxes and the decision to cut education services to New Brunswick’s children?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: There is no question that, in today’s economic climate, we need to stimulate
the economy with a record capital budget. In order to keep our creditors happy while we do that, all
of us have to manage expenditures. Over the last two years, we have seen the largest literacy
increase since measurement began. The programs that protected that, that created that boom in
literacy, involved clear goals and measurements, as well as incentives like the Innovation Fund for
teachers who go above and beyond. We have things like community schools that modernize the way
we teach, as well as early intervention by funding the MacKay report. We are providing more
options for students through music, art, trades, and phys ed. Those are the pillars. In this budget,
even as we have to face challenging economic times, we will protect the pillars that have led to
success where pervious governments failed, in terms of record literacy increases.
Mr. Alward: Let’s go back to the question. Perhaps the minister will answer it this time. I would
like to remind the House of another comment that the Minister of Education made, this time in 2005.
He said that tax cuts should only be done when we do not have to cut health care and education.
When we take into consideration the increases in teachers’ wages, as well as the fact that there is
one less student per classroom, funding is down significantly compared to last year. Yes, the
Minister of Education has seen cuts in his department’s budget due to his government’s poor
financial management over the last two and a half years. The additional $100 million in interest
payments on the net debt that the province will have to pay in the future could buy 10 new schools
a year. Will the minister stand in this House today and admit to the people of New Brunswick that
he is cutting programs and services to our students?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: If there is any question as to which government has funded record increases
in literacy in New Brunswick, I would remind the honourable member that, between 2000 and 2006,
the PISA report said that there were no appreciable gains in literacy. In the last two years, we have
actually had the largest literacy increases since measurements began, and there were programs that
did that. Certainly, those programs involve clear measurement and evaluation of the previous
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government’s cuts. We have programs like the Innovative Learning Fund, which rewards good
teachers, community schools that change the way we teach, and the MacKay report. The previous
government did not put one new dollar into funding the MacKay report, but we have to intervene
when kids struggle. Those are the pillars of change. Those are protected. If the Leader of the
Opposition wants to have a debate about the right pillars to protect in education—if he knows the
file well enough—let’s do that. I certainly stand behind this government’s record in getting record
results in literacy while, at the same time, creating jobs. That has also been done under this
government.
Mr. Alward: Perhaps the minister would like to admit that the investments made through the
Quality Learning Agenda have had an impact since 2006.
With regard to the MacKay report, the minister trumpeted it a couple of times. The minister has said
that there are some children in the school system who have special learning needs and get no
services at all, and that we should not be tolerating that for one more day. Furthermore, the minister
has stated that we accept the deadlines in the MacKay Report, that we accept the report, and that any
budget that does not, does not deserve to be supported. Can the minister confirm today for members
on this side of the House that no programs or services tied to the MacKay report, such as
intervention services, will be cut or reduced?
013 13:50
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: Again, given that this is the first government to actually put new money into
the MacKay report, I would certainly answer any specific questions the Leader of the Opposition
might want to raise on a particular deadline in the report—if he has read it. Again, I remind the
member opposite that, over the last two years, we saw the two largest funding increases to education
in over 25 years. It was bigger than any increase under the previous government. Even this year’s
is a bigger increase than in two budgets that he supported as a member of the Progressive
Conservative Party. Let’s also remember that.
The pillars of change, those things that led to record literacy numbers—early intervention, clear
measurements, quality schools, quality instruction through community schools, and incentives for
teachers, such as the Innovation Fund—are protected in this budget. I would remind the member
again that, between 2000 and 2006, PISA said that the former government made no gains in literacy.
When it came to education, his government put the “k” in quality. Between 2006 and 2008, we have
seen the largest literacy increase since measurement began. With the greatest of respect, given that
we are still funding more than his government ever did, the member should respect that.
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Alward: Let’s go back to a history lesson for the minister. The investments that were made
through the Quality Learning Agenda are having an impact today. They had an impact in 2006. The
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fact is that we have a minister who is trying to take credit for increases in 2006, but the reality is that
investments were started before. That is why we certainly support increases in education
investments, and that is why the minister has tried to move this agenda forward. However, what is
very sad today is that we have a minister and a government that have turned their backs on educating
young people. They are actually taking it in the opposite direction. Will the minister confirm today
that no programs or services tied to the MacKay report will be cut or reduced in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: Again, with regard to any specific deadline in the 92 recommendations . . . I
am sure that the leader has read them, so he would be able to tell me which one he wants to ask
about. That is not a problem. Again, I will say this: I believe that ministers have to own their record.
Certainly, between 2000 and 2006, an international agency said that no appreciable gains were made
in literacy in New Brunswick. Perhaps by osmosis, when the Conservatives left the room, magically,
it all started to work.
Indeed, things changed significantly in 2006 with programs like the Innovative Learning Fund, with
real innovation and incentives for teachers to improve. We put back evaluations of literacy, math,
and science which were cut by the previous government, in a budget that the Leader of the
Opposition voted for. He voted to cut evaluations. We put $17 million into the MacKay report. By
the way, when we put in record investments, in the first two years of this government, this Leader
of the Opposition called it a spending problem. He said that we should have cut taxes instead of
funding the MacKay report, just like his government did.
The results since 2006 speak for themselves. We have record improvements in literacy. I think that
we should learn from that and learn which programs and pillars we need to protect and which ones
we can recognize that we should look at in tough economic times.
Autobus scolaires
M. C. Landry : Ma question s’adresse au ministre de l’Éducation. Dans le budget que le ministre
des Finances nous a donné, seulement trois lignes parlent d’éducation. C’est inquiétant. En ce qui
a trait aux réductions de programmes, il y a plusieurs paragraphes. Les enseignants, comme nos
élèves, sont inquiets. Les parents aussi sont inquiets. Le ministre de l’Éducation n’est pas sans savoir
que les parents de nos jeunes enfants sont préoccupés par la sécurité du transport scolaire. Lorsque
le budget a été rendu public, le montant affecté au transport scolaire a été réduit. D’après certains
journaux, on parle même d’une somme de 2 millions de dollars. Monsieur le ministre, pouvez-vous
assurer aux parents du Nouveau-Brunswick que la réduction du budget n’entraînera aucune
conséquence négative sur la sécurité de nos enfants?
L’hon. M. Lamrock : C’est clair que, dans le plan d’éducation et dans Les enfants au premier
plan, on a vu la plus grande amélioration des taux de littératie que jamais au Nouveau-Brunswick,
et c’est parce que nous avons investi dans la salle de classe. Nous avons établi des buts clairs en
littératie, en numératie et en mathématiques. Nous avons utilisé des mesures incitatives afin que les
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enseignants et les écoles atteignent des résultats. Nous avons des écoles communautaires pour
changer les méthodes pédagogiques au Nouveau-Brunswick. Nous avons aussi plus d’interventions
au cours de l’éducation précoce.
014 13:55
On va protéger les choses qui ont connu les plus grandes augmentations, étant donné que c’est la
façon dont on va bâtir le meilleur système d’éducation possible. Oui, cela commence dans la salle
de classe, parce que c’est l’endroit le plus important pour le gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick.
C’est dans la salle de classe que l’on trouve la littératie, les mathématiques et les sciences.
M. C. Landry : Il faut que le ministre de l’Éducation comprenne que nos élèves doivent pouvoir
se rendre à la salle de classe. Pour ce faire, ils ont besoin d’un système de transport sécuritaire. Le
ministre n’a pas répondu à la question. Les règlements provinciaux stipulent que la province n’a pas
l’obligation de fournir le service d’autobus aux enfants habitant à l’intérieur d’un rayon de 2,4 km
de leur école ou encore à 1,5 km de leur école s’ils vivent sur une route secondaire.
Nous sommes conscients que la province subit des pressions financières. Toutefois, rien ne justifie
de priver nos enfants d’un moyen de transport sécuritaire. Pour un enfant qui commence la
maternelle, à l’âge de 5 ans, lui demander de marcher 1,5 km pour se rendre à l’école ou pour se
rendre à l’arrêt d’autobus, c’est très exigeant.
Ma question est celle-ci : est-ce que la réduction de 2 millions de dollars pour le service de transport
scolaire du ministère de l’Éducation signifie que, dorénavant, les enfants habitant à l’intérieur d’un
rayon de 2,4 km de l’école n’auront plus le droit de voyager en autobus scolaire? Ma question est
simple.
L’hon. M. Lamrock : Ce sont peut-être des nouvelles pour mon ami d’en face, mais le bureau du
contrôleur a dit qu’il serait possible d’épargner environ 5 millions de dollars dans le système de
transport scolaire. Je peux peut-être aider mes amis du Parti conservateur à se souvenir que, en 2004,
quand ils ont voté en faveur de l’augmentation la plus basse en éducation de toute une génération,
l’ancienne ministre de l’Éducation, la députée d’Edmundston—Saint-Basile, avait dit qu’il fallait
économiser les dollars en dehors de la salle de classe pour les mettre dans la salle de classe.
Je trouve intéressant que la première question posée par mon ami, le porte-parole en matière
d’éducation, ait rapport aux autobus scolaires et qu’il n’ait pas posé aucune question sur les taux de
littératie au Nouveau-Brunswick. Sa priorité est peut-être les autobus et non les livres. C’est peut-
être pour cela que, pendant le règne des Conservateurs, il n’y a pas eu d’augmentation dans le taux
de littératie entre 2000 et 2006.
M. C. Landry : Cet après-midi, le ministre n’a pas répondu aux préoccupations des parents
concernant le transport scolaire. Oui, je comprends qu’on avait mis en place le Plan d’apprentissage
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de qualité et je pense que nous avons obtenu de bons résultats. Le ministre nous parle des deux
dernières années. Un plan a été mis de l’avant par l’ancien gouvernement, et on a obtenu des
résultats.
Toutefois, les parents du Nouveau-Brunswick sont très inquiets concernant le transport scolaire. On
a parlé de 2 millions, et le ministre semble nous dire qu’il y aura des réductions d’un montant de 5
millions dans le transport scolaire. Cela veut donc dire qu’il y aura moins d’autobus sur les routes
et moins d’argent prévu au budget pour leur entretien.
Monsieur le ministre, vous n’avez pas répondu à ma question et aux parents du Nouveau-Brunswick
concernant la sécurité des élèves en ce qui a trait à leur transport vers la salle de classe. Répondez-
nous, Monsieur le ministre.
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: The member opposite said that they got good results before. Maybe he was
satisfied. The member opposite is entitled to his own opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts.
You do not have to take my word for it. Read the last report from the international organization
PISA. It says that, between 2000 and 2006, New Brunswick made no appreciable gains in literacy.
Now, for the first time, we have seen the largest literacy increase since measurement began in the
past two years. We know that, because we restored the measurements in literacy that the members
opposite cut when they were in office.
My friend the Education Critic has decided to ask his first question ever, not about how well kids
read, not about how well they do math, and not about trades but about school buses. Maybe that is
a question of priorities. We know that the Comptroller’s Office said that we could find $5 million
to put back into the classroom if we found efficiencies in transportation, and the districts will do
that. However, I think it comes from knowing what is Job 1. With us, reading, writing, and math are
Job 1. In two and a half years, the Conservatives have never asked a single question about literacy
rates. They have asked over 100 questions on tax cuts. I think that tells us what type of government
they were and where their priorities are on the other side of the Chamber.
015 14:00
Enfants ayant des besoins spéciaux
Mme Dubé : Il y a tellement de problèmes dont on peut parler en ce qui concerne ce gouvernement-ci
et pas seulement en éducation. Aujourd’hui n’est qu’un début. Les parents sont inquiets. Nous
avions un bon Plan d’apprentissage de qualité, et le gouvernement libéral a bénéficié des résultats
de ce plan et il a continué en grande partie le plan que le Parti conservateur avait mis en place. En
ce qui concerne les enfants à besoins spéciaux, lorsque le ministre était à l’opposition, il critiquait
et disait qu’il voulait des investissements records précisément pour aborder la question des enfants
à besoins spéciaux dans la salle de classe. Il parlait d’implanter toutes les recommandations dès son
arrivée au pouvoir. Il parlait d’un investissement qu’il avait calculé lui-même, soit une augmentation
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d’environ 70 millions de dollars au budget pour l’éducation. Où sont ces dollars? Où est l’aide pour
les enfants à besoins spéciaux au Nouveau-Brunswick? Ce qu’on voit dans le présent budget, ce sont
des réductions. Comment peut-il tolérer aujourd’hui des réductions dans son propre ministère pour
les enfants du Nouveau-Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: It is interesting. One minute, the Conservatives say that they absolutely hate
the government’s new education plan; now, they are saying that it was all their idea. I do not mind
either argument, but they should probably choose one of them. Let’s talk about where the new
money went. The two years of record increases in education, the two largest increases in over 25
years, occurred in the last two years. First, we put in clear targets. We measure literacy now. In
2004, the Conservatives cut evaluations by $1.3 million. There is new money. We have incentives.
Now, when teachers get results, they get funding through the Innovative Learning Fund. That is $17
million that we have invested over the last two years. The Conservatives opposed it and, in fact,
never put in any incentives for teachers who do well.
Sixty-two community schools opened in the last two years, with an investment of $3 million. These
allow teachers to change the way they teach and modernize. We did it; they did not. There is new
money. There was over $15 million for the MacKay report, to intervene early, with the right
services, when kids struggle. How many new dollars did they put in? Zero. The only McKay in their
platform was the candidate in Bathurst. There are 112 mentors in physical education, art, and music.
They put in 10 in seven years.
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mme Dubé : On voit que le ministre est sur la défensive. Premièrement, c’est notre gouvernement
qui a justement mis en place le programme de littératie qu’il a lui-même qualifié d’excellent et qu’il
a continué. Les résultats dont les enfants et lui bénéficient aujourd’hui sont dues au plan d’attaque
de notre gouvernement ; alors, je passe.
Qu’arrive-t-il aux enfants à besoins spéciaux? Le ministre de l’Éducation évite la question. C’est
très clair, parce que, lorsqu’il siégeait à l’opposition, ce même ministre avait dit que les
investissements devaient être faits immédiatement et que son gouvernement, sous Shawn Graham,
le ferait dès son entrée au pouvoir. Il parlait d’un montant supplémentaire record de 70 millions, non
pas pour payer les salaires mais pour aider les enfants à besoins spéciaux. Pourtant, on voit encore
des réductions dans le budget. Il a reçu des miettes de l’augmentation, et elles sont majoritairement
liées à des salaires. Où sont vos priorités, Monsieur le ministre? Elles ne sont certainement pas au
niveau des enfants. Vous avez dit vous-même :
We cannot wait one more day for children with special needs. The costs will increase. We cannot
wait one more day. Why do you tolerate, 365 days a year . . .
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Hon. Mr. Lamrock: The first thing you need is ministers who are aware of the budgets they are
voting for. In 2004, the Minister of Education, the member who just asked the question, voted for
a budget that had only a 1.8% increase in education. She voted for it and defended it in this House,
saying that it was possible, if you folks know what is important, to do enough. In the last two years,
we have seen a 13% increase in education, putting back literacy evaluations and giving parents a
report card. The members opposite did not do it because, in the budget she defended, they cut the
evaluations in literacy. It meant putting in 112 physical education, art, and music mentors to reward
the strengths of every child. In her three years as minister, they put in 10. That is where the new
money went. They did not put a single new dollar into the MacKay report in those budgets we
rightly opposed. We put $17 million into the MacKay report, in new funding, in order to provide
M and R teachers, early interventions, and early childhood evaluations to make the system work.
That is why the results happen to have occurred in the last two years. That is not an accident. That
is good management.
016 14:05
Mme Dubé : Il vient lui-même d’admettre les miettes qu’il a ajoutées pour les enfants à besoins
spéciaux, quand son premier ministre et lui avaient dit dans leur campagne partout dans la province
qu’ils investiraient les 60 ou 70 millions requis dans les enfants à besoin spéciaux. Il vient d’ajouter
et de dire qu’il a investi 5 ou 10 millions. Ce sont des graines, ce n’est qu’un supplément à ce qu’on
y avait déjà mis.
Nous n’avons pas réduit les évaluations, nous les avons réorganisées pour le bien-être des enfants,
ce qui a donné les résultats dont il bénéficie aujourd’hui en tant que ministre de l’Éducation, et il
essaie d’en prendre le mérite. Les enseignants et les parents de partout dans la province savent
mieux.
Le ministre a même dit à différentes occasions qu’il défendrait les enfants et les parents. Il a dit
également que, s’il n’était pas nécessairement capable de faire entendre raison au ministre des
Finances et à son cabinet, il remettrait même sa démission. Aujourd’hui, on se réveille à la Chambre
avec des réductions dans les bibliothèques. Il veut parler de la littératie? On va en parler. Il y a des
réductions pour que les enfants ne se rendent plus à l’école de façon sécuritaire. Ma question au
ministre est la suivante : Où sont les millions de dollars que vous aviez promis— parlons de cet
aspect — uniquement pour les enfants à besoins spéciaux?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: Actually, we have over $100 million in new money in the education system
today because of good choices by this government, including $15 million for the MacKay report that
the opposition never found a single new dollar to fund. I want to talk about why that is important.
Do you know what? The MacKay report is certainly important. That was why we put $15 million
where no other government had. Those early interventions matter.
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That is also not the whole challenge. I hear the roar of jealousy from a government that could not
get the literacy results up, talking about a government that has finally had record returns in literacy.
Not only did we fund the MacKay report, but we also funded evaluations that the opposition cut. It
can read the AIMS report and see where it was criticized for that. We put $17 million in an
Innovation Fund to reward teachers who go above and beyond. There are 62 new community
schools; 112 mentors in physical education, art, and music; new early childhood evaluations; and
14 new teaching positions in kindergarten readiness, so that we do not wait for a child to come to
kindergarten before we have a plan in place. All of that matters. Because we did all of it, and
because we made investments that the Leader of the Opposition said at the time were a spending
problem, we have a sound base to get us through tough economic times with record gains in literacy.
Teachers
Mr. Betts: As an educator for 28 years, I was very concerned to see that the province had cut the
Beginning Teacher Induction Program. This program has been recognized across Canada as the best
in the country. Countries such as Finland, which has the highest scores from PISA, recognize the
expertise of the teacher as the single most important factor in improving test scores. In fact, its
teachers have master’s degrees in their specialties.
Now, in the last little while, the government has spent all kinds of money on radio, television, and
newspaper advertising for its tax cuts. It did not have the same concern two years ago to advertise
its tax increases. Perhaps some of this money can be filtered back into education to keep this
program. My question is this: How does the province intend to help beginning teachers in the future?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: I do appreciate the question. I respect the educational experience of the
member for Moncton Crescent. Here is why I believe that we can manage to put these efficiencies
back into the classroom. Over the last few years, we have actually increased the budget for
professional development. In fact, you will remember that the opposition’s Education Critic called
for us to cut the professional development budget for teachers by $1.8 million. We did not do that.
We continued to invest in additional professional development, so that teachers could travel to get
training on inclusive education and a variety of other needs of today’s classroom. We also created
four additional professional development days. We are going to maintain three of those this year,
above and beyond what the collective agreement calls for.
We think that with that new money and those new days for professional development, we can meet
the important mentoring goals of the Beginning Teacher Induction Program, which was created at
a time when government did not fund any of those things. It is a legitimate program with legitimate
aims. We have put in enough new days and money that I believe we can meet the objectives and get
that $1 million back in the classroom, where children need it.
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017 14:10
Mr. Betts: I do not really believe that an in-service day can substitute for the mentorship program
that the Beginning Teacher Induction Program provides. It provides new teachers with a chance to
work with experienced teachers to help them develop good teaching habits and classroom
management—teacher excellence. It has been found that, without this mentorship, many beginning
teachers develop coping habits instead of good classroom management and teaching excellence.
Instead of spending money on ducks, racehorses, and consultants . . . You know, no horse can go
as fast as the money put on it. I think the government can spend money in other ways. Please
reconsider this decision to let that excellent program go, and reinstate it, for the sake of our children.
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: Certainly, we are working with teachers’ associations cooperatively now to
make sure that we do use the additional time and money to meet those objectives. I will, in all good
faith, take the comments made by the member for Moncton Crescent forward, because they are
constructive. We want to make sure that new teachers are mentored.
Let’s also remember that we have made some significant gains in preparing new teachers at the
university level. One thing that was not happening very well, quite frankly, in B.Ed. programs was
that potential teachers were not getting training in things such as how to manage an inclusive
classroom, how to do differentiated instruction, or how to, for instance, use community-based
schooling. Those things were also important, which is why we have now completed negotiations
with the universities on necessary changes to the university programs to make them match the
classroom as it really should be. I completely agree that that is a legitimate goal. I simply believe
that, given what we have done in preparing new teachers better through B.Ed. programs and the
additional opportunities that already exist through new money and time, we can meet those
objectives, and therefore not have to take the $1 million out somewhere closer to the classroom. I
certainly hope that we are right on this matter and the member is wrong, because it is an important
program.
Mr. Betts: Good government is about making the right choices. There was no HST rebate money,
but there was $60 million for the caisse populaire. There was no $100 000 for the food bank, but
there was $400 000 for a study. There were hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultants’ fees
to change the galley logo, advertisements, and communications, but no money for this program,
which helps to improve teacher excellence and student test scores. Could we please have a
commitment from this government that it will make every effort to help these beginning teachers
and help our students?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: We will do that. We certainly will make every effort, through the new money
and time and better training in B.Ed. programs, to meet these objectives in a way that is sensible.
I have to say that I feel torn in today’s question period. It is no secret that I am a bleeding heart when
it comes to education. I would rather have stuck with two years of record funding and economic
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good times. All of us would, quite frankly. However, we also know that, in this budget, through
changes none of us asked for, there is a need in the global economy to manage our expenditures so
that we can stimulate the economy through tax cuts and through the largest capital budget in history.
We have to do that. We still have increased the budget more than two of the Conservative budgets,
but it is not the one I wish we had to implement.
For all that, though, I would be more comforted, with all the help my friends opposite are trying to
give me, if they had asked a single question, before today, in two and a half years, on literacy rates.
They have asked over 100 questions on tax cuts. They called for more tax cuts when we were trying
to increase education spending, and, suddenly, today, there seem to be some crocodile tears. Frankly,
even the member himself, in his member’s statement, did not speak about education, but talked
about how he would cut taxes faster. I appreciate their help today. I would just take it . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.
Schools
Mr. Harrison: The minister has made it clear that he supports the literacy thrust of his department,
which is a critical issue, but we started it. We got it going, and they are capitalizing on it and, I hope,
enhancing it.
However, after getting no answers to previous questions . . . A statement was made recently on the
government side that improved literacy is essential if the province is ever to achieve self-sufficiency.
The minister actually said that if we fail to invest in our kids’ education today, we should not expect
a self-sufficient society in future years. However, the budget statement includes cuts to school
libraries. This flies in the face of improving literacy. The two philosophies do not go together. How
can you justify cuts to school libraries?
Hon. Mr. Lamrock: We are working with stakeholders in districts to see that . . . We have had a
funding increase from central government, and that may not happen. I will have more to say in my
estimates.
018 14:15
The way in which we can defend literacy is by doing the things that increase literacy rates. It is very
important that we then distinguish between years in which people legitimately talked about literacy,
and deserve credit for that, but did not deliver increased literacy rates and years governments
actually got increases in the literacy rates—the record literacy increases we saw between 2006 and
2008.
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It is not only money. After all, this budget has a bigger increase than the one the other side
supported, and we all know, in tough times, that is a reality. I do not think we should pretend we are
something that we are not today because we are in opposition.
In actual fact, here are the things that led to that change and that we are supporting: real
measurements, more incentives for teachers who get results, community schools that change the way
we teach, early interventions through the MacKay report, and celebrating the strengths of every child
through trades, phys ed, art, and music. Those are the pillars of how we get better literacy results,
and the proof is that we got better literacy results. Those are the programs that we will protect.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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017 11:05
Canadian Blood Services
Mr. Alward: There are few people in this House, I dare say, who have not been impacted in some
way by the excellent services provided by Canadian Blood Services Agency, whether it is by making
donations of their own blood or by working as a volunteer at one of the donation clinics. In fact,
many of us, I am sure, have been in need of a life-saving gift from a stranger when we have had a
medical emergency.
Each province pays its own share of the cost of this vital services, and the Minister of Health sits
on the board, on behalf of all New Brunswickers. My question today is for the minister: Did he vote
in favour of eliminating and closing the distribution centre in Saint John and seeing it relocated to
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia?
018 11:10
Hon. Mr. Murphy: Well over a year ago, we commenced discussions with Canadian Blood
Services. The Minister of Social Development, the Minister of Energy, the member for Saint John
Champlain, and I had a conference call with Canadian Blood Services to get it to reverse its
decision. We had a face-to-face meeting with representatives of Canadian Blood Services, and we
also sent them a number of letters, asking them to reverse that decision, which we did not feel was
proper. We were told by Canadian Blood Services, in the face-to-face meeting, that it was simply
a courtesy meeting, that it was a federal authority, and that the federal Conservative government was
not going to change this.
We are more than willing to join with the opposition. I am more than willing to send yet another
letter—and I certainly hope that all the members of the opposition would sign that letter with
me—asking that the decision be reversed.
Mr. Alward: The minister did not answer the question, as always, in this House. My question was
for the minister. He sits on the board, representing all New Brunswickers. What was the minister’s
decision regarding moving the facility to Dartmouth? Did he support that decision in front of the rest
of the board members?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I think I have already explained that we had face-to-face meetings with
Canadian Blood Services. I indicated to that organization repeatedly that we wanted that decision
reversed. It has repeatedly indicated that there is no room to reverse that decision. After that
meeting, everything became processed with regard to the moving of the service to Dartmouth. The
remainder of Canadian Blood Services in New Brunswick would be collection only. This is a
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decision of the federal cousins of the opposition members. If they will support me, I will once again
ask the organization to reverse its decision.
Mr. Alward: This is absolutely not a good enough answer to the question. Clearly, the minister sits
on the board of directors, and he has not been prepared today to say where he stood on the decision
that this agency made. Will the minister explain how this decision will improve the delivery of this
needed service in New Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I think that this decision still has the potential of being reversed, on the basis
of the support of all the opposition members. Also, Senator John Wallace and the MP from Saint
John, Rodney Weston, could support this, but I have heard nothing from them. The process has been
to remove this service. I do not believe that this helps the tertiary Level 1 hospital at the Saint John
Regional Hospital, which is becoming the New Brunswick trauma centre. I do not think that it
particularly serves us better. We have already espoused the position repeatedly to Canadian Blood
Services that we do not agree with that decision. We are glad that the opposition has raised that here
today. We would like to have help from the opposition members, from Senator Wallace, and from
Rodney Weston.
Mr. Alward: A responsible government, a responsible minister, or a responsible Premier would
have raised the issue. If the minister knew about it a year ago, he would have come to the opposition
and said: There is an issue. Let’s be really clear. The minister sits on the board of directors, and
where has he stood on the issue? Let’s be really clear. The province of New Brunswick is
responsible for paying for this service. How much is your department going to save because of this
service? This is a reduction in service. By how much are you reducing your budget?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: To my knowledge, we are not going to be saving anything because of the
decision of the federal government in this regard. I am more than willing—and I am very pleased
to hear this from the opposition this morning—to bring forward a motion in this House, and I will
ask for the unanimous consent of the opposition to ask the federal government to reverse this
decision. We have been asking for this for well over a year.
019 11:15
Mrs. Blaney: It is clear that the minister is in full damage control. He has known for a year. In fact,
he told us this morning that several members of this government knew for a year that this was a
possibility. We found out yesterday from the media. The fact is that neither the minister nor any of
his colleagues chose to consult, and not just with us. Doctors found out yesterday. In fact, they had
an emergency meeting. They did not see this coming either.
I would like to know: Did the minister consult with the head of the provincial trauma system and
the head of the provincial cardiac system? Did he consult with the oncologists? Obviously, if the
minister says he has been arguing against this decision for a year, he has been doing so on his own.
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Why would you not seek out those who would support you? Why did you keep this to yourself for
a whole year?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I am just wondering where Rodney Weston has been for the last year on this
federal matter. We know that the Minister of Social Development, the Minister of Energy, and the
Saint John MLAs were all asking the federal government to reverse this decision. This is something
that the Department of Health has been labouring with for over a year. I am very surprised that the
members of the Conservative Party on the other side of the House were not advised by Mr. Weston
nor by Senator Wallace, as of late. However, they still have the option to support a unanimous
motion of this Legislature asking that their federal government reverse that decision.
Mrs. Blaney: Mr. Minister, you need to get your facts straight. You represent the province of New
Brunswick at Canadian Blood Services, which is a Crown corporation. The provinces and the
territories pay for the service. New Brunswickers’ tax dollars pay for this service. You are one
hundred percent responsible for representing New Brunswickers at the table. You knew this decision
was being made and you did nothing—nothing—to stop it, because you did not talk to the doctors
and you did not talk to the stakeholders. If we do not have a distribution centre, do you realize the
impact it will have on trauma, on emergency rooms, and on oncology? Platelets do not have a shelf
life. If you need 35 units of blood, what are you going to do? Pick up the phone and call Dartmouth?
That is exactly what is going to happen. Why were you not fighting for us?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: The federal decision of which the member opposite speaks has been made for
some time. They have been proceeding on the process to move this service, with all their guarantees
that it will not affect service in New Brunswick. We have contested that repeatedly. The member
opposite says that nothing was done. I consider that a conference call, face-to-face meetings,
repeated letters, and repeated concerns raised with the federal authorities with regard to this are quite
substantial. It is not, as of yet, moved. My understanding now is, clearly, that the opposition will
finally join us. I have a hard time believing that the opposition members were not advised by their
own Member of Parliament with regard to this federal decision, which is within their grasp and their
ability to change. They can join with us, finally, and we can change this.
Mrs. Blaney: I spoke personally this morning with a Mr. Bédard at Canadian Blood Services, and
he assures me that the decision was made by the board members, by the representatives from the
provinces. The minister cannot pass the buck on this. I am no expert, I am not a doctor, and I am not
a medical professional. The last time I checked, the minister is not either. Why would he not have
given consideration to those who know, those who work in the field every day? Why would he not
have given consideration to those who can go across the street right now—it is five minutes
away—for the provincial trauma service to get the blood it needs? It is five minutes away, in a
distribution centre that we have in our province, and you let it go. You let it go. You cannot blame
this on the feds or on anybody but yourself. My God, you sat on this for a year, and you are letting
this leave our province! You need to move over and let somebody else take the helm, because you
are a one-man wrecking team.
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020 11:20
Hon. Mr. Murphy: There is something quite ironic in the statements of the member and of the
Leader of the Opposition, who are chastising the government for fighting a decision that was made
by their own federal government. There is something ironic about this provincial government being
chastised for fighting for the rights of New Brunswickers and for fighting to keep this here, when
they were not even advised by the MP, Rodney Weston, their own member, with whom they went
door-to-door. If they want to support this government in trying to keep that service here, which we
have been fighting for, we are more than happy, but the politics and game-playing this morning . . .
The members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot chastise the government for
something that their own federal government has done and then somehow not want to support us.
It is just too ironic.
M. C. Landry : Je trouve inacceptable que le ministre de la Santé fasse de la politique lorsqu’on
parle de sang. Lorsqu’un accident arrive, on doit avoir le sang nécessaire pour soigner les patients,
mais le ministre de la Santé fait de la politique avec cela. Il y a un an, s’il savait qu’il y avait des
problèmes avec le centre de distribution et que celui-ci devait être déménagé à Dartmouth, il aurait
dû tendre la main à l’opposition.
Pour ce qui est de la situation financière, le chef de l’opposition a fait cette démarche et a tendu la
main au gouvernement. Si le ministre de la Santé nous avait informés de cette situation, je suis
convaincu qu’on lui aurait tendu la main et réglé le problème.
En ce qui a trait à cette décision d’un centre de distribution qui sera maintenant situé à Dartmouth,
que fait le ministre de la Santé des régions rurales du Nouveau-Brunswick, lorsqu’on sait que notre
province est la deuxième province la plus rurale au Canada?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: The questions raised by the member for Tracadie-Sheila are the exact same
questions that we used in our argument with Canadian Blood Services to keep the service here in
New Brunswick. I would be more than happy to join with the opposition in asking, once again, as
we have so many times before, for a reversal of that decision.
M. C. Landry : Ici, on parle d’un centre de distribution de sang pour le Nouveau-Brunswick. La
décision a été prise par un conseil d’administration, et non par le gouvernement fédéral. Le ministre
qui nous représente fait lui-même partie de ce conseil. A-t-il appuyé cette décision et peut-il nous
le dire à la Chambre?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: We were advised by Canadian Blood Services of the decision. After that, we
had a conference call and then face-to-face meetings. We exchanged correspondence, and we fought
this decision repeatedly, with the same arguments that are being advanced by the opposition here
today. Clearly, the opposition has not been advised by its federal counterparts about the actions of
the federal government. However, having said that, I do not think that all is lost. I believe that, with
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their assistance, finally, when they are finally advised by their federal cousins, perhaps we can ask
them, once again, to reverse that decision.
Point Lepreau
Mr. Northrup: With Point Lepreau now being six months behind, was the problem that brought this
on the result of bad planning by NB Power in the past couple of years, because it does not have the
right materials and the right equipment in place?
Hon. Mr. Keir: I thank the member for Kings East for that question. I am not quite sure where he
is getting his information. My information, as late as this morning, when I met with David Hay, is
that it is five months behind, not six months. This is not about material or lack of equipment. It is
a very, very complex job. They are dealing with a technological issue to crush the tubes within the
reactor. They are working on it and moving through it.
021 11:25
I do want to make it clear that this is not a productivity issue. This is not an issue of a lapse in
productivity by New Brunswick workers. They are there, ready and focused, and they want to get
the job done.
Mr. Northrup: It is still a longer delay than was anticipated a couple of months ago. It will now be
9 months, 10 months, or 12 months. My next question is this: In the coming year, will this delay
affect hydro rates for the good people we represent in New Brunswick?
Hon. Mr. Keir: The fact is that the previous government made a decision to move forward with the
refurbishment of Point Lepreau. It had two options. It had the option of going with a private sector
company for $1.8 billion, or it had the option of taking on the risk to New Brunswickers by itself,
for $1.4 million. The previous government took the option of $1.4 billion, and, at this point, it is a
good choice. It took on that risk, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Mr. Northrup: Looking down the road, where will the power come from? Does New Brunswick
have a set rate for this delay? We will be going into another cold winter, and we all realize what
happened last winter. NB Power, I presume, is run by the sitting government, although that has been
thrown up in the air too. Does NB Power have a plan for this delay?
Hon. Mr. Keir: The member opposite may not be aware of this, but it was the previous government
that made the decision that AECL would be the project manager, not NB Power. NB Power is doing
the share of the work for which it is responsible. I might add that NB Power has carried out all the
work for which it is responsible, on time and on budget. The complexity of the job now is with
AECL. With NB Power’s cooperation and great help, they will work through this.
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Power Rates
Mr. Fitch: Certainly, the minister is trying to mitigate the concerns that are being brought forward
by the opposition He is trying to smooth it out and put the blame back here. It is April 1, and the
power rates have gone up again. The Premier has implemented an automatic 3% power rate increase.
Certainly, the power utility is taking that. The effect that people are feeling from this government’s
mismanagement of the NB Power file . . . The minister stood up and said: Take what you need, NB
Power. Take what you need. Do not worry about it. Now, the government is backtracking and trying
to lay the blame elsewhere.
Certainly, when we look at the overall rate increase that has occurred in the past two years, and
when we add the government’s reneging on the 8% HST rebate promise, the effect has been
staggering for rural and urban small businesses alike. With the refurbishment information that has
come out in the media today, does the minister expect that this will mean that the utility will just
take that 3% increase next year or does he expect that the utility will be back before the EUB before
the one-year anniversary?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Let me be very clear to the former Minister of Energy: We are not trying to smooth
over anything. We have said from the very beginning that this refurbishment project would be very
important to the ratepayers of the province. We have never tried to smooth over anything. I think
NB Power has been very transparent in its reporting of how this refurbishment is going. I find it a
little ironic that the former Minister of Energy now suggests that perhaps NB Power is being less
than straightforward. That is the furthest thing from the truth.
Mr. Fitch: The minister is the one who used the words “ not straightforward”. I did not use those
words. However, he did not answer the question. Does he expect the utility to be back before the
EUB before the anniversary, when it can take the Premier’s automatic 3% increase with no questions
asked?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Let me assure the member opposite, with respect to the refurbishment of Point
Lepreau, that there will not be a need to go back to the EUB before the required time.
022 11:30
Mr. Fitch: Can the minister then tell us whether he will guarantee that, next year, the 3% cap will
be honoured? Will this be considered an extraordinary situation in order to bump up the rates once
again, and will the people of New Brunswick have to pay for some of these ongoing issues? When
you look at the net debt that has increased in New Brunswick and the net debt that will be incurred
if the project does not move forward, how is this going to affect the minister’s net debt projections?
If NB Power goes overboard and ends up having more debt on its books, and when it is consolidated
in the province’s books, how is that going to affect the net debt that we have already been shocked
with?
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Hon. Mr. Keir: I know that the member for Riverview often talks about his financial background
and his ability in the stock market. I can tell you that, if the member for Riverview can tell us today
what the price of a barrel of oil is going to be next April, we will tell him exactly what the price of
his electricity is going to be.
Mr. Urquhart: On that same note, New Brunswickers are waking up today to another 3% increase
in their power rates. The people of New Brunswick want to know whether this is just an automatic,
yearly 3% increase. The reason is not explained to them. They were told that they would have an
$18-million increase in fees for everything across the board, and they were given a reason for it.
However, with this automatic 3%, would the minister not tell the people that this is not needed at
this time? Would he explain to the people why he is not putting this 3% increase on hold until he
has time to review it and to explain the need for it?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Perhaps the member opposite does not realize that NB Power is going before the
EUB. By the way, the Electricity Act says that it does not have to. We have requested that NB Power
go before the EUB for that very review. I do not know why the member opposite is asking us to hold
off until the review is done. The review is going forward.
Mr. Urquhart: Then, NB Power is putting the 3% on hold. It will not be doing an automatic
increase starting today. It will be reviewed so that the people of New Brunswick, as of today, will
not receive the 3% increase.
Hon. Mr. Keir: As I mentioned, NB Power is going before the EUB. When it goes before the EUB
for its review, the EUB looks at the expenditures and revenues of NB Power. Let me say this: If the
member opposite wants to look at electricity rates in other jurisdictions, perhaps he should look to
his cousins to the east of us, in Nova Scotia. He should take a look at what kinds of increases have
been moving forward under that government. I would set NB Power against any of those
jurisdictions, on any day of the week, in terms of reliability, stability, and the price of electricity.
Mr. Urquhart: You have talked about great and wonderful things at NB Power, and they are great
and wonderful things. However, let’s have a little sympathy for the taxpayer and the guy who is
paying for the power. These people have to know that the spring freshet is coming. They know that
NB Power is going to get a large increase at the Mactaquac dam. They know that NB Power has
talked about the great and wonderful extra power from last year’s spring flood. There was also an
increase in revenue. You have talked about how NB Power is going to the board to explain it.
However, will you explain to the people of New Brunswick, who, as of today, have to pay that 3%
increase, why they have to pay it?
Hon. Mr. Keir: Finally, it is a fair question from the member opposite. We understand that this
impacts on New Brunswickers. We understand that even a small increase of 3% has an impact on
a lot of folks in New Brunswick. We understand that. That is why we have efficiency programs in
place, to help those folks who need it the most. As we have said for two and a half years, the best
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way to save money on your electricity bill is not to use that electricity at all. That is why the
Minister of Finance has allowed us to put some wonderful programs in place through Efficiency NB
to help those folks who need it the most.
023 11:35
Canadian Blood Services
Mr. Alward: Let us be very clear as to where the opposition stands on the decision to move the
Canadian Blood Services distribution centre to Nova Scotia. Let us be very clear, on the record, that
we are completely opposed to it. Furthermore, we are appalled at the lack of leadership that has been
shown by this minister on this file and, in fact, by other ministers in this government. The fact that
we and key physician leaders in New Brunswick heard about this yesterday through the media tells
you about this minister’s lack of leadership. This was a board decision. The Minister of Health of
New Brunswick sits on that board, representing New Brunswickers.
My question is for the minister. Who pays for this service?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I am glad that the Opposition Leader has raised this again. Opposition members
finally seem to have been advised by their federal cousins. Remember that, while Canadian Blood
Services is a Crown agency, the shareholder is the federal government, the opposition’s federal
colleagues.
I invite the opposition to draft a motion and to present the motion. We will debate it tomorrow
during opposition day. With consent, we will waive all notices necessary. We will waive all notices
necessary, and we will cooperate with the opposition. We will have a unanimous motion passed,
asking the federal government, as a shareholder of this Crown agency, to reverse that decision. We
are with the opposition on that.
Mr. Alward: As with so many other files, this minister has dropped the ball. Time and time again.
Again, a very simple question: Who pays for the service?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: All services provided federally and provincially in New Brunswick are paid for
by the taxpayers of New Brunswick. That is just the way that we have it set up in this country.
However, more importantly, we have a debate. We seem to be going in the same direction, but on
different paths. However, we are going in the same direction. The Opposition Leader can give
instructions for the drafting of that motion. We will waive all necessary notices about the length of
time today. We will have that debate tomorrow as an emergency motion. We will agree with it. We
will make any necessary changes with the opposition, and we will go ahead and ask the
shareholder—the federal government of Canada and Prime Minister Harper, the opposition’s federal
leader—to change that decision. We are glad to finally hear from the opposition today.
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Mr. Alward: Do you know what is astounding and sad today? We have a Premier across the way
who was laughing. He was not taking this seriously. My question to the Premier . . .
(Interjection.)
Mr. Alward: It is not a cheap shot. This is a reality . . .
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Alward: This is an issue that this minister and this government . . .
Mr. Speaker: One moment. Things have been going relatively well, with few exceptions. Let us
make sure that we finish this question period.
The floor is yours.
Mr. Alward: Thank you. This is a very serious situation that has been going on for a year. This
minister sits on the board of directors of Canadian Blood Services Agency. He has not informed
New Brunswickers, and he has certainly not consulted with health care professionals in New
Brunswick. He has said that other members of his caucus were aware of this.
My question is for the Premier. When did he become aware of this, and what has he done to see that
this decision does not go forward?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I agree with the Opposition Leader. Let us not talk about cheap shots. Let us
not talk about suppositions and innuendos. Let us work together. We have been fighting this alone
for as long as we can because opposition members were clearly not informed by their federal
counterparts. Bring forward that motion tomorrow. Bring forward the motion and late-file it today.
We will waive any necessary notices. We will go back to opposition members’ business on the
agenda. We will make sure that that motion is passed unanimously tomorrow, asking the
shareholder, the federal government, to reverse that decision.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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017 14:05
Health Care
Mr. Alward: During the past week, it has become completely clear, completely evident, that New
Brunswickers have lost faith and have lost trust in the health care system and especially the Minister
of Health. It has also become apparent over the past number of days that the Premier has lost
confidence in the minister. He failed to appoint the minister to the task force that will be working
to ensure that the Canadian Blood Services decision is changed. He has also failed to stand in
support of his minister.
018 14:10
Time and time again, we have seen this Minister of Health mismanage the Department of Health and
drop the ball on many important files, yet the list continues to grow. Today, I want to go straight to
the Premier and ask him to do the honourable thing and replace the Minister of Health with someone
who can restore confidence in the health care system of New Brunswick.
Hon. S. Graham: As the Leader of the Opposition knows, last week, I reached out to him in a
nonpartisan fashion to form a committee to work on the decision of the Canadian Blood Services
to move its services from New Brunswick, which would leave only New Brunswick and Prince
Edward Island without such services. I felt that it was important that this committee work in a
nonpartisan fashion, and I appreciate the Leader of the Opposition naming two members to the
group, the MLA for Rothesay and the MLA for Tracadie-Sheila. I made a decision to appoint two
individuals on the government side of the House. In the spirit of nonpartisanship, I felt that, because
of the opposition raising its issues with the Minister of Health, it was important, for this committee
to work in a nonpartisan fashion, that two members from outside the Department of Health work at
engaging stakeholders.
I can tell you today that this committee is going to do good work. At the same time, I have the fullest
confidence in the Minister of Health and in the work that he has undertaken. We will continue to
work to represent all New Brunswickers.
Mr. Alward: It is very clear that it was the opposition that brought forward a motion in the House
to provide a bipartisan process to ensure that the contract of the Canadian Blood Services would stay
in New Brunswick. We would not sit on our hands, as the Minister of Health did for a year.
This question is not about being partisan. This question is about ensuring confidence in the health
care system of New Brunswick, confidence that has been broken by the current minister because of
lost patient files and the lack of transparency that he has shown in not informing New Brunswickers
on more than one occasion. It is a lack of confidence in being transparent and in ensuring New
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Brunswickers that our Canadian Blood Services distribution centre would stay in New Brunswick.
It is a lack of transparency in the trauma system in New Brunswick. Today, the minister stands with
a report on the ambulance system. For over a year, the minister did not act while the paramedics,
the opposition, and the communities raised issues.
My question is for the Premier again. Is he prepared to do the right thing today and replace the
Minister of Health with someone who can restore confidence in the system?
Hon. S. Graham: During the past week, I reached out to the Leader of the Opposition because I felt
that it was important that we work together in a cooperative way and not in a political way. It is the
government’s preference to have the blood production facility located in our province. We have a
working group on that file now, and I am confident that we can stay above the fray. Hopefully, we
can deliver some success to New Brunswickers on this important file. That is critical.
Last week, we were notified of the terrible, terrible tragedy pertaining to the ambulance delivery
system in New Brunswick. It is simply not acceptable. The Minister of Health moved in a very
timely fashion to get the appropriate answers from the appropriate officials. Still, he was not
satisfied. That is why, today, he announced the appointment of an independent investigator from
Ontario—he and I had discussions on it last week—who is commencing an important exercise in
reviewing the ambulance delivery system in New Brunswick to make sure that we have the best
service for all New Brunswickers. That is why we are taking the appropriate steps today to make
sure that health care is delivered at the standard that New Brunswickers expect, and we will continue
in that fashion.
019 14:15
Mr. Alward: Confidence in any government service, especially our health care system, is based on
accountability, transparency, and responsibility. It is very clear today that neither the Premier nor
the Minister of Health is prepared to take action to restore the confidence that New Brunswickers
need in their health care system.
The Premier talks about acting in a timely fashion. The reality is that communities and paramedics
have been raising the issue for more than a year that the system was going to break. The reality is
that the minister knows full well that the elasticity of the ambulance system is broken. Last week,
a tragedy occurred because the elasticity had been broken. It is unacceptable. My question is for the
Premier again. We need to restore confidence in the health care system. Will the Premier stand and
put in place a minister who will do the job?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government is taking action on a number of files in the health care system.
Last week, I personally raised, with the Prime Minister of Canada, our concerns about Canadian
Blood Services moving its production facility from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. I took the time
to brief the Prime Minister, and, at the same time, he acknowledged that they have not had an
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operational capacity regarding Canadian Blood Services since the Krever report. It is totally
independent. He recognized that the province of New Brunswick must also adhere to the same strict
guidelines that are in place. However, he was sympathetic to the concerns that I raised in a
nonpartisan fashion.
I must reiterate today that I was shocked, as Premier, to learn that it took over 57 minutes for
Ambulance New Brunswick to respond to a critical care call. That is simply unacceptable. That is
why, over the past week, our government took immediate steps. In an open and transparent fashion,
we tabled, in this House today, the letter requesting full documentation from Ambulance New
Brunswick and its appropriate response. We went one step further by announcing, today, an
independent review by a high-ranking official in the Ontario government, to report to this
government within two weeks, to make sure that our system continues to give the standard of care
that New Brunswickers expect.
Mr. Alward: The Premier should be shocked to know that his minister sat on his hands for a year
regarding both the Canadian Blood Services issue and the ambulance services issue. The minister
has known about this for a year, yet he waited to do anything about it. It is completely unacceptable
that the Premier is standing up today and trying to spin the reality. What needs to happen is that the
Premier should be accountable. He needs to be responsible and do the right thing. Remove this
Minister of Health from his job and put a minister in place who can restore the confidence of New
Brunswickers.
Hon. S. Graham: As I said at the outset, I have the fullest confidence in this minister. The fact is
that, over the past week . . . We know today that the situation with Ambulance New Brunswick is
unacceptable. The minister took the appropriate steps, demanding answers from this agency. When
the answers were received that were tabled in this Chamber today, we felt that we, as a government,
needed to go one step further. That is why, over the weekend, the minister was able to obtain the
services of a highly respected health care professional in Ontario to do a complete review, and we
will be tabling that information in this Chamber within two weeks. We need to make sure that our
health care system provides a level of service that New Brunswickers expect. Today, we have more
paramedics working than ever before in an ambulance system that, before, did not provide the same
level of service in every corner of the province. It is a new system. The incident that unfolded last
week was unacceptable, and this minister, today, is taking the appropriate steps to rectify that.
Ambulance Services
Mr. Jack Carr: April 2 was not the first time an ambulance was delayed in arriving at a home in
the past two years. The Premier has been telling New Brunswickers for months that we have the best
system. For months, New Brunswickers have said that the ambulance system is flawed. New
Brunswickers, including paramedics, have been asking for more resources in the ambulance system
for months. We need 200 more paramedics. We need more trucks. The deployment system is
understaffed and flawed. Small communities have been left vulnerable to an emergency. People
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have been asking for changes for a year. When did the Premier first become aware that the transfer
and the deployment system is flawed? Mr. Premier, when you first knew about the inefficiencies in
the system, what did you do about it?
020 14:20
Hon. Mr. Murphy: You can well imagine that none of us are inclined to go into a full defense of
Ambulance New Brunswick today. Having said that and considering the horrendous nature of the
incident of April 2, the service in New Brunswick went from 54 services down to a unified service.
There is better service. The benchmarks that have been contracted for are being met. Most of the
anecdotal stories—the vast, vast majority of those that were reported through members of the
opposition and the media—were disproven. However, this incident of April 2, in its most horrendous
and devastating nature, was completely unacceptable, and we have acted.
Mr. Jack Carr: Over the last two years, this system certainly has not been good for the residents
of Fredericton Junction. This is not the first time in New Brunswick that an ambulance has been
delayed in arriving at a home. Thank God that more people have not been seriously injured. The
opposition has been calling on the government to put more resources into the ambulance system
immediately. We need more ambulance trucks, more paramedics, and a better communications
system. Apparently the Department of Health has in storage, in Moncton, 150 laptops that are sitting
in boxes when they could be in our ambulances. The VisiNet Mobile must be installed in
ambulances immediately. There is no GPS in ambulances, other than those provided personally by
the paramedics. This VisiNet Mobile system would download the call particulars, the address, and
specific information from the dispatch centre to a computer screen in the ambulance. This is better
than GPS. Why has this not been installed?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: With respect to the horrific incident in Fredericton Junction, because the
member has mentioned it . . . The independent review will avail itself to the members of that
community and the devastation that has been heaped upon them and on that particular family. On
a higher level, with respect to the ambulance service across the province, there are more ambulances
and there are more paramedics. One hundred new paramedics will be hired this summer. The plan,
as outlined, was to implement this over a three-year period. We are halfway there. There are more
services and there is more availability, but that does not, in any way, shape, or form, set aside the
circumstances that we are dealing with in Fredericton Junction.
Mr. Jack Carr: Yes, there are 100 more paramedics arriving in the system, but there are 150 in the
province who are not renewing their licenses this year, leaving a shortage of 50 in this year alone.
Will the minister reopen the contract with Ambulance New Brunswick to protect small
communities? Will he reopen this performance-based contract so New Brunswickers can regain their
trust and faith in the ambulance system?
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Hon. Mr. Murphy: Because of the understandable emotion that has been expressed as the result
of the loss of this child—understandable from that side of the House and from this side of the
House—we cannot rush to judgment with regard to the service. We have a report that will be
forthcoming in a few weeks. That will be disclosed, and there will be ample opportunity between
now and then to make people’s concerns felt by that investigator.
Justice System
Mr. Fitch: I have a question for the Premier. Does the Premier believe that the appearance of justice
is equally as important as the administration of justice? I will repeat that, just to make sure that the
Premier understands the importance of this question: Does he believe that the appearance of justice
is equally as important as the administration of justice?
Hon. S. Graham: The member for Riverview is raising a recent allegation before the Attorney
General in this Chamber. Not to get into the specifics of the case, our government, after discussions
with the Attorney General, felt that it was very important, because of the importance of this office
and this institution for the province of New Brunswick, that on the allegation that was made, the
Attorney General no longer have responsibilities for that specific file. That is why I have asked the
former Attorney General, the Minister of Business New Brunswick, to be responsible for this
specific file.
021 14:25
Mr. Fitch: I want to lay out some of the events that have transpired here and point out why this is
unacceptable. The justice system is under attack. We are seeing a justice system now being made
for the rich and privileged rather than a justice system for all. I will tell you why. First, satellite
courtrooms were closed. Second, Legal Aid was cut to the bone. Third, social workers were cut.
Now, the Small Claims Court of New Brunswick has been cut, and 3 000 cases a year will be
dumped into the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick.
Attorney General
The justice system is not just for certain portions of society; it is for all people. The Premier has
brought this up. Last week, the Premier removed the Attorney General from this high-profile case,
because of inappropriate comments that were made to law students at the University of New
Brunswick. Due to his personal opinion and bias, the Attorney General has damaged the appearance,
and also the administration, of justice. The Premier has not gone far enough. He needs to begin
healing the province’s reputation for truth and justice, have the minister step down completely, settle
the case of Erin Walsh, and restore justice to New Brunswick.
Hon. S. Graham: As the member for Riverview has indicated today, our government was faced
with a number of difficult choices in this budget exercise. That is why we are looking to find
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efficiencies in the system in a number of government departments. I will be frank with you today.
It is not easy to have to close a courthouse in one’s riding, just next door. Today, we are building
a new facility in the Moncton region that will be able to handle that caseload. That comes with the
tough choices of being in government.
I will move to the second part of the question. Allegations were raised. In light of the recent
allegations, Minister Byrne has been assigned the case in question. It would be inappropriate to
comment specifically on the allegations made about the Attorney General. As the case is before the
courts—and it is a matter for the courts, as I have said—we must allow the legal process to take
place. I stand by that comment.
Mr. Fitch: This is appalling. This is not a budget situation; this is a justice situation. When it comes
to justice, there is no justification for budget cuts. In the highest court of our jurisdiction, the Court
of Appeal of New Brunswick, Jeffrey Mockler, the representative for New Brunswick in the judicial
review—this is public and has been reported in the media many times—conceded that it is likely
that there has been a miscarriage of justice. There are no “buts”, “ifs”, “ands”, or budget cuts. He
conceded that there could have been a miscarriage of justice. In this situation, the Premier needs to
have some backbone and some guts. He needs to stand up and do the right thing: Have the minister
resign completely from his post, and have the new Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs, the
member for Fredericton-Lincoln, sit down with the Walsh family to settle this case right now.
Hon. S. Graham: In my understanding of the question from the member opposite, I think two points
are being raised today. The member for Riverview is first saying that, because the Department of
Justice and Consumer Affairs is an important department, no efficiencies should be found within
it. As I said, today we are closing a number of satellite courts within New Brunswick. These are
difficult decisions. At the same time, we are also building new courthouses with better security
measures and better delivery of service. Those are difficult choices that our government has made.
Pertaining to the second part of the question, as I said, it would be inappropriate for me, as Premier,
to comment specifically on the allegations made against the Attorney General today. As I said
before, this case is before the courts. We must allow the legal process to take place. As such, I have
no further comment today on that issue.
Mr. D. Graham: We often see the Premier scripted in the House. I guess he cannot find the script
to demand that ministers who have committed wrongdoing resign. The Attorney General of New
Brunswick is the highest legal authority in the province. He or she has to be above the law. The
people of New Brunswick should not have to question comments that the minister makes in front
of a group of University of New Brunswick law students. Taking the minister off the file is not good
enough. The Cabinet post must be vacated. This minister must resign. I ask the Premier, today, to
demand that this minister step aside.
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022 14:30
Hon. S. Graham: I must stress again that these are, in fact, allegations. In light of the recent
allegations, Minister Byrne has been assigned the responsibilities of this case. It was a decision of
Cabinet, after discussions with the Attorney General. That is the direction this government is taking
on this issue today.
Mr. D. Graham: Once again, we see no leadership from the Premier. Three students spoke out
against the minister’s comments. The minister, to my knowledge, does not deny having made the
comments. I have not seen it in the media. Given the fact that he is off the case now, he cannot stand
up and deny it in the House. Once again, I know that the minister who has the file today is certainly
a very honourable member. I was in the House from 1997 to 1999. He had the same office, and I
know that if he had made those comments in front of a group of law students, he would have done
the honourable thing and resigned without the Premier forcing him to. My question is this, Mr.
Premier: Will you ask your minister to resign?
Hon. S. Graham: For the fourth time, as I said before, it would be inappropriate to comment
specifically on the allegations made against the Attorney General. That was why Cabinet made the
decision, in light of the recent allegations, that Minister Byrne would be assigned to the case in
question.
Mr. D. Graham: This Premier and this government will leave the taxpayers of New Brunswick
paying a debt of $3 million every day, just to pay the interest. We seem to hear all the stories of all
the money that the government has to pay its Liberal friends. My question to the Premier is this: As
my colleague from Riverview mentioned, will the Premier demand that the Minister of Business
New Brunswick, who has the file today, settle the case once and for all? Will the Premier demand
that today?
Hon. S. Graham: I am glad that a budget issue was brought up in the House today. In fact, today,
our government will be tabling legislation for the largest tax reduction ever in our province’s
history—important legislation.
Regarding the second point of the question that was raised by the member opposite, as I have said,
it is inappropriate for me, as Premier, to comment specifically on the allegations that were made
against the Attorney General. Upon discussion with the Attorney General last week, I felt, as
Premier, that it was appropriate that the Minister of Business New Brunswick, a former Attorney
General of the province, be assigned the case in question. That is the decision that has been taken
and will stand.
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Government Grants
Mrs. Poirier: Here we go again. The Liberal government is looking after its Liberal friends again,
instead of looking after all New Brunswick taxpayers as it should have been doing once it was
elected. We have learned that the current CEO of NB Liquor, Dana Clendenning, who is a former
Executive Director of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, used his political connections to offer help
to a Fredericton businessman. Mr. Clendenning’s position was as a consultant/lobbyist, at a cost of
$2 500 a month, to be increased to $4 000 a month once the Liberals formed the government. This
was to deliver job creation grants from the Liberal government.
My question is for the Premier. Are we to believe that, in order to get a grant for job creation in New
Brunswick, we now need to hire a Liberal consultant at $4 000 a month?
Hon. S. Graham: Our government has worked proactively on a number of job creation files. Two
questions have been asked, so I will respond to both. In fact, this morning, I was at First Canadian
Title, a business in Moncton, to announce the creation of 50 new jobs, bringing that company’s
workforce up to 80 in that community. This was after extensive meetings with that company on a
personal level, in which I was involved, in the city of Toronto.
Also, this summer, we will be seeing one of the largest construction projects to be undertaken by
the mining industry in decades. Through the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, over 800 jobs will
be created in that region, during the construction phase alone. Job creation is very important, and
our government will leave no stone unturned in looking to secure jobs for New Brunswickers in
these times of economic difficulty.
023 14:35
On the second issue that was raised today, again, it is inappropriate for me to comment today on the
allegations that have been made against the CEO of NB Liquor. However, what I can say . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mrs. Poirier: All we are asking is that all New Brunswickers be treated fairly and that they do not
have to fear they have to be part of a Liberal government in order to get something from the
government or to get equal services.
Due to these activities, it appears that the CEO of NB Liquor, Dana Clendenning, may—may—be
in a position of conflict of interest. Will the Premier immediately suspend Mr. Clendenning, pending
the results of the hearing before the Court of Queen’s Bench in early June?
Hon. S. Graham: There is a process that needs to be undertaken, but I respect the question from the
member opposite. There was a recent allegation made, and it is my understanding that a judge is
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going to review the allegation sometime in June. Our government is awaiting the outcome of that
review.
Mrs. Poirier: Just the thought that there is a possibility of a conflict of interest should be enough
grounds to suspend a person until these hearings are done. I would also go further: If the results of
the hearing clearly show that there is a conflict of interest, will the Premier commit today to asking
for Mr. Clendenning’s immediate resignation upon hearing that result?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, there is a process. When an allegation is made against a deputy minister,
there is a process that has to unfold. That process is now unfolding as it should. A judge has been
appointed to review the allegation as it stands. It is my understanding that the review will be
undertaken sometime in early June, so, as a government, we await the results of that review. Thank
you.
Mme Dubé : Je n’en crois pas mes oreilles. Qui est responsable de la province du Nouveau-
Brunswick? Qui est réellement le premier ministre de cette province? On ne peut voir aucun
leadership de la part de ce gouvernement. On peut voir cet après-midi un ministre de la Santé qui
n’est pas en mesure de prendre les rênes de son propre ministère. On peut voir le ministre de
l’Éducation qui est incapable de défendre les enfants du Nouveau-Brunswick et on peut voir un
premier ministre qui vient de répondre à mon collègue de Rogersville-Kouchibouguac concernant
un ancien directeur exécutif du Parti libéral qui a obtenu un poste et qui, maintenant, voit des
plaintes de conflits d’intérêts contre lui. J’aimerais demander au premier ministre si c’est sa nouvelle
politique de gouvernance. Comment se fait-il qu’il n’intervienne pas et qu’il ne soit pas en mesure
de gérer son propre gouvernement? C’est inacceptable que le président de la Société des alcools du
Nouveau-Brunswick, avec de telles plaintes contre lui, soit encore en place au moment où l’on se
parle? Quelle est la nouvelle politique du gouvernement de Shawn Graham?
Hon. S. Graham: I would have to state the opposite of what the member is saying today, because
our government is, in fact, taking action on a number of these issues. Again today, there is a prime
example. With the breakdown in the ambulance dispatch system in New Brunswick, we were
receiving information back from the ambulance services division within 48 hours. The Minister of
Health was not satisfied with the responses that he was receiving. Therefore, we have contracted for
services from outside New Brunswick for a thorough, independent review.
When the allegations pertaining to the Attorney General were raised last week, our Cabinet took the
appropriate steps to move the Attorney General from the responsibilities of that file and put in place
the former Attorney General to deal with the specifics of that file. That is another clear example of
our dealing with the issue at hand.
Pertaining to the file on the CEO of NB Liquor, again, an allegation has been made. There is a
process that will unfold to deal with the allegation. It will be reviewed by a judge . . .
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Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mme Dubé : Monsieur le premier ministre, encore là, vous démontrez aux Néo-Brunswickois que
vous n’êtes pas en mesure et que vous n’êtes pas capable de gouverner le Nouveau-Brunswick. C’est
très clair. Vous êtes entouré de ministres qui ne sont pas en mesure de gérer leur propre ministère
et vous ne faites absolument rien pour corriger la situation.
024 14:40
Monsieur le premier ministre, nous savons aujourd’hui que le président de la Société des alcools du
Nouveau-Brunswick est probablement en conflit d’intérêts, mais vous n’êtes pas capable ou vous
ne voulez pas intervenir. Nous sommes au courant de cette situation parce qu’un homme d’affaires
est mécontent des résultats. J’aimerais savoir du premier ministre combien d’amis des Libéraux ont
reçu des contrats. Ce n’est pas la façon égale de faire des affaires au Nouveau-Brunswick. Combien
y a-t-il de cas comme celui-là au Nouveau-Brunswick dont nous ne sommes pas au courant et dont
les contribuables ne sont pas au courant? Ces gens sont contents parce qu’ils ont obtenu des faveurs
du gouvernement. C’est inacceptable. J’aimerais que le premier ministre justifie et explique encore
sa nouvelle politique de gouvernance et j’aimerais bien en avoir une copie écrite.
Hon. S. Graham: I was attempting to catch the full question, but the member opposite was speaking
so fast that it was difficult. . .
(Interjection.)
Hon. S. Graham: No, I am fine. Thank you. I will attempt to respond.
As I said, today, our government is dealing with a number of issues facing the province of New
Brunswick. In a few minutes, we will be in the process of introducing the largest tax reduction
package that will put more money back into the pockets of New Brunswickers in our province’s
history.
At the same time, we are adding jobs to the province of New Brunswick. This morning, I was in the
city of Moncton where 50 new jobs will be created by a company that could have chosen to invest
anywhere within North America. At the same time, we are dealing with issues that any government
is confronted with when allegations arise. Today, as I have said, it would be inappropriate for me
to comment on the specific allegations, but I can tell you that our government has taken the
appropriate actions to deal with it.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 24 QUESTIONS ORALES
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016 11:00
Appointments
Mrs. Poirier: The issue of Dana Clendenning has come to light and has been raised by the media
because a Fredericton businessman is complaining to the courts about a case of conflict of interest,
and because he did not get from the Executive Director of the Liberal Party of New
Brunswick—now CEO of NB Liquor—grants that were promised and paid for. Conflict of interest
seems to be an issue in the appointment of the CEO of NB Liquor, Dana Clendenning. Obviously,
there was enough credible evidence for a judge to decide to hear the case. Knowing that Mr.
Clendenning was Executive Director of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick and a personal friend
of the Premier, can you confirm today, Mr. Premier, whether you were aware of Mr. Clendenning’s
business dealings prior to his appointment as CEO of NB Liquor?
Hon. S. Graham: To begin with, as Premier, it is my prerogative to appoint deputy ministers and
heads of Crown corporations, similar to the past practice of the former government. It is my
understanding that Barb Winsor was appointed previously by the Bernard Lord administration, and
Mr. Clendenning replaced Ms. Winsor as the head of NB Liquor.
As I said yesterday—and I repeated the process in the House—there is a process in place. Whenever
an allegation or a complaint is filed regarding a deputy minister or head of a Crown corporation, it
is immediately sent to a judge for review. That process was initiated. It is my understanding that that
review will be undertaken sometime in early June. Until that review is complete, I have no further
comment.
Mrs. Poirier: I do not need to ask the Minister of Business New Brunswick if he was aware of Mr.
Clendenning’s business dealings. We all know that he was President of the Liberal Party of New
Brunswick and also the lawyer for Mr. Clendenning regarding his business dealings. Therefore, my
next question is for the Minister of Business New Brunswick. Did you make your Premier aware
of Mr. Clendenning’s business dealings before he was appointed CEO of NB Liquor?
Hon. S. Graham: As I said earlier, as Premier, I am given the privilege of appointing deputy
ministers to serve in that capacity, and also heads of Crown corporations. That process and privilege
had been given to all Premiers previous to me. As I said previously, when a complaint is filed or an
allegation is made, there is a process in place to deal with heads of Crown corporations or deputy
ministers. Word is immediately sent to a judge for review. That process was initiated. As I said, it
would be inappropriate for me to comment until a judge has had an opportunity to review that
allegation.
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017 11:05
Mrs. Poirier: From the Premier’s answers, are we to assume that the Minister of Business New
Brunswick did not tell him? The Premier not only appointed Mr. Clendenning as the CEO of NB
Liquor, but he also the Minister of Business New Brunswick, knowing that he was the President of
the Liberal Party of New Brunswick and that he was Dana Clendenning’s lawyer. Something is just
not adding up here. The more we peel the onion, the worse it smells.
Are we to believe today, Mr. Premier, knowing your relationship and close ties with Mr.
Clendenning, whom you hired as the Executive Director of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick, that
you want New Brunswickers to believe that you were not aware of Mr. Clendenning’s business
transactions before his appointment as CEO of NB Liquor? Maybe New Brunswickers are more
likely to believe, given your track record in these types of situations, that you just did not care.
Hon. S. Graham: To the honourable member, as I have said, there is a process. Anytime that a
complaint or allegation is filed, it is appropriate for the process to be followed and for the judge to
review deputy ministers and heads of Crown corporations. That process is unfolding as it should.
As I said, it is my understanding that the appropriate judge will review that sometime at the
beginning of June. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the details of this file. It is now
going to be reviewed by the judge, and that is where the review should be undertaken.
M. P. Robichaud : Ce matin, ma question est pour le premier ministre. En réponse à la députée de
Rogersville—Kouchibouguac, le premier ministre a raison de dire que, dans de telles circonstances
et à la lueur d’un gros scandale probable, un scandale de corruption, un scandale digne du scandale
des commandites du Parti libéral, à Ottawa, qui est maintenant le scandale du Parti libéral du
Nouveau-Brunswick, la pratique normale est de demander à un juge indépendant d’étudier la
situation. La pratique normale est également de demander aux personnes qui sont sous enquête de
se retirer de leurs fonctions jusqu’à ce que la lumière soit faite. Le premier ministre fera-t-il la chose
qu’il se doit de faire dans une circonstance comme celle-ci et demandera-t-il à M. Clendenning de
se retirer de ses fonctions de président et chef de la direction d’Alcool NB?
Hon. S. Graham: I want to welcome the member from Shippagan back to the House today. As I
said yesterday in this Chamber in response to a question—I will provide the same response
today—when a complaint is filed against a deputy minister or the head of a Crown corporation, an
immediate process is initiated. That complaint is then sent to an appropriate judge for review. Our
government is awaiting the review from that judge. As I understand it, it will be completed
sometime at the beginning of June. I think either June 4 or 5 was the date established in this House
yesterday from the correspondence with the reviewing judge. As I said yesterday, it would be
inappropriate for me to make comments on this specific case until that review is held. That is what
I had to say about that yesterday, and it is the same message that I have today as well.
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M. P. Robichaud : Je pense que le premier ministre ne comprend pas la gravité de la situation. Vous
avez une personne qui était le directeur général du Parti libéral du Nouveau-Brunswick jusqu’à la
dernière élection. Il a été nommé au poste de président d’Alcool NB par le premier ministre actuel
et il a mis en place un système de corruption et de pots-de-vin avant même d’adhérer à ses fonctions
de président d’Alcool NB. Le premier ministre est au courant de toute cette situation. Le ministre
des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick est aussi au courant de cette situation. En attendant que la
lumière soit faite sur cette situation, ils refusent de retirer cette personne de ses fonctions. Cela n’a
aucun bon sens, et le gouvernement et le premier ministre devraient agir en conséquence.
Le premier ministre est-il au courant que le président et chef de la direction d’Alcool NB achète des
produits alcoolisés partout dans le monde? N’a-t-il pas mis en place un autre système de corruption
afin de recevoir des commissions des gens de qui il achète de la boisson partout dans le monde? Afin
que la lumière soit faite, le premier ministre demandera-t-il au président d’Alcool NB de se retirer
de ses fonctions pendant que l’enquête est en cours?
018 11:10
Hon. S. Graham: We understand that the opposition has a role to play. As government, we have
to follow due process. The members of the opposition want to play politics on an issue. That is
understandable; that is their role. They want to make allegations in this Chamber. At the same time,
out of respect for the integrity of the offices of government, whether it is at the deputy minister level
or at the CEO level, we have been very clear that a process is unfolding today. When a complaint
is made, it is reviewed by a judge. I would ask the member opposite . . . I know there is political
grandstanding here today. That is his role to play. Allow the judge to review. Both parties can
present their case to the presiding judge. Then, we will be able to provide comment once the review
has been undertaken.
M. P. Robichaud : Le premier ministre devrait comprendre son rôle. C’est lui qui a nommé
M. Clendenning président d’Alcool NB. C’est la prérogative du premier ministre pour ce qui est des
nominations des sous-ministres et des présidents des sociétés de la Couronne.
M. Clendenning n’est pas un étranger au Parti libéral. En effet, il a déjà été le directeur général du
Parti libéral. Une entente est concoctée avec le ministre actuel des Entreprises Nouveau-Brunswick
et le président d’une compagnie privée, et le premier ministre ne voit pas là assez d’arguments pour
retirer de ses fonctions le président d’Alcool NB pendant les mois qui viennent. Continuez à le payer
si vous voulez. Donnez-lui tous les bonis qu’il mérite, mais, entre-temps, retirez-le de ses fonctions.
Le président d’Alcool NB fait des achats dans le monde entier. Les compagnies qui vendent de
l’alcool au Nouveau-Brunswick viennent du monde entier. Qu’est-ce qui nous prouve que cette
personne, qui semble avoir la corruption assez facile, n’a pas mis un système en place à Alcool NB
pour profiter de favoritisme et de pots-de-vin? Ces arguments sont assez graves pour que le premier
ministre retire cette personne de ses fonctions en attendant que la lumière soit faite.
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Le premier ministre va-t-il faire la chose honorable et demander à M. Clendenning de se retirer de
ses fonctions à Alcool NB?
Hon. S. Graham: The unfounded allegations and the rhetoric that the member for Lamèque-
Shippagan-Miscou is using will not deter the process. As I said before, the process is very clear. If
a complaint is filed, it is automatically sent to a judge for review. The government is awaiting the
outcome of that review. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this file until that
review is undertaken.
Mr. Fitch: It reads like a plot from a John Grisham novel, and I do not think it would be called The
Innocent Man. The Executive Director of the Liberal Party receives a payment from a client for
influence from the government. The executive director’s lawyer, the president of the party, gets
elected and is appointed as Minister of Business New Brunswick. The client is asked for more
money to gain influence on future funding, and the plot thickens as the former executive director
is appointed as CEO of a Crown corporation. The invoices keep coming, but the promises are not
fulfilled. The book should be called “New Brunswick’s Sponsorship Scandal”. I will not talk about
that specific case because the Premier will not answer those questions. In general, is it common
practice for all Liberal Party members to sell influence to the government or is it just reserved for
a chosen few?
Hon. S. Graham: As I have said numerous times, yesterday and today, the opposition is playing its
role, and we respect that. Our role, as a government, is to make sure that we maintain confidence
in the health care system and, at the same time, upgrade the education system. We are also
working . . . I know that the Minister of Environment is going to be meeting tonight with concerned
citizens in St. Andrews. It is imperative, as we move forward, with the politics that are being played
on the other side of the House, and the immunity that is granted . . . I recognize that the opposition
is indeed playing a role, but I would ask that the members respect the process whereby an
independent judge will review the facts that are presented to him or her. It would be inappropriate
to comment until that review has been undertaken.
019 11:15
Mr. Fitch: That is a poor excuse. If the Premier were doing his job and following his role, there
would be a new Minister of Health, a new Minister of Justice, and a new CEO of NBLC. One of the
responses with regard to the CBC article suggested that this would not have come out if Mr.
O’Donnell had gotten his payoff. I wonder if the Premier could clear the air and tell us what
companies have received funding or untendered contracts that were purchasing influence from the
former director of the Liberal Party or any other Liberal Party member. Can he give us that
information today and clear the air?
Hon. S. Graham: As Premier, I meet with businesspeople on a regular basis to entice them to bring
their services to the province of New Brunswick. In Moncton just yesterday, we were able to
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announce the addition of 50 new jobs with a company that will be providing salaries in a pay range
between $35 000 to $70 000. As Premier, I will leave no stone unturned, as I said yesterday, in
meeting with any company official who wants to do business in New Brunswick. I want to be very
clear and on the record with this: Any individual who wants to do business in New Brunswick today
has access to either the Premier of New Brunswick or the Minister of Business New Brunswick.
Mr. Fitch: When you are in a hole, you should stop digging. Today, the Premier has just
acknowledged some of the facts that have occurred that justify his asking the CEO to step down at
this time. This government is aging prematurely. The rot that forced the Liberals in Ottawa into a
sponsorship scandal . . . It took 11 years for that sponsorship scandal to set in. This government has
done it in record time. The rot that is here today has led to a sponsorship scandal that took only 3
years to set in.
The Premier had an opportunity to clear the air today. He had an opportunity to tell the public
exactly what is going on. He can do it now; he has another opportunity. Tell us this: Who has been
buying influence from the members of his government, either at the party level or at the MLA level?
Tell us who are the former clients of Clendenning, Doug Tyler, and Business New Brunswick
people? Have any of them ever received any untendered contracts or any funding for the promises
they have made to some of these members?
Hon. S. Graham: The former Minister of Justice is making a number of serious, unfounded
allegations on the floor of this Chamber because he is protected by immunity. However, I want to
reiterate that there is a process in place and our government is following it. That process is that an
independent judge will review the complaints that are filed with that judge. That review will be
undertaken at the beginning of June. As Premier, as I said, it would be inappropriate for me to
comment until that review is completed.
Ambulance Services
Mrs. Blaney: There are reports again this morning of another ambulance that was lost and could not
find its way. Apparently, the winter tires had been taken off, and, with the snow over the weekend,
the road was not navigable. The RCMP had to get involved, and maps were taken out. It was a very
scary time. Anecdotally, there have been any number of times when ambulances have not been able
to find homes or residences, especially in rural areas. Our understanding is that there are 150 laptops
with the technology that is needed to equip our ambulances and paramedics with the tools that they
need to find where they need to go, yet they have been sitting in a warehouse for a year. Can the
minister tell us today why our ambulances are not equipped with the tools that they need to find
where they need to go?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I am not aware of the circumstances outlined by the member opposite with
regard to the particular incident, but I do know that we have more ambulances on the road and more
paramedics working than ever before. The ambulance service was studied by the previous
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government and implemented under this government. We have called for an independent
investigation with regard to the horrendous incident at Fredericton Junction, and we have invited
the public from that area and across the province to bring forward their concerns with regard to
coverage.
020 11:20
Nearly all the anecdotal stories brought forward by the opposition have been disproved in the past,
so they are really not a basis on which to launch a full-scale attack on the ambulance service in New
Brunswick.
Mrs. Blaney: This is the mantra of this minister. He dismisses people’s stories as untrue, unreal, or
unfounded when, in fact, scanners are showing that police are trying to help ambulance drivers and
paramedics find the places that they need to find. It is, and has been, apparent for at least a year. A
number of meetings have taken place between paramedics and not only the minister but also his
staff. Paramedics are saying: We do not have the equipment that we need. We do not have the
redeployment program that needs to exist for us to be able to do our jobs. The minister has been
hearing this for a year.
This is déjà vu. This is another case in point where the minister has known something for a year and
is now, all of a sudden, going to conduct a review. This was supposed to be your legacy. You were
standing tall, saying: This ambulance service is going to be held up as a model for Canada. The
minister should be ashamed. Paramedics have been saying for a year: What is the minister going to
do to equip paramedics with the devices that they need to do their jobs?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: With regard to the additional equipment that the member opposite alleges is
being stored and not used, we will take that under advisement. I will also correct the member
opposite. There are no ambulance drivers. That is an archaic term. There are paramedics throughout
New Brunswick who drive ambulances. We ensure the best care possible.
The new ambulance service has GPS. There will be more paramedics. Yet another 100 will be hired
this summer. There were 54 previous services. The former government had seven years in which
to put a uniform ambulance service in place, and it did not do it. It had seven years in which to put
a trauma system in place, and it did not do it. It had seven years in which to fix the trauma centre
in Saint John, and it did not do it. It had seven years in which to expand the Dr. Georges L. Dumont
Hospital, and it did not do it. It had seven years in which to expand the Tracadie hospital, and it did
not do it. I will take no lessons from her.
Mrs. Blaney: “Her” has a name, and she is the member for Rothesay. There is a reason that there
is only one woman in Cabinet. There is no respect.
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The fact is that the ambulances are not equipped with GPS. Ambulances are only equipped when
the paramedics bring their own GPS. The minister wants to take the issue of 150 laptops sitting in
a warehouse under advisement, but he is well aware of it. He knows that they are sitting there, and
now he wants to take it under advisement. This minister has lost the trust and confidence of the
people of New Brunswick. I know that the Premier stood up yesterday and said that he has the
fullest confidence in this minister, but the Premier’s responsibility is not to be the friend of the
Minister of Health. His responsibility is to the people of New Brunswick. Will the Premier stand up
today and tell New Brunswickers that this minister is being removed and that someone else will take
his place?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: Under this government, for the first time in 20 years, wait times have been
reduced by 50% for cancer and suspected cancer surgeries. We have an integrated system. In just
six months, we have reduced deficits by over 25%. We have expanded the Saint John emergency
room. We have created a trauma system. We have done all the things that the previous government
said it would do but never did.
The Department of Health has done very good work. This government, under the leadership of
Shawn Graham, has advanced health care more than any other government in this province did in
the past 30 years. We will continue to do it.
Attorney General
Mr. Huntjens: In the year 2005, something happened that should not have. While a minister, I
mentioned the name of a person with whom my department had dealings, a person whose name was
certainly public knowledge, as it had appeared in local newspapers over 45 times.
021 11:25
The father of the young lad had written countless articles about his son, and the same reporter who
turned in the tape to the opposition had written about this person herself just a week before.
Nonetheless, I admitted that I should not have used that person’s name in my comments. Yet, an
hour after the opposition of the day received the tape from the reporter, those same people who are
in government today were demanding my resignation.
Today, we are faced with an Attorney General—the Minister of Justice, of all people—publicly
using the name of a person with whom his department is presently dealing through the courts. Not
only did he use this person’s name, but he is alleged to have accused this person of committing
another murder. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice to explain to me what difference there
is between my situation in 2005 and his situation today.
Hon. S. Graham: The member opposite is talking about a case from when he was previously the
minister. The former member for Kennebecasis at that time, Hon. Brenda Fowlie, did not step down
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from her position with the complaint that was filed until it was reviewed by the Ombudsman of the
day. The Ombudsman deemed that there was, indeed, a conflict, and the appropriate steps were
taken.
I recall when the former minister named a client publicly, which was in violation of the
confidentiality Act. The member took the appropriate steps because of the recognition that he was
in violation of the Act. There have been no Acts violated to date.
As I have stated, a review of the issue that was raised earlier in question period is under way. In light
of the recent allegations made pertaining to the file that is before the Attorney General, our
government is taking the appropriate steps. We have assigned the responsibility for this case to
Minister Byrne, the former Attorney General. It would be inappropriate to discuss these allegations
further on the floor of this Chamber.
Mr. Huntjens: So far, I keep hearing that it is inappropriate to speak about this case in this House.
That seems to be the only answer this Premier has, instead of standing up for the people of New
Brunswick. Just a few moments ago, this same Premier was talking about establishing confidence
in the department, in terms of public information. Today, the Premier is refusing to remove this
minister from a post in which he has violated his responsibility.
I am surprised that the minister himself did not have the courage to stand up and answer my
question. For weeks, he has been asking me to stand up and ask him a question so he could stand
up and answer it. Today, I ask him a question, but he does not get up and answer it. What is the
answer to my question? What is the difference between what I did and what you did, in publicly
revealing information about a client?
Hon. S. Graham: The answer is simple: One was founded, and one is unfounded.
Mr. Huntjens: These comments by this Premier are unbelievable and insulting to the people who
are making the accusation.
There are three people who are swearing an affidavit that this minister violated the client’s rights.
This Premier is refusing to accept that as evidence. To me, three people swearing an affidavit tells
me that, where there is smoke, there is fire. As a matter of fact, there is more than fire. There is a
big furnace burning.
My contention is that this minister has violated his responsibility, and he should resign from his
position. Maybe it is time to get the Ombudsman involved.
Hon. S. Graham: Yesterday, the same questions were raised in this House, and, as I have said
previously, this process is before the courts. It is a legal matter. Because of due respect for the legal
process, it would be inappropriate for me to comment. Because of the importance of the Office of
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the Attorney General, we felt it was imperative to act in a timely fashion, and our government has
taken the appropriate steps. The former Attorney General, Minister Greg Byrne, is now responsible
for this file because of the allegation that was made. It would be inappropriate to comment until the
courts have reviewed it. Thank you.
022 11:30
Appointments
Mr. Alward: Yesterday, the Premier made a very telling statement. He said that his government was
dealing with a number of issues. The reality was that he was dealing with a number of issues that
his government had created through corruption, through mismanagement of files, and through a lack
of transparency to New Brunswickers. The Premier does not have a responsibility to his party or to
his colleagues. He has a responsibility to the people of New Brunswick, very clearly. He has a
responsibility to show integrity, to show confidence, and to show transparency and accountability
to the people he serves.
We have had clear issues with two ministers, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice, and
a deputy minister responsible for a Crown corporation. The right thing to do is for the Premier to
ask them to step aside—the Minister of Health permanently and the Minister of Justice and the
deputy minister until the review is completed. Mr. Premier, are you prepared to stand today and
remove these ministers?
Mr. Speaker: During question period, I have heard the word “corruption” used several times. To
use it against an individual who is not a member is one thing. In this case, I feel that the word
“corruption” is being brought against members of the government. I would ask the member to
rephrase the question. The word “corruption”, used against any member of the Legislature, is not
allowable.
Mr. Alward: Clearly, yesterday, the Premier said that his government was dealing with a number
of issues. We agree completely that it is. That is because there are allegations of influence. It is
because of mismanagement of files. It is because of a lack of transparency. It is very clear that the
ministers involved and the deputy minister involved have lost the confidence of New Brunswickers.
The Premier does not have a responsibility to his Cabinet or to his party; the Premier has
responsibility to New Brunswickers to ensure that they have confidence in the government of New
Brunswick. If people do not have confidence, our whole system breaks down.
My question for the Premier, again, is this: Will the Premier stand today, do the honourable thing,
and ask the Minister of Health to resign? Will he replace him with a minister who can restore
confidence in the health care system? Will he ask the Minister of Justice to step aside . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
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Hon. S. Graham: The honourable Leader of the Opposition is talking about responsibility today,
but he also has a responsibility to use parliamentary language in this Chamber. It is unfortunate
today that he is choosing not to use parliamentary language in this Chamber. It is unfortunate today
that he is not leading by example. I recognize that other members of the opposition have a role to
play; I was in that role. I respect that. However, for the Leader of the Opposition, there is also the
integrity of the office that the leader holds. To use the rhetorical language that is coming from the
opposition today is not beneficial to the parliamentary process. The member opposite had
approximately three minutes to ask a question.
As I have said, our government has taken the appropriate steps. We moved very swiftly to deal with
the tragic accident last week. As I said yesterday, as Premier, I was not prepared to defend the
indefensible. That was why, working with the Minister of Health, we worked quickly to bring in an
independent review of the ambulance service system, to be completed within a two-week time
frame, to make sure that we put in place protocols to guarantee the safety and security of the uniform
dispatch system that is in place today, with significant upgrades in place. We need to maintain
confidence in that system for New Brunswickers.
When an allegation was made to the Attorney General—and, as I said, it is unfounded at this
time—out of respect for the integrity of that office, our government moved quickly and moved that
responsibility to the former Attorney General, who is now responsible for that file. It is a process
that has occurred in the past, and we follow the same process today.
023 11:35
As I have said, when a complaint was filed pertaining to the head of a Crown corporation, we also
moved quickly with that process and sent it immediately to a judge for review. We are awaiting the
review to be completed sometime in June. Therefore, today, I stand here as the Premier of the
province of New Brunswick saying that we have acted on the three files, and the opposition is
simply playing petty politics.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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ORAL QUESTIONS 26 QUESTIONS ORALES
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Nominations
M. Alward : Ma première question est pour le premier ministre. À titre de ministre responsable de
la Loi sur les conflits d’intérêts, le premier ministre a-t-il pris le temps de faire comprendre à Dana
Clendenning qu’il devrait suivre les règlements de la loi avant de faire sa nomination?
Hon. S. Graham: This is an issue that has been before the House this week on a number of
occasions. I have stated that there is repetition in the questions being asked. I was advised several
months ago that a legal process had begun. The Clerk of the Executive Council informed me of this.
We need to allow that process to unfold. As I have said, it would be inappropriate for me to
comment now that that process has begun before a judge.
Mr. Alward: That is actually some new information this morning. The Premier is saying that this
started several months ago. Did the Premier assure himself that Mr. Clendenning had filed a
document of disclosure prior to taking office with the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation, as
required by subsection 8(1) of the Act?
Hon. S. Graham: With the appointment of any deputy minister or head of a Crown corporation,
there is appropriate paperwork that must be filled out. It is my understanding that all deputy
ministers and heads of Crown corporations fill out the appropriate paperwork. That is presented
before a judge for review. That process was followed.
013 10:45
Mr. Alward: Again, to the Premier. Was the document of disclosure filed in conformity with
section 1-3 of the regulations under the Act?
Hon. S. Graham: It is my understanding that a judge reviews those forms and the appropriate forms
were filled out.
Mr. Alward: Again this morning, we have a Premier who has been hiding behind process. Clearly,
in Mr. Clendenning’s case, the honourable thing is for Mr. Clendenning to be removed until the
process is completed. We have a Premier who took great pleasure in flying up to Toronto and
pounding his chest, trying to show leadership. Actions speak much louder than words. We have a
Premier who is clearly not prepared to do the right thing and remove the deputy minister responsible
for NB Liquor. My question for the Premier is this: Are you prepared to do the right thing and have
Mr. Clendenning removed until the investigation is completed?
Hon. S. Graham: I take offence to the statement that I am out selling the positive attributes of New
Brunswick in Toronto. I am selling the positive attributes and the fact that we are going to have the
lowest tax base in North America with our plan to reduce corporate taxes. I have to tell you that we
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are very bullish on selling the province of New Brunswick abroad. In fact, by being in Toronto,
which the member said I should not be, we saw 550 jobs created in partnership between Bell Canada
and ICT Canada. Being in Toronto, I was able to meet with agents from Virtual-Agent Services and
we have been able to create 500 jobs in the third phase of its growth in rural New Brunswick, in
every single corner of the province. As a result of meeting with the Rogers client care centre, we
were able to see 244 new jobs created in Moncton. After meeting with Hostopia, 207 jobs were
created on the Miramichi as a result of those trips to Toronto. I think it is a disservice to the students
in this Chamber today when you say we should not be out selling the attributes of this province, both
nationally and internationally.
In response to the second point of the question that was raised, as I have said, this issue is before a
judge for a review. A complaint was filed, the process has begun, and it would be inappropriate for
me to comment now that that process is under way.
Financement par le gouvernement
Mme Poirier : Le premier ministre ne comprend juste pas combien sérieuses sont les allégations
faites par un homme d’affaires de la région de Fredericton concernant un conflit d’intérêts possible
avec Dana Clendenning, qui était directeur exécutif du Parti libéral de la province du Nouveau-
Brunswick et qui est maintenant président d’Alcool NB.
Le premier ministre a dit à plusieurs reprises cette semaine qu’on ne parle pas de l’économie. Il ne
comprend pas que ceci touche l’économie à 100 % pour tous les commerçants de la province. Ne
peut-il pas comprendre que le message qu’il est en train d’envoyer à tous les commerçants et les
entrepreneurs du Nouveau-Brunswick est négatif? Il semble approuver que la pratique de vente
d’influence soit approuvée par une subvention du gouvernement.
Ma question de nouveau au premier ministre est la suivante : êtes-vous en train de dire aux
entrepreneurs de la province qu’il faut embaucher un lobbyiste à 4 000 $ par mois pour avoir accès
à une subvention du gouvernement?
Hon. S. Graham: The question asked what messages we are selling to businesses throughout New
Brunswick. I will hold up the press release from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
New Brunswick’s tax system is second only to that of Alberta. That is the message we are selling
to businesses, coupled with the fact that, in our five-point plan to deal with the economy . . . In the
last two weeks, that opposition has not asked this government one question pertaining to the
economy. I can tell you that, with our tax plan, a plan that will significantly lower taxes at the
personal and the corporate level, I look forward to the next CFIB release, when we will be
surpassing Alberta.
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Mme Poirier : On se pose des questions. Est-ce tous ces commerçants dont vous parlez qui vont
venir ici parce que les impôts seront moins élevés? Devront-ils embaucher un lobbysite à 4 000 $
par mois pour obtenir de l’aide du gouvernement ou une subvention? C’est là la question.
014 10:50
Monsieur le premier ministre, vous avez une responsabilité envers tous les contribuables du
Nouveau-Brunswick, incluant nos entrepreneurs d’ici et ceux qui viennent s’installer ici à part égale.
Vous donnez l’impression que nos chances sont meilleures si nous payons un lobbyiste comme
M. Clendenning, qui était le directeur général de l’Association libérale du Nouveau-Brunswick. Ce
n’est pas juste, ce n’est pas correct et ce n’est pas responsable. Vous avez perdu la confiance de tous
les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick en refusant de faire la chose juste. M. Clendenning doit être
suspendu de son poste comme président d’Alcool NB, jusqu’à ce que la plainte soit entendue par
le juge en juin.
Monsieur le premier ministre, c’est clair que vous étiez au courant des transactions d’affaires de
M. Clendenning avant de l’avoir nommé président d’Alcool NB. Vous êtes la seule personne qui
avez le pouvoir de suspendre M. Clendenning et de prendre vos responsabilités comme premier
ministre. Aujourd’hui, nous vous demandons, au nom de tous les contribuables du Nouveau-
Brunswick, de prendre vos responsabilités et de suspendre M. Clendenning.
Hon. S. Graham: Since the question took 1 minute and 30 seconds, I will respond. As I said at the
outset, pertaining to this issue of the complaint that was filed before a judge for review, the
appropriate process must unfold.
Since the issue of economic development in New Brunswick was raised, I have a long list that I
would like to share. I see that I have 1 minute and 15 seconds to read it. There were 550 jobs created
in partnership with Bell Canada and ICT, in Moncton and Saint John; 500 jobs created with the third
phase of growth at Virtual-Agent Services, all in rural New Brunswick; 244 jobs created at the
Rogers client care centre in Moncton, which I personally visited; 230 jobs created at Cooke
Aquaculture in Saint John; 207 jobs created at Hostopia in the Miramichi; 300 jobs created at TD
Insurance in Saint John; 165 jobs at DEW Engineering, bringing employment to over 320 people
in the Miramichi; 150 jobs created at Prudential Consulting in Saint John; 150 jobs at Atcon for the
steel fabrication plant; 113 jobs with Primus Canada, bringing employment to over 300 people in
the Edmundston area today; and 100 jobs created with West-Wood Industries, bringing employment
to 300 people.
I am just halfway down the list. There is still another 10 seconds to go. I have met with all those
individuals and continue to meet with them to bring economic development and jobs to New
Brunswick, because the economy is the number one issue.
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Mr. Fitch: The Premier needs to know that this is all about business. Businesses need to know that
approvals for loans in New Brunswick are not based on hiring a Liberal Party operative. The
Premier needs to know, as he was reading that list, and the public wants to know, how many of those
companies were clients of Mr. Clendenning and Doug Tyler. This is a plot in a John Grisham novel,
based on the New Brunswick sponsorship scandal, which is taking a different twist. It has taken
another twist and added a new character. We have the tour of the businesses arranged by the Liberal
Party director who has been collecting the payment, and we have a clandestine lunch with the new
character himself. We have a letter obtained by the media which confirms those two facts. All
Grisham novels tend to go over the top with the plot, and this is no different. The new character is
the Premier himself.
Was the Premier aware of the business relationship between Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Clendenning
when he was having lunch with them?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, because the member is protected by immunity in this House, he can make
all sorts of wild allegations. However, today, our government is focused on the economy, which is
the issue that is most important to New Brunswickers. I can tell you that, with our five-point plan
to deal with the economy, we have a plan on this side of the House. The Conservative Party
opposition has yet to present its plan. It has yet to have a policy convention to give any sort of idea
of its stand on the issues. We realize that the opposition members have to resort to partisan politics
because they are void of ideas on how to help the ailing economy of New Brunswick.
On the other half of the list, I think it is important to note that there were 90 jobs created at Prestige
Homes in Sussex; 75 jobs created at Laforge Door in Grand Falls; 70 jobs created at the Moncton
Flight College in Fredericton; 57 jobs created at Mariner Partners, in two separate announcements,
in Saint John; 50 jobs created this week at First Canadian Title, which is now bringing employment
to over 80 people in that office; 50 jobs created at Virtual-Agent Services in Bristol; another 50 jobs
created at Virtual-Agent Services in Perth-Andover; another 50 jobs created at VAS in Plaster Rock;
50 jobs created with . . .
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, your time is up.
015 10:55
Mr. Fitch: May I remind the Premier again that, regarding the five-point plan he alluded to in his
response, we blew the doors off that in two days. The Minister of Finance had to retract the
statement, and there was not going to be a balanced budget in four years. The Auditor General
agreed with us that there was no balanced budget.
You know that the plot in any Grisham novel usually involves an RCMP investigation. In our
Grisham novel, based on the New Brunswick sponsorship scandal, I think we need the authorities
to get involved. It is time for the Premier to call in the RCMP and investigate conflict of interest,
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influence peddling, and disclosure under oath. It is time to clear the air, Mr. Premier, so that
businesses will know that they can have a level playing field in New Brunswick. The last chapter
of the book has not been written. Let’s make sure that the RCMP can come in and clear the air.
Hon. S. Graham: Maybe the member for Riverview should stop reading fiction and start dealing
with the facts. He is saying that they stopped talking about the budget two days after it was released
in this Chamber. I can tell you that our budget has received wide acclaim across North America. We
see press releases coming out today saying that New Brunswick’s tax system is second only to that
of Alberta. It is only going to become stronger with the plan to lower taxes that we introduced. You
can see the efforts that this government is making today, at the same time, to increase employment
to give New Brunswickers work in these challenging economic times. We have the largest
infrastructure budget in our province’s history. We are going to upgrade the community college in
Saint John, a program that was left overdue after seven years of inactivity under the leadership of
the former government. I am proud of the fact that we have a message to sell and that every business
has equal access, and it is all under our plan for lower taxes.
Nominations
M. P. Robichaud : Dans la saga de M. Clendenning, le premier ministre oublie de dire que les
allégations et les accusations ne viennent pas de l’opposition officielle mais d’un bon ami du
premier ministre, un homme d’affaires qui a aidé le premier ministre à se faire élire en 2006. Elles
viennent de Barry O’Donnell et non de nous. Nous répétons ce qu’a dit Barry O’Donnell, un homme
d’affaires très respectable. Pourquoi pensez-vous que cette personne est allée aussi loin dans ses
allégations et ses accusations, de façon publique, si elle n’avait pas un argument solide, surtout
qu’elle est un ami très proche du Parti libéral? On voit des photos du premier ministre avec
M. O’Donnell.
Ma question au premier ministre est la suivante. Lorsque vous avez un directeur général de
l’Association libérale du Nouveau-Brunswick qui crée un scandale des commandites, version néo-
brunswickoise, cela demande plusieurs réflexions et des actions précises et rapides. Le premier
ministre va-t-il faire ce qu’il devrait dans des circonstances semblables et demander à
M. Clendenning de se retirer de ses fonctions pendant que l’enquête se fasse?
Hon. S. Graham: This is a question that has been asked, I think, seven times by the member for
Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou. As I have stated in the past, it would be highly inappropriate for me
to comment on an issue that is before a judge for review. A complaint has been filed. There is a
process that must be followed, and that process will unfold.
M. P. Robichaud : Le premier ministre peut dire que ce n’est pas approprié de commenter
l’enquête, mais ce n’est pas approprié que le premier ministre ne prenne de mesures et ne retire pas
M. Clendenning de ses fonctions de président d’Alcool NB. Le scandale causé par le Parti libéral
du Nouveau-Brunswick et son ancien directeur général est très grave. Les allégations viennent d’un
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homme d’affaires respectable de cette province, un ami du Parti libéral, soit M. O’Donnell. C’est
sérieux.
M. Clendenning est peut-être un homme respectable et il serait peut-être lui-même prêt à se retirer
de ses fonctions si le premier ministre en faisait la demande.
016 11:00
Toutefois, étant donné que le premier ministre ne veut pas en faire la demande, nous, de l’opposition
officielle, allons faire parvenir une lettre à M. Clendenning, lui demandant, pour le bien de la cause,
pour son bien personnel et pour le bien des citoyens du Nouveau-Brunswick, de se retirer de ses
fonctions de président d’Alcool NB jusqu’à ce que l’enquête soit terminée. Peut-être que
M. Clendenning va répondre favorablement à notre demande, puisque le gouvernement ne lui a pas
encore demandé de le faire.
Voulez-vous vous joindre à nous, Monsieur le premier ministre, et faire une demande conjointe au
président d’Alcool NB afin qui se retire de ses fonctions?
Hon. S. Graham: The opposition seems to be running the clock today, but I will not take as much
time to respond. As I said, it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on an issue that is
before a judge for review. There is a process that should unfold, and it is unfolding. It is my
understanding that the complaint and allegations will be reviewed sometime in early June. We will
await the results of that review.
I think it is important to come back to the credibility of this opposition in dealing with issues. Again,
the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou is yielding wild accusations today in this Chamber
because is he protected by immunity. Yesterday, when he had to step outside the Chamber, he said
that he was only speaking theoretically, just making theoretical propositions. We are given a
privilege in this House, and it is imperative that we do not abuse the privilege that has been given
to us.
Mr. Harrison: First of all, I request permission to speak from a seat other than my own.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
Ferries
Mr. Harrison: Mr. Premier, my question is for you. On March 26, 2009, you said: “I can tell you
today that that spending restraint meant annual operating costs of $1.5 million for the ferry
services”. That may be somewhat accurate, but you also challenged people to come up with a
solution and gave them a month. By the way, they have suggested significant savings, which means
that this is no longer an issue. You can now have an out on operational costs. You also went on to
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say: “the federal government’s Canada Shipping Act regulations . . . also meant that, in the future,
those vessels would need to be replaced, at a total cost of $12 million”. Where do you get the $12-
million figure? Who in Transport Canada informed you of this case? Did you double-check the
figures in this statement, or did you assume that they were true without asking questions yourself?
Hon. S. Graham: The three ferries were built in consecutive years beginning in 1956. The Belleisle
ferry was built in 1956; the Gagetown ferry, in 1957; and the Hampstead ferry, in 1958. The normal
life expectancy of a ferry is between 30 and 40 years. It is important to note that none of the ferries
were built to the standards required under the Canada Shipping Act. To answer the member
opposite’s question, the Act was updated in 2001 and now requires that all ferries operating in
Canada be designed, constructed, and operated in accordance with the Act. That is the legislation
that we are following today.
Since 1997, under all successive governments, the New Brunswick Department of Transportation
has been engaged in a ferry upgrade plan. I am sure that the former Minister of Transportation would
give that information to the member opposite. There is a requirement now, with the Act in place.
This is an established, recognized standard across the country. It is not unique to New Brunswick.
The Gagetown ferry is now 52 years old, and given that when it was built it did not meet the Canada
Shipping Act of 2001, the standards for hull construction, stability, and electrical work would all
require major reconstruction and overhaul. As I said, there is a major replacement cost involved with
upgrading these ferries.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Premier, time.
Mr. Harrison: In a recent editorial in the Telegraph-Journal, on Saturday, March 28, 2009, the
writer quoted your figures without checking their accuracy and suggested that perhaps $12 million
was a steep price tag. No one has researched this erroneous figure. Westfield will get a new ferry.
The current boat was slated for Belleisle. There is no cost here, just for a start. No one has ever
confirmed these figures. Where did you come up with the $12-million figure?
Hon. S. Graham: If the member opposite would like to meet with the Minister of Transportation
and officials within the department, then a meeting can be arranged at which they can sit down and
go through the appropriate information.
017 11:05
This is a challenge of operating government today. At a time during which we are seeing revenue
streams decrease dramatically, we are making a decision as a government to make it our priority to
invest in education and the students who are here. We have just brought forward a new student debt
relief program. The students in this Chamber will benefit from one of the most comprehensive debt
relief programs in this country. That is something that the former government said it would do but
did not act on for a number of years. That is why we are making the difficult choices on this side
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of the House. We are investing in our future. We are investing in our students. We are investing in
our health care system. These are the core priorities of this government.
Mr. Harrison: The Premier stated, in answer to my question on March 26, 2009:
It is my understanding that the Canada Shipping Act regulations now state that a double-hull
capacity is needed for buoyancy. The current vessels do not meet that requirement.
How do you know that? Transport Canada did not say that. Who in Transport Canada informed you
that these boats would cost $12 million? Is this to buy new boats or to do some refitting?
Hon. S. Graham: We will have the member opposite meet with officials from the Department of
Transportation and review all the figures that were presented to us on the cost of putting in place a
new fleet of ferries for the province.
Mr. Holder: One thing is very clear today: The Premier of the province has been seriously misled
by somebody with respect to what he knows about the Canada Shipping Act. I am going to quote
from a letter dated April 2 of this year, from the regional director of Transport Canada to our
Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation. It talks about a joint inspection process between our
province and the federal government. It says:
To date, eleven of these ferries have been inspected. The four ferries that have not been inspected
include the Gagetown, Hampstead and Belleisle cable ferries.
If they have not inspected them, how do they know they need to be replaced, and how do they know
that the cost will be $12 million?
Hon. S. Graham: As I said at the outset—maybe the member for Saint John Portland was not
listening—the normal life expectancy of a ferry is between 30 and 40 years of age. As I have said
today, one the three ferries the member is talking about was built in 1956, one was built in 1957, and
the other in 1958. Common sense would tell you that a ferry of that age, which does not meet
Canada Shipping Act requirements, needs to be replaced or undergo a significant retrofit.
There are costs associated with meeting the federal regulations that are now standard across the
entire country. It is not an easy decision to make. We recognize that. If the member opposite would
like to meet with the officials of the Department of Transportation . . . He is indicating today that
they are providing misleading evidence. I think that that is a disservice to the hardworking public
servants of this province. They do provide factual information to government, and I find it atrocious
that this member would attack the integrity of the public servants of New Brunswick.
Mr. Holder: The Premier can defend the bureaucrats all he wants. We are defending the people of
New Brunswick.
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The letter gets better. It talks about recent media reports.
The media reports incorrectly suggest that our present joint inspection program had an impact on
the provincial government’s decision. Transport Canada was not contacted with regard to the
cancellation of these ferry services, nor have we been involved in discussions with your Department
regarding the replacement of these cable ferries. Transport Canada has no records of any drawings
or data having been submitted for approval for replacement of any of these cable ferries.
Furthermore, it is not certain that application of Transport Canada regulations would necessarily
require refurbishment or replacement of these three ferries.
This is a farce. Will the Premier not acknowledge it today?
Hon. S. Graham: At the beginning of the week, we heard the member for Rothesay stand up and
yell and scream. Then, yesterday, she recognized that she was on the wrong track with the
information she was presenting to this Chamber. The fact is that the former Conservative
government had started a process in 1997 and it had been followed through. The New Brunswick
Department of Transportation—and the member from Shippagan was Minister of Transportation
at the time—had engaged in a ferry upgrade plan to upgrade all the ferries, in accordance with the
Canada Shipping Act. This was started by the past government, and it is a process that we have had
to continue on this side of the House. For the members opposite to stand up and say that they were
not aware that these ferries had to be upgraded or replaced is not correct. The fact remains that the
new Act came into effect in 2001, and every single province must adhere to the standards of that
Act, which is . . .
018 11:10
(Interjections.)
Hon. S. Graham: Oh, my goodness.
The point that I am making today . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Jody Carr: The previous Conservative government had no intention of reducing or removing
cable ferries on the Lower Saint John River and would never have done it in the way that this
Liberal government is doing it. In fact, the previous Liberal government, under McKenna, according
to former minister Vaughn Blaney, would never, never have canceled the cable ferry system on the
Lower Saint John River.
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It is this Premier, and the Premier alone, who is turning his back on the people of rural New
Brunswick. We have learned new information today from a federal government letter to the province
of New Brunswick. There has been no consultation with Transport Canada. We also know that the
minister has released some information but not all of the information. Usage numbers have actually
increased for some of these ferries. This decision does not make sense. This decision does not add
up. This decision is the wrong decision. The minister has now offered meetings with officials from
the Department of Transportation, less than two weeks before the deadline. There is more
information that needs to be . . . In good faith, would the Premier, for the remainder of this summer
season, delay this decision, to give the communities more time to fight for their communities?
Hon. S. Graham: As I said, this process started under the Frank McKenna government in 1997. It
continued under the Camille Thériault government, and it also continued under the Bernard Lord
government. The Department of Transportation was engaged in a ferry upgrade plan to make sure
that the Canada Shipping Act was being followed. As we move forward, in these challenging
economic times, the challenge, as we said, is that difficult choices have to be made.
We know today that when we have a ferry that is over 50 years of age, it cannot continue to operate.
The Gagetown ferry, for example, is 52 years old, and it does not currently meet Canada Shipping
Act standards for hull construction, stability, or electrical work. It would require major
reconstruction, or a new ferry would have to be purchased. Those are the facts. Those are the facts
that our government is dealing with. I am going to be meeting with the Mayor of Gagetown, who
is also working with the MLA from that region. We are working to see if a private sector operator
can come in to take over the services, as other private sector operators today are providing ferry
services . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Mr. Jody Carr: The Premier said it himself. It was a cable ferry upgrade plan, not a cable ferry
cancellation plan. That is the difference.
Today, the Mayor of Gagetown is asking for more information, and the people of Gagetown are
asking for more statistics. The minister has been honourable in providing what he has, but more
information is needed. The problem is that time is ticking. The time is ticking for this community
to work, in good faith, with the government.
What we are asking for is a further delay. At the very, very least, reverse this decision for the
summer season, to give the tools to the community to properly put plans and a business plan in
place. You cannot put a business plan in place when you do not have the monthly maintenance costs.
You cannot put a plan in place when you do not have accurate, up-to-date usage numbers. You
cannot put a business plan in place. To give all the tools to the community, would the Premier delay?
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We know one reason that it needs to be delayed. This is on page 68 of the tourism guide that was
released yesterday: The village of Gagetown has a toll-free service operating 24 hours this summer.
There are advertisements for the Gagetown ferry and the Belleisle Bay ferry. People are going to
show up this year and find out that there is no cable ferry. This advertisement is outdated already.
Mr. Premier, would you please give more time to the communities?
Hon. S. Graham: The member representing the region and I will continue to meet with
stakeholders. In fact, Eugene McGinley and I are organizing a meeting today to meet with the
mayor, Randy Smith. We want to see those ferries continue to operate. I want to be very clear.
However, we no longer want to have the government provide the operation of those services. We
feel that there is an opportunity for the municipality or the private sector to step up and take over
the operation of that ferry service.
Today, we are looking at investing in the core services of education. We are investing in our
students and in our health care services as well. That requires making difficult choices. That ad is
still in the tourism brochure because we are going to work with the citizens of that region to try to
maintain that service, but delivered by the private sector or at the municipal level versus being
delivered by government.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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==================================================================================================


ORAL QUESTIONS 25 QUESTIONS ORALES
April 16, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 16 avril 2009
019 14:15
Government
Mrs. Poirier: As I said yesterday, the more you peel that onion, the more it smells. An allegation
was made by a well-known Fredericton businessman that he paid $2 500 per month, which was to
increase to $4 000 per month once the Liberals formed the government, to the Executive Director
of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick to lobby government in order for him to get a grant. One
could see this as maybe selling influence in return for a government grant or a job. It sounds like the
Liberals are saying: If you give me money, I will give you a grant or a job.
My question is for the Premier. Is this a normal practice within your government, and do you
support it?
Hon. S. Graham: As I have said this week on a number of occasions, we work with all businesses
in the province of New Brunswick. We also work with a number of companies outside the province
that are looking to locate here or to invest here. We leave no stone unturned in the economic
development process, and we have had great success in the past two and a half years. In fact, we
have seen a record number of jobs created in the province, even in these trying economic times.
That being said, we respect the fact that we have to work even harder as we move forward with our
economic development initiative. We continue to meet with businesses. We meet with all businesses
in an up-front manner, and we will continue to do so.
Investigative Process
Mrs. Poirier: The Premier, over the last few days, has spoken often of the process. The only thing
they talk about is the process. You cannot go into any details of Mr. Clendenning’s conflict of
interest when he became CEO of NB Liquor. There is no investigation currently under way into the
allegations of influence selling by the Executive Director of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick.
Mr. Premier, will you bring in the RCMP to investigate the allegations made by a Fredericton
businessman with regard to Mr. Clendenning selling influence during his time as Executive Director
of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick?
Hon. S. Graham: As I have stated previously in this House, there is a process that has to unfold.
It is inappropriate for me to comment on the allegations that have been made or the complaints that
have been filed. A judge is going to be reviewing the complaint that has been filed. That will be
occurring sometime in early June, I understand. It would be inappropriate for me to comment, as it
is before a judge for review.
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Mrs. Poirier: Mr. Premier, you clearly do not understand the question that is being asked today, or
how serous these allegations are. A Fredericton businessman has publicly made very serious
allegations regarding his business dealings with Mr. Clendenning. There are allegations of conflict
of interest regarding business dealings with Mr. Clendenning as CEO of NB Liquor, and a second
set of allegations that are just as bad, if not more serious. There are allegations of selling influence
by charging money in return for a government grant while Mr. Clendenning was Executive Director
of the Liberal Party. The investigation currently under way, which you continue to reference, is on
the conflict of interest allegations.
020 14:20
You do not understand that there are two serious issues here. Why do you continue to make
reference to only one investigation when there should be two? Do you simply agree with the practice
as being normal?
Hon. S. Graham: Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the member for Lamèque-Shippagan-
Miscou say a number of things on the floor of this Chamber. Then, outside the Chamber, he said that
he would not repeat them, that he was only talking in theory about a number of issues. Again, it is
important that the process in place be allowed to occur. That process very simply states that when
a complaint is filed or made, a judge must review the complaint. That review is going to occur
sometime in early June. It would be very inappropriate for any member of government to comment
on any issue that a judge is going to review. That is why it is important that the process unfold as
intended.
Nominations
M. P. Robichaud : Comme un ministre de l’autre côté de la Chambre l’a déjà dit : Plus on pèle cet
oignon, plus ça sent mauvais.
Dans la saga entourant Dana Clendenning et Barry O’Donnell, il semble de plus en plus évident que
des ministres de ce gouvernement savaient bien des choses avant que M. Clendenning ait été nommé
président d’Alcool NB.
Ma question pour le premier ministre est la suivante : le ministre des Entreprises Nouveau-
Brunswick, qui était à l’époque l’avocat de M. Clendenning, vous a-t-il avisé, en tant que premier
ministre, du potentiel de conflits d’intérêts avant qu’il soit nommé au poste de président d’Alcool
NB? Étiez-vous au courant de cette saga entre M. Clendenning et M. O’Donnell avant que vous
l’ayez nommé président d’Alcool NB?
Hon. S. Graham: In the absence of the Minister of Business New Brunswick today, I will speak.
As I have stated clearly on a number of occasions, there is a process in place. A complaint was filed
with the Clerk of the Executive Council. The Clerk then forwarded that complaint to a judge for
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review, as the process indicates. It is my understanding that the review is going to occur sometime
in June. We are going to await the outcome of that review. It would be very inappropriate for me,
as Premier, to comment on the review, being undertaken by the judge, of the complaint. As I have
stated previously, there is a process, and it is imperative that this process be followed.
M. P. Robichaud : Il est clair que le premier ministre ne comprend pas l’enjeu et le sérieux de la
situation. Nous ne demandons pas au premier ministre d’intervenir dans le processus de révision que
le juge est en train de faire ; nous demandons au premier ministre de faire ce qui se fait
normalement, soit de retirer M. Clendenning de ses responsabilités comme président d’Alcool NB.
C’est ce que nous demandons. S’il faut continuer à le payer pendant cette période, faites-le. Si c’est
une question d’argent ou de salaire, continuez à le payer.
Ma question au premier ministre est la suivante : lorsque l’ancien député de Nepisiguit, Frank
Branch, siégeait à votre caucus, de l’autre côté de la Chambre, et qu’il a fait face aux mêmes genres
d’allégations et d’accusations avec lesquelles M. Clendenning est aux prises aujourd’hui, vous lui
avez demandé de se retirer de votre caucus et de siéger comme indépendant. Pourquoi avez-vous
deux poids, deux mesures? Pourquoi n’appliquez-vous pas la même politique pour votre ami, Dana
Clendenning, que vous avez nommé président d’Alcool NB?
Hon. S. Graham: As I said, our government respects the process in place today that must be
adhered to and followed. A complaint was filed with the Clerk of the Executive Council. The Clerk
then sent it to a judge for review, as the Act outlines. The appropriate steps must be taken. As I said,
it would be very inappropriate for us to comment until that review is undertaken by the judge. That
is why we are going to await the outcome of that review, sometime in early June.
M. P. Robichaud : Le silence et le mutisme du premier ministre en disent très long. Nous ne
demandons pas au premier ministre de commenter l’enquête que le juge est en train de faire ; nous
demandons au premier ministre de faire ce qui ce fait normalement dans des circonstances
similaires : retirer M. Clendenning de ses fonctions à titre de président d’Alcool NB pour la durée
de l’enquête.
021 14:25
Pourquoi, Monsieur le premier ministre, avez-vous demandé à un de vos députés, un de vos loyaux
amis et partisans, Frank Branch, de se retirer du caucus du Parti libéral? Vous pouvez rire si vous
voulez, mais je ne pense pas que Frank Branch aimerait votre petit sourire cet après-midi. Vous lui
avez demandé de se retirer de votre caucus parce qu’il gênait votre parti, alors que vous refusez de
demander à Dana Clendenning de faire la même chose. Vous avez exigé qu’un député de votre
caucus se retire, alors que vous refusez d’exiger que le président d’Alcool NB, que vous avez
nommé et qui était le directeur exécutif du Parti libéral, se retire pendant cette période de quelques
mois, jusqu’à ce que la lumière soit faite. Faites donc la chose honorable, Monsieur le premier
ministre, et demandez au président d’Alcool NB de se retirer pendant cette période.
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Hon. S. Graham: The credibility of this opposition is diminishing rapidly. Opposition members
came into this Chamber saying that, in this session of the House, the economy was going to be the
number one issue, yet, in the past two weeks, they have not asked me one question on the economy.
They started this session saying that they were going to use a Web site to ask questions from the
public. Their computer must have broken down because that lasted all of two days. Then, opposition
members continually asked for the resignation of this minister with regard to the Canadian Blood
Services issue, yet they sat on that information when the Leader of the Opposition was in Cabinet,
knowing full well that the decision had been taken by the previous Conservative government.
As I said, it is imperative today that we rise above the politics and allow the process that is in place
to protect the institutions that we are elected to serve. That process is unfolding, and we will await
the outcome of that review by the judge sometime in June.
Attorney General
Mr. Huntjens: Yesterday, I drew a scenario, an example, or a comparison. I asked for an answer
from the Minister of Justice to tell this House what difference there is between my situation and his.
To me, when you speak out in public, you are responsible for your actions. When you speak out in
public and say the incorrect thing, you need to do something honourable. To me, the only
honourable thing that could possibly occur at this moment is for this minister to step aside until the
situation has been cleared. His department is the Department of Justice, and he is the Attorney
General. Everyone in this province looks up to that institution as something honourable. If this
member has the honour that was bestowed upon him when he received his position as minister, he
should also have, at this time, the honour to remove this cloud from his department . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Hon. S. Graham: I feel as though I am watching the movie Groundhog Day today, because it is an
exact repeat of all the same questions that were posed in this Chamber yesterday by the same
individuals. As I said yesterday and the day before, in light of the recent allegations, Minister Byrne
has been assigned the case in question that is being raised by the member for Western Charlotte. As
I said, it is inappropriate to comment specifically on the allegations made against the Attorney
General or on any matter that is before the courts. We must allow the legal process to unfold. We
have taken the appropriate steps. Minister Byrne has been assigned the responsibilities of this case.
We will await the results as they unfold.
Mr. Huntjens: This is not a matter of a case. This is a matter of the department and the honour that
is bestowed upon it. In order to take away the shadow that hangs over the department, the only right
thing for this government and this Premier to do is to ask the minister to step aside until this thing
has been cleared up. That is all I am asking.
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022 14:30
Hon. S. Graham: It is the same question. To allow a little bit of clarity, I was making some notes.
I must remind the member opposite that, with the breach of confidentiality that occurred with the
former member for Kennebecasis, Brenda Fowlie, that minister stayed in her position until a review
was undertaken by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman found the minister to be in violation, and the
Premier of the day took the appropriate steps. The member for Charlotte-Campobello must
remember that the minister did not step down from her post until the allegations were found to be
true and the appropriate decision was made by the Ombudsman of the time.
That having been said, the member for Charlotte-Campobello is asking us to comment on his case.
He did break the confidentiality of the post that he held, following the exact same protocol that had
been undertaken with the Ombudsman’s decision. However, a review was undertaken, and that is
why the decision was made. Today, we are awaiting the outcome of a similar review. When the
appropriate decisions are made, the government will take the appropriate action.
Mr. Huntjens: It is unbelievable for this Premier to stand up here with that kind of jargon. That
does not hold water. First of all, my statements were made in the privacy of my office. They were
not public information. This minister did it in public.
Even more, when those allegations were made . . . I will ask you the next question: Have you spoken
to the Ombudsman to look into this situation to see what steps need to be followed?
Hon. S. Graham: That is a fair question and a different one. As the member opposite knows, the
Ombudsman is an independent officer of this House. What the Ombudsman chooses to investigate
is his or her decision. It is his or her prerogative. That is a decision that would rest with the
Ombudsman.
Mr. Urquhart: I have been watching this unfold for the past few days. As the member said, it has
been the same people. I was hoping it would never get to this. I was a police officer for 35 years, and
I am the Public Safety Critic, and I get it from all sides. When I look across the room, there are two
ministers over there, one being the Solicitor General and the other being the Attorney General and
Minister of Justice for the province of New Brunswick. Not only do they have to be clean, but they
also have to appear to be clean. They have to be above any suspicion, unfortunately. We live in a
society . . . Every police officer lives under a rule. They want to know, if they are suspended when
they do something wrong, why is the Attorney General not removed from his position?
Hon. S. Graham: As I said in answer to a former question, in light of the recent allegations,
Minister Byrne has been assigned to the case in question. As a former Attorney General, he has
taken over the responsibility for that file. It is inappropriate for me, as Premier, to comment
specifically on the allegations made against the Attorney General. As with any matter that is before
the court, you must allow the legal process to unfold. I appreciate that you, being a former police
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officer, know that there is a due and legal process that must unfold. We will allow that process to
unfold as it should.
Mr. Urquhart: So, you are telling the police officers, the Crown prosecutors, and the judges of the
province that when a serious accusation is made toward them by a member of the public, when they
come before them, they will not be suspended or removed from their position. They will not have
to go home, sometimes for two years on paid suspension, awaiting the outcome of an accusation
which may or may not be true. However, the public sees that the Attorney General has a serious
accusation made against him and he is not removed. Why do you tell the street cop, the lawyers, the
Crown prosecutors, and the judges, if they have serious accusations made against them, that they
will be removed from their position?
023 14:35
Hon. S. Graham: As I said today, this case is before the courts, and as with any matter that is before
the courts, we must allow the legal process to take place. It would be inappropriate for me to
comment on a matter that is before the courts.
Mr. Urquhart: We all listen to the news. Unfortunately, those in this Parliament, this building, have
to learn that standing up and saying that they cannot comment because it is before the court really
has no value in law whatsoever. There is nothing that says you cannot comment. There is nothing
that says you can be held responsible. First of all, I am not even aware that this is before the courts.
I was of the understanding that three people have come to the Premier, have come to society, and
said: I have a complaint against the Attorney General of New Brunswick. I feel it is very serious.
They have made that complaint. As soon as that complaint comes in, a police officer, a judge, or
anybody is immediately removed. That does not say they are guilty, that they have done anything
wrong. However, society has to know that we are not going to tolerate anything and that they are
removed until it is done. Once it is done, they are brought back if they are found not guilty.
No one is saying that he is guilty in any way, shape, or form, but he and this institution have to
appear to be completely clean. The question is: Are you going to remove the Attorney General?
Hon. S. Graham: Again, as I have said on a number of occasions, it is inappropriate for me to
comment because this issue is undergoing a judicial review. I did not say that there would be no
further comment. I said it would be inappropriate to comment. As the rules of this House state, for
any issue that is before a judicial review, it is inappropriate for members of this House to comment
on that review process. Today, I am following the rules of the House.
What we seem to have opposite today is an opposition that is in disarray. They are asking all the
same questions that they asked yesterday and the day before. At the same time, they seem to be off
their game plan because they have not yet asked for the resignation of the Minister of Health, which
they have asked for repeatedly. It is ironic that they have not raised this issue once in question period
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today. It seems that they are unprepared for question period. It seems that they are not dealing with
the economy, which is the number one issue that the Leader of the Opposition said he was going to
pursue in this session of the House. For two weeks now, he has yet to ask me, as Premier, one
question pertaining to the economy of New Brunswick. That means that he must agree with the five-
point plan that we brought forward to create more jobs and, at the same time, bring the economy of
New Brunswick back on track.
I want to come back to why we are elected to serve.
Mr. Speaker: Time, Mr. Premier.
Mr. Fitch: The important thing the Premier needs to know is that the people involved in the
economy need to know that there is a level playing field. They also need to know that their justice
system is secure. That is why we need to deal with the CEO of NB Liquor and the Justice Minister
today. Then we can move on.
(Interjection.)
Mr. Fitch: Sure, if the Minister of Health wants to resign today and clear that table, he can do that
too.
The Premier keeps talking about a review. Yesterday, three of the top law students from the UNB
Law School were here and they were attempting to deliver a petition. They were requesting a
settlement with Erin Walsh, but the Minister of Justice and Attorney General seemed quite perturbed
that the students were here because they are the students who signed a sworn affidavit that the
minister had made inappropriate comments on a high profile case in the justice system. Is that under
review, Mr. Premier? The Minister of Justice can clear the air here today and just tell us: Does he
deny or does he concede that he made those points?
Hon. Mr. Murphy: I heard my name mentioned. In that the opposition members suddenly do not
want to ask any questions of me with regard to striking down their decision of 2005, it reminds me
of the movie Misery, with Kathy Bates, which is a good name for their caucus. When she looked at
the alternate ending, instead of a resignation here and a resignation there, she said: Do you all have
amnesia? The member for Riverview sat at the Cabinet table when the decision to close down the
Saint John blood bank was there. He sat at the Cabinet table. As the member for Rothesay would
say, it is impossible not to know that decision if you sit at the Cabinet table. He was there, the
Leader of the Opposition was there, the member for Rothesay was there, and the member from
Albert County was there. They were all there. Do you all have amnesia?
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ORAL QUESTIONS 25 QUESTIONS ORALES
April 16, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 16 avril 2009
024 14:40
Mr. Fitch: It is obvious that the member for Fredericton North, who has been indicating for days
and days and days that he wants to have a question, is now sitting there on his hands, silent. I guess
that we can conclude from that that he cannot deny making the comments at UNB with respect to
this high-profile justice case.
The person who is on the case now, the Minister of Business New Brunswick and member for
Fredericton-Lincoln, who held the same portfolio of Justice and Attorney General from 1997 to
1999, has had a number of days on the file. I am sure that we can all conclude that, if he had the
opportunity, given the same set of facts, after he had looked at the things that have transpired, he
would have done the honourable thing and resigned. I ask the member for Fredericton North to clear
the air today. Stand up and speak one word, yes or no. Did you make the statements?
Hon. S. Graham: The opposition seems to be in disarray today. It is repeating the same questions
it has repeated all week. However, it seems to have dropped one file this afternoon, which seems
interesting.
Again, I want to come back to the case at hand. It is inappropriate for us to comment on it. We have
taken the appropriate steps. Because of the importance of the Office of the Attorney General, the
former Attorney General, Minister Byrne, is now dealing with the specifics of this case. As I said,
as is the case with any matter before the courts, we must allow the legal process to unfold. That
process is unfolding as it should.
Mr. Fitch: The member for Fredericton North took an oath when he became a Cabinet minister. He
took an oath when he was admitted to the Bar. He became an officer of the court and, as Attorney
General, he was the head of the court, the highest authority, but not above the law. The way the
member for Fredericton North is acting now, with his admission of guilt today by not standing up
and defending himself, is conduct unbecoming. He has broken the oaths that he has taken. He should
clear the air today. He can resign or he can stand up here today and deny the allegations that were
made against him. Where is his sworn affidavit?
Hon. S. Graham: The tactics of the opposition today are very disturbing. As the opposition knows,
the Office of the Attorney General must maintain its autonomy and the independence that it
deserves. As I have stated before, as is the case with any matter before the courts, we must allow
the legal process to unfold. When the allegation was made, our government moved quickly to
protect the integrity of the Office of the Attorney General by separating the duties of that file to the
former Attorney General. A Cabinet order was passed to allow that process to be undertaken.
It is not the first time that this has occurred in the province of New Brunswick. In the past, when
there have been many opportunities . . . In fact, recently on an issue pertaining to Native logging in
the province of New Brunswick, I recall where the Attorney General had appeared before the
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ORAL QUESTIONS 25 QUESTIONS ORALES
April 16, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 16 avril 2009
Supreme Court of Canada as a lawyer on that file and he had to be removed from that file because
he had appeared on the other side of the issue when he was in his past practice. This is a normal
process that unfolds on many occasions, and we have taken the steps to put that process in operation.
Mr. Alward: What we have today is clearly a Premier who just does not get it. He does not get the
seriousness of the allegations against his Minister of Justice. He certainly does not understand the
seriousness of the two different allegations against the CEO of NB Liquor. To the Premier . . .
(Interjections.)
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Appointments
Mr. Alward: Will the Premier do the right thing and quit hiding behind the processes and remove
the Minister of Justice and the deputy minister responsible for NB Liquor until the proper decisions
are taken?
025 14:45
Hon. S. Graham: As I said, the credibility of this opposition is diminishing rapidly. For weeks,
opposition members have sat in this Chamber and made allegations pertaining to the Minister of
Health that they are not ready to repeat in this Chamber today. It is unfortunate, because now the
facts show that the Leader of the Opposition himself sat at the Cabinet table when the decision was
made. This is the decision for which he is standing up in the Chamber calling for the resignation of
this member. It is imperative that, when an individual stands in this Chamber, we follow the
processes and protect the integrity of the office that we were elected to serve.
I remember, when I was Leader of the Opposition, that I made sure I knew the answer to every
single question that I asked. Today, it is easy to see that the Leader of the Opposition has not done
his homework, or he would have recalled that he was at the table when he made the decision on the
blood services division in Saint John.
Mr. Alward: Let us go back to the beginning today. There are two clear issues with Mr.
Clendenning. The first is about conflict of interest, with Mr. Clendenning in his current role as
deputy minister. Currently, that is going before a judge. The Premier has a responsibility to ask the
deputy minister to step aside while the case is going before a judge. That is number one.
The second issue, which the Premier has not addressed today, is that there is an allegation of the
selling of influence by Mr. Clendenning while he was the Executive Director of the Liberal Party
of New Brunswick. Will the Premier call on the RCMP to do an investigation of this issue, and will
he have his deputy minister removed until the allegations are removed?
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ORAL QUESTIONS 25 QUESTIONS ORALES
April 16, 2009 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 16 avril 2009
Hon. S. Graham: If, as Premier, I had to deal with every allegation or issue that this opposition
brought forward, our government would then not be focused on dealing with the number one issue
today, which is the economy of New Brunswick. The Leader of the Opposition has not asked
members on this side of the House one question about this issue in the past two weeks.
I look at the document that was tabled today, which is a document from Tuesday, February 22, 2005.
This was a special meeting of the corporate members of Canadian Blood Services. Elvy Robichaud,
the Minister of Health for New Brunswick, had a representative at that meeting. The minutes of that
meeting state:
The new Halifax facility will house production, testing, and warehousing for the Maritime region.
The total cost to build the facility is estimated at $24.3 million.
The decision was made by the former Conservative government. The Leader of the Opposition has
sat silent for the last four years.
Today, we are working in a nonpartisan manner. I reached out to the Leader of the Opposition, to
work in a nonpartisan manner. The first day back in the Chamber after that, he was calling for this
member’s resignation. The irony in this . . . Let us focus on the economy, and let us fix this blood
services issue.
Mr. Speaker: The time for question period is now over.
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