Monday, 23 January 2012

The People's Alliance Party makes suggestions to Higgs for paring down budget


Minister Higgs,

Thanks for the opportunity to meet with you today. Although I do hope we will see a return to a public meeting forum in Miramichi next year. A stakeholders meeting is fine, but as a party, the People’s Alliance does question why your government doesn’t consider all taxpayers stakeholders in the budget process.

During your presentation you make mention of the need for political parties to avoid making campaign promises they cannot fulfill. Given the number of times your government has backed off, tweaked, reversed or totally neglected many of its promises I wish you the best of luck in this endeavour as you explain this to your colleagues at the legislature.

Our party has listened to many initiatives you’ve brought forth as finance minister to bring in new revenue and decrease spending. Some we agree with and some we don’t. But at the end of the day, all we can hope for is that your government has the political will to do the right thing and bring us back to balanced books in order to start paying down the debt.

One thing you’ve said in the past is your government can leave no stone unturned in the efforts to find decreases in spending. If that is truly your intention then I would please ask you to consider the following ideas from the People’s Alliance:

1)      Roll back MLA salaries to 2008 levels and establish annual salary increases more similar to that of the average New Brunswicker. We also don’t believe that the argument is legitimate to say New Brunswickers need quality individuals to run for office and they need to be paid accordingly. By that logic I would find it hard to believe that more than half of the current government cabinet, who ran for office prior to the 2008 increases would have considered themselves poor quality. The only other point I’ll make on this issue is to ask how your former employers at Irving Oil would have dealt with you and your former colleagues giving themselves raises without the boss’s knowledge and consent.

2)      Sell the government plane. You speak of wants and needs quite often. From the amount of excessive use by a handful of your colleagues, I would say this government resource falls under the want category, when commercial airlines can provide much cheaper travel fare. All it would take to achieve a balance between work in Fredericton and people’s home ridings is more responsible scheduling of time commitments by your cabinet colleagues.

3)      Reduce the amount of travel expenses that MLA’s and cabinet minister’s claim. Regardless of how much travel is required, when you have MLA’s spending well over $30,000 a year and sometimes hitting $40,000 a year and they aren’t even part of cabinet, I question whether our tax dollars are being put to the best use when MLA’s are spending more than an average New Brunswickers annual salary on food, gas and hotel bills.

4)      One can understand if a premier wants to have a couple trusted advisors at their side in order to work steadily and freely. But when governments begin handing out jobs to political friends and campaign workers as a reward for their support regardless of their qualifications at the alarming rate which continues to grow with each successive PC and Liberal government, then I would suggest the governing party kick in some funds from their own bank account to pay for these salaries. Although you weren’t a part of the last Progressive Conservative opposition who lambasted the former Liberal government for appointing their friends to various positions, your government has been no slouch itself. The best result New Brunswickers could hope for is to end the patronage machine once and for all. Make a select few of these positions by contract only and don't hand away anymore secret pensions cloaked in cabinet confidentiality.

5)      If you do want a suggestion of where to invest some money, give the auditor general's office the resources and staff to fully investigate government spending through a full audit of the books. It would also be nice to see the person holding that position to hold more clout when highlighting when governments, department officials and individual elected members begin to abuse taxpayers money. 

These are just a few ideas our party has Mr. Minister, not to mention ones that could be done very easily if the political will is there. If you should choose to discuss these ideas or any others  further, the People’s Alliance is always willing to work with other parties to achieve the best results for the people of this province and would be willing to sit down with you.

Kris Austin,  Leader
Jason Inness, President
Carl Bainbridge, Vice President
Rhonda Smith, Treasurer
Michael Marsh, Secretary