Letters to the Editor

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Province introduces new pension model

FREDERICTON  – The provincial government released today a new pension model developed by the Task Force on Protecting Pensions in collaboration with a number of union leaders. The model has received support from several public and private sector plan sponsors, including unions and the provincial government.

"A number of pension plans in New Brunswick and across North America are facing significant funding deficit issues,” said Premier David Alward. “This model, developed in collaboration with union leadership, offers an innovative way to address those issues before it is too late. This model achieves our goal of making pensions in New Brunswick more secure, sustainable and affordable."

The task force, appointed by Justice Minister and Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais and Finance Minister Blaine Higgs, was mandated to examine the long-term stability and security of pensions in New Brunswick.

The work of the task force consisted of extensive analysis of reports, electronic submissions and public consultation. It was guided by the following agreed-upon principles:

●    pension plans must be able to pay benefits for members today and for those members who will retire in the future;
●    there should be no advantage to retiring before any changes are made to the plan;
●    pension amounts earned up to any agreed-upon revisions will not be decreased;
●    any changes will be incremental and implemented on a go-forward basis; and
●    the plans must be fair to employees at all stages of their career as well as to retirees.

The New Brunswick model is based on a well-established Dutch model. Both jurisdictions face similar economic and demographic challenges, including an aging population, growing life expectancy and market returns that are not keeping pace with payouts and indexing.

“One of the strengths of this model is that it can be adapted to different public and private sector plans. We encourage those plans not currently involved to engage in a similar collaborative process with the task force to see how they, too, might benefit from such changes," said Alward.

As a demonstration of this collaboration, it was announced by the New Brunswick Nurses Union, the New Brunswick Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1252 (New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions) and the New Brunswick Pipe Trades that they will be adopting the new model for specific plans. These are the CUPE Hospital Plan; the Pension Plan for Certain Bargaining Employees (CBE) of New Brunswick Hospitals (the New Brunswick Nurses Union and the New Brunswick Union) and the New Brunswick Pipe Trades Pension Plan.

"We are confident that this model will make our pension plan sustainable long into the future," said Marilyn Quinn, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union. "Over the past many months, our union and the New Brunswick Union worked with the task force and government to address the problems with our plan. Most importantly, we believe this solution will provide retirement security for nurses, paramedical and specialized health-care professionals working in our two regional health authorities.”

"I am pleased to have been part of the building of the required solution for the issues in the CBE Plan, and I am confident that the new model will address those," said Susie Proulx-Daigle, president of the New Brunswick Union. "I look forward to the same consultative and collaborative process for the other plans in which our members participate."

"We are pleased with the collaborative effort to put these changes into place,” said Gary Ritchie, administrator of the New Brunswick Pipe Trades pension plan. “The new rules will allow us to recognize the advantages that our plan provides by being one of the few pension plans in Canada to be more than 100-per-cent funded on a going-concern basis. And that is what these changes will allow our plan to remain – a going concern – thanks to these new flexible rules designed for today. These rules will provide our plan members with the security and benefit levels they deserve, while providing the sustainability and affordability that the plan's sponsors require in an increasingly competitive global environment."

"I am pleased to have a new pension plan model that will address our pension issues with which we have dealt for several years,” said Norma Robinson, president of the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions, CUPE Local 1252. “Having our CUPE pension specialist involved from the beginning ensures that the best interests of our active members and retirees have been protected through this process. This new plan will assure security, sustainability and affordability for the members who will retire in the future."

"As premier, I will be advocating this model for our own pensions,” said Alward. 

Blais indicated that amendments will be made to the Pensions Benefit Act in the near future to allow both private and public sector pension plans the option to adopt this model if they so choose.


●    Addresses demographic challenges that make the current system unsustainable, including fewer people working and a larger number of retirees who are living longer.
●    Updates a pension system that was designed for 1980s economic and demographic realities.
●    New system is safer and more secure in that it discourages riskier investment practices as a means of recovering losses and has built-in flexibility to better absorb declines in the markets.
●    Was developed collaboratively with union leadership by pension plan experts.
●    Based on the successful Dutch model, which applies proven risk management methods to pension plans.
●    Ensures that public sector pensions are affordable for taxpayers in the long run.

Effects on members of plans which have signed on:

●    No decrease to the benefit level currently in place for retirees.
●    Likely to result in marginal increased contributions.
●    Moves toward plans based on enhanced career-average earnings, rather than final salary.
●    Moving targeted year of retirement from 60 to 65 but implemented during a 40-year period.
●    Cost of living increases will be conditional on plan performance. However, when pensions are in surplus position, there is an opportunity to reinstate years when cost of living increases were not provided.
●    All changes are incremental and on a go-forward basis.
●    Ensures that pensions will be secure for many years to come.

Twelve year old goes after bankers

The Purple Violet Press Asks: Should the abortion issue be re-opened in New Brunswick?

There's been a lot of local chatter on Twitter this week about the abortion issue. 

Mike Murphy is running for the Liberal leadership, and he discussed the matter via the social networking site. He said personally, he is pro-life, but that he is bound by the laws in the province to respect the current policy, allowing a woman the right to an abortion.

He also told CBC, if he got back into office and became Premier, he would open up the debate and put it to a free vote in the caucus.

Since this is the first the issue of abortion has been in the news in a while, this publication was curious to hear what New Brunswickers had to say. You can leave a comment anonymously, via alias, or with your name, in the comments section below this post. Thank you.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Police investigate theft of art work, Grand-Barachois, NB

District 4 RCMP are investigating a case where a painting (photo, left) was stolen from a local artist in Grand-Barachois.

On May 14, 2012, a man presented himself at the artist's home looking to buy a painting. The suspect told the artist he was going to pay for the painting the following day but never returned with the payment. The suspect is described as Caucasian, appears to be between 25 and 35 years old, with short dark coloured hair. He is approximately 5' 9'' tall with a medium build. He was wearing a dark coloured sports jacket, black pants, with a white shirt and neck tie.

The painting is called : Eventail by Roméo Savoie and the canvas is approximately 48'' x 48''. It is signed Savoie on the bottom right corner of the canvas. It is estimated to be valued more than $5,000. 

If anyone has any information on this theft, contact District 4 RCMP at 1-888-506-RCMP (7267). To remain anonymous contact Crime Stoppers at www.crimenb.ca, or 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Get on the bus for the Massive Shale Gas Protest

On Saturday, June 2, organizers in Moncton are holding a shale gas protest in front of City Hall on Main St. from 11 am to 1 pm. 

According to the Facebook site, Massive Protest Against Shale Gas in Moncton, NB, over 1,000 people are planning on attending, and more than 13,000 have been invited. 

If you want to spend $20 dollars and hop on a bus from Fredericton to go down to Moncton for the rally, please contact Shawnee Main on Facebook  as soon as possible. 

You can also text message or call Main at 476-8027 to get your space and get on the bus.

As of today Main has 30 spaces left on her bus.

Time and location of departure to be determined pending number confirmed travelling on the bus.

NB Common Front for Social Justice blasts Alward government EI committee

MONCTON - “We don’t need Premier Alward’s new committee to look at how federal reforms to employment insurance will affect workers in the province since we already know the answers: more poverty, more insecurity and more injustices!” says John Gagnon, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.

All workers, and not only those in seasonal industries, will need to accept jobs that offer salaries between 10% to 30% less than their previous job and they will be forced to accept work located up to one hour’s drive from their residence.

“A worker now making $15.00 an hour will have to accept a job at $10.50 an hour. Such a worker, if laid off, will lose $101.00 a week when collecting employment insurance. This example shows the real impact of the employment insurance reform on individual workers. It will deepen the poverty level of low-income workers, including their families. We don’t need a committee to tell us that” says Mr Gagnon.

“The same negative economic impact will occur when a worker will have to accept a low-paying job situated up to one hour from his residence. The proposed regulation means that a person living in Moncton will be forced to accept a job at Tim Hortons in Sussex or, someone from Tracadie-Sheila. Will be forced to accept a job in Bathurst or Miramichi. Imagine the economic impact on these workers in terms of gas cost. We don’t need a committee to tell us that.” says Ms Linda McCaustlin, the other co-chair.

“For regions of high unemployment, the elimination of an extra five week of employment insurance, as well as the abolition of the calculation of benefits based on the best 14 weeks of work, all this means less money coming into the regional economy. We don’t need a committee to tell us that this will create more economic insecurity within these regions.” continues Ms. McCausltin.

“Currently, the employment insurance appeal system is based on 1,000 reviewers composed of three-member teams each made up of part-time volunteers coming from labour, employers and government. They hear the appeals in each region of the country. The federal government is proposing that this effective process be replaced by 39 full-time “expert members” who will work from Ottawa. So, expect longer waiting period for decisions and less justice for workers. We don’t need a committee to tell us that.” says Ms McCausltin.

We need to remember that the employment insurance program is entirely funded by workers and employers. The federal government does not put any money in this program. All the proposed negative changes to the employment insurance program have been brought about without any consultations with workers’ organizations. The changes are being made to satisfy the demands of a portion of the employers’ community represented by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

“David Alward needs to listen to workers who will be affected by these negative changes and must not be influenced by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. This organization is against increases in minimum wage, favours a two-tier minimum wage, is against a drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers, and is against increasing the Canadian Pension Plan so that all workers can retire with a pension and are not forced into poverty. This organization of business people regroups many employers who are paying the lowest wages and who provide almost no benefits or pension plan” says Mr. Gagnon.

``The proposed changes to employment insurance will  increase the poverty level in our province, and even more so in rural New Brunswick where there is a concentration of seasonal fishery, tourism and forestry industries which demand a high number of workers at specific time of the year and where there are almost no jobs between those periods” concludes Mr. Gagnon.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Liberal MLA Twitters joke about Blaney's new job


called this bitter sweet he's right Sweet 4 Margaret Ann BITTER 4 NB'ers! SHAME!

What do you think? Should the Legislature dispense with some House traditions?

At the beginning of every daily sitting of the provincial Legislature, politicians of all stripes spend about the first hour making announcements, including condolences to the families of prominent members of their respective parties who have died, welcoming guests in the gallery or accomplished individuals on the floor of the House, and congratulatory messages that promote fundraising causes. 

Are these traditions a waste of time in getting the people's business done? Are they really necessary?

Please comment below.

Thelma arrested - Woman charged with armed robbery, Tracadie-Sheila, NB

SuspectDistrict 8 RCMP have arrested a 43-year-old Shippagan woman in connection with an armed robbery that happened on May 25, 2012 at store located in the Rond-Point shopping centre on Main Street in Tracadie-Sheila.

Nathalie Chiasson appeared in Tracadie Provincial court on Monday May 28, 2012 to face a charge of armed robbery and breach of probation. She was remanded in custody and order to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Chiasson is scheduled to return to court on June 20, 2012.

District 8 RCMP were investigating an armed robbery that occurred at a store on Main Street in Tracadie-Sheila late last week.

On Friday, May 25 at approximately 10:30 a.m. a woman entered the Ardène store located in the Rond-Point shopping centre on Main Street in Tracadie Sheila. 

The woman told the clerk she was armed and demanded money. She then fled the store with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured.

RCMP going door-to-door in effort to solve 2008 shooting, Kedgewick, NB

Sketch of suspect
RCMP investigators will be speaking directly to residents in the Kedgwick area over the next several weeks in an effort to uncover new information related to an assault with a weapon that happened four years ago.

Members of the RCMP's Major Crime Unit North will be going door-to-door to talk to local residents in an attempt to identify the person responsible for shooting a man in January 2008. Investigators will be showing residents a sketch of a suspect in hopes that he can be identified.

"Our goal is to solve this crime and we strongly believe the information we are looking for is out there," explains Cst. Chantal Farrah of the New Brunswick RCMP. 

"Our major crime investigators work on cases that sometimes take several years to solve. It's important for people to know that any information, even if it seems to be unimportant can be relevant to investigators. We prefer getting too much information and letting investigators determine what information will help solve the case."

On January 11, 2008, shortly after midnight, a 27-year-old Kedgwick man was shot by an individual while answering the front door of his residence located on Dr. R. Boulay Street in Kedgwick, N.B. The victim suffered serious gunshot wounds but was able to call for help. The victim recovered from his injuries, however a suspect was never identified.

The suspect is described as being Caucasian, skinny and approximately 5'11'' tall. He had light brown hair, a scruffy beard and spoke French. At the time, he was wearing a red and blue jacket with a red toque.

If you have any information about this incident, contact the RCMP Major Crime Unit North at 506-548-7774. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Debate: With EI reforms should come politician salary reform?

Over the weekend I was witness to a conversation between a few people who've been observing the EI reform controversy. They agreed, that since seasonal work is only at certain times of the year and the sitting of politicians in the House is only at certain times of the year, both should be reformed to save Canadian taxpayers money.

But what about the fact politicians are working when not in the House, asked one. If they are in cabinet, then they should have to prove it, came the response. How? Time cards, detailed expense reports, etc. What about those in the back benches? Unless they can prove they are doing actual work in their constituencies, then they shouldn't be paid at all when not in the House, came the answer.

So, I decided to open up the comments and put it to readers for a debate:

Be it resolved that since EI for seasonal workers who only work certain times of the year is being reformed, shouldn't salaries of politicians be reformed since they only sit in the House certain times of the year?

Have your say people. It is, after all, your House and your money.

Chase appointed Deputy Mayor in Fredericton

Stephen ChaseFREDERICTON - Stephen Chase, City Councillor for Ward Nine (Odell Park/Parkside Drive), was appointed Deputy Mayor for the City of Fredericton at the regular Council meeting of May 28, 2012.  

Elected on May 12, 2012 to serve Ward Nine, Deputy Mayor Chase was acclaimed to his second term on Fredericton City Council during the 2012 municipal elections.  He is Executive Director of the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation and a former Vice-President for Government Affairs with the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“During his first-term on City Council, Mr. Chase proved himself as a good councillor; serving the residents of his ward and the interests of the City as a whole in a professional manner,” said Mayor Brad Woodside.  “I was pleased to nominate him as Deputy Mayor for consideration by City Council.”

Deputy Mayor Chase is the past chair of the City’s Development Committee. He has also served as a member of the City's Finance & Administration Committee, the Community Services Committee, the Negotiations Liaison Committee, the Coleman Frog Dream Team, the Fredericton Tree Commission, the Local Improvement Association for the Fredericton Botanic Garden, and the Preservation Review Board. 

He was also the City’s representative to Le Centre Communautaire Ste-Anne and the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick, and has served as City Council’s liaison with the City’s namesake ship, the HMCS Fredericton.

Deputy Mayor Chase is a former provincial civil servant, and has worked in the departments of the Treasury Board, Justice, and Health and Community Services. He has extensive experience in intergovernmental relations, policy development and directing major government programs. He has negotiated and administered several federal/provincial and inter-provincial agreements. He also served as Executive-Director, Government Relations with Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa.

Prior to being elected to City Council he served as Chair of the Planning Advisory Committee and as an elected school trustee for several years. He is also a past, long-term member of the Rotary Club of Fredericton.  He holds degrees in Law and Arts (Biology) from the University of New Brunswick.  

Deputy Mayor Chase and his wife, Denise, live in Fredericton. They have two sons, Allen and Marc.

Deputy Mayor Chase, who was away for the May 28 regular Council meeting, was sworn into office at the May 15, 2012 regular Council meeting.  He will serve as Deputy Mayor for the term May 28, 2012 to May 27, 2013.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Fredericton's new city council sworn into office

FREDERICTON - Fredericton's new City Council was sworn into office late this afternoon at a special meeting in the council chamber of City Hall. The Council, consisting of Mayor Brad Woodside, nine returning councillors and three new councillors, will be in office until May 2016.

During the special Council meeting, members of the new City Council were escorted into the council chamber by a bagpiper and members of Fredericton's Ceremonial Guard.

They were piped to their seats in a semi-circle at the back of the chamber, whilst friends and family numbering around 100 people packed the gallery above.

Amongst the crowd were former staff and officials once employed by City Hall, including former mayors Elbridge Wilkins and Les Hull, and city clerks Donna Lavigne and Brenda Samson.

After the new council was seated, The Elm City Echoes (left), a local ladies barbershop chorus sang "Heading Home" for the assembled dignitaries and crowd. The piece was originally written and composed by Janet Kidd, director of the Saint John ladies barbershop chorus, the Seabells.

After the chorus, a lively and clever poetry reading was performed by by Kathy Mac (right). She captured the city's vibrancy, noting among other things, it's trails, festivals and even making mention of the Occupy controversy.

After the entertainment members of the new City Council in attendance took their Oath of Office. Fredericton Fire Chief Philip Toole and Fredericton Police Chief Barry MacKnight acted as Aides-de-Camp for the event, escorting each member one by one to the mic to recite the oath.

After swearing their oaths of office with one hand on the Bible, the new city council members signed their documents of office. New councillors Kate Rogers, Leah Levac and Greg Ericson were of particular interest as they pledged their service to the city and signed their loyalty to the municipality for the next four years.

Seen in the photo at right, Councillor Rogers (Ward 11 - UNB/East End Area) was elected to replace former Councillor Jordan Graham, who did not reoffer in the May 2012 municipal election. She has a Master's degree in Political Science from UNB and is currently the managing director of the NB Social Policy Network, an organization that promotes collaboration between government, university research and community organizations.

Councillor Levac, left, (Ward 10 - Sunshine Gardens/West End) defeated former Councillor Stephen Kelly during the 2012 municipal elections. She is a program developer and instructor at the University of New Brunswick's Renaissance College and holds a Ph.D in Education, Leadership and Social Policy.

Levac won a hotly contested ward that saw four other competitors vying for the seat on council.

Greg Ericson, right, (Ward 8 - Skyline Acres area) was elected to replace former Councillor Tony Whelan, who did not reoffer in the May 2012 municipal election. Councillor Ericson is a former business owner and entrepreneur. He is currently working toward's a Masters degree at UNB on the design and implementation of public engagement processes to improve governance strategies.

Ericson vied for the council seat against former mayor Sandy Digiacinto. But it was clear as the returns came in on the evening of May 14, Ericson was the winner, signalling the desire for the Skyline acres electorate to go with a completely new face to represent them at city  hall.

Mayor Woodside was sworn in for his eighth term in office, making him the city's longest serving mayor. He is an award-winning public speaker, has been active in youth drug awareness programs and is affiliated with a number of associations and organizations. Mayor Woodside is currently third-vice president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He will become second vice-president in June. He expects to become president during this term at the city's helm, requiring the deputy mayor, yet to be chosen by council, to step in when he is away.

Woodside fought hard for his eighth term against thirtysomething challenger Matthew Hayes. His passion for representing the city was evident in sometimes fiery exchanges with Hayes during debates in the run-up to the election. Some observers were startled at Woodside's aggressive tone at times with his challenger, unused to his style of politicking. Others were frustrated with Woodside and council shortly before the municipal election when they fell short of voting in a ban on shale gas fracking within city limits.

But the new council chose to look forward this evening as it starts a new term, including the nine re-elected city councillors returning to office:
  • Dan Keenan, Ward 1 (Douglas Area). Councillor Keenan was acclaimed during the 2012 municipal eleciton.
  • Bruce Grandy, Ward 2 (Nashwaaksis Area)
  • Mike O'Brien, Ward 3 (Fulton Heights/North Devon Area). Councillor O'Brien was acclaimed during the 2012 municipal election.
  • Eric Megarity, Ward 4 (South Devon Area)
  • Steven Hicks, Ward 5 (Marysville Area)
  • Marilyn Kerton, Ward 6 (Barker's Point Area)
  • Scott McConaghy, Ward 7 (Lincoln Area)
  • Stephen Chase, Ward 9 (Odell Park/Parkside Drive Area). Councillor Chase  was acclaimed during the 2012 municipal election. Although absent for the official ceremony today, Chase was sworn into office at the last regular council meeting on May 15.
  • David Kelly, Ward 12 (Silverwood/Garden Creek Area)
Once the councillors were all sworn in, the ceremony was followed by a blessing from City Chaplain, Rev. Paul Ross. After Ross came remarks by the Mayor and councillors.

Of particular interest were the remarks made by councillor David Kelly of Ward 12. Fighting back tears, he thanked the mayor, his fellow councillors, city staff and constituents for their support while he has been fighting a health issue the past year. When Kelly moved on to thanking his family, anyone who had remained dry-eyed up to that point was a gonner as he confessed his love for his daughter helped him throughout his ordeal. 

After councillors spoke, proceedings were then adjourned and a reception for invited guests, family, friends and the public was held.  

Before leaving council chambers, each of the new councillors spoke to the media on how they feel about serving their constituents and how they will approach their new appointments:

Ward 11 councillor Kate Rogers 

Ward 10 councillor Leah Levac

Ward 8 councillor Greg Ericson 

Fredericton City Council meets on Mondays. The Council holds both Regular Meetings and Council-in-Committee meetings. 

During the Regular Council meetings, Council will formally receive reports, vote on by-laws and approve financial and other matters. In the open portion of the Council-in-Committee meeting, Council will consider reports and requests from the public and staff. A closed session may be held during which matters identified in Section 10.2(4) of the Municipalities Act may be discussed.

Council-in-Committee meetings are held the second and fourth Monday of each month, beginning at 5:00 p.m., in the 2nd Floor Committee Room of Fredericton City Hall.

Regular Meetings of City Council are also held the second and fourth Monday of the month, commencing at 7:30 p.m. in the Fredericton Council Chamber, and are open to the public. 
In the event that a Monday is a statutory holiday, the Meetings of City Council are held on the Tuesday of that week. 

The next regular council meeting with the new council will be held Monday, June 11, 2012.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Do you think you can write? Calling for contributors

Anyone that hasn’t heard of American Idol you might possibly  have been hiding under a rock.   Then hot on the heels of American Idol sprung up  Britain’s Got Talent, Canadian Idol, Korea’s got Talent and the list goes around the world. Each contestant testing their vocal cords with Pop, Rock, Country and even opera.

Not to be out done we’ve had hockey players pairing up with female figure skaters in “Battle of the Blades”. Competing pairs  got down to business  practicing their double axels, sit spins and all manner of contortions. During competitions the big brawny hockey players brought oooha and ahhh  for the fans as they threw their petite female partners up in the air and what seemed to be nearly half way across the rink.

Why stop there, let’s dump the skates and we have “Dancing With The Stars” professional dancers paired up with movie stars, football players and other socialites in a competition to strut their stuff. The waltz, fox trot, tango and steps I haven’t even heard of.

Hey we’re on a roll lets keep going! Enter “So You Think You Can Dance” competition with the less so famous and a total of 23 counties involved from Armenia to Vietnam. All punishing their bodies to the nth degree hoping to be the next Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers.

Why stop now? In this day and age with declining opportunities for budding journalists, reporters and columnists why not complete the suite “Can You Categories” with “So You Think You Can Write”?

The Purple Violet Press is an online only news source that seeks to report and write about what is happening and what is important within society and/or our community. It seeks to capture  a wide range of subjects: from politics to philosophy,  from community concerns to social issues.  The motto is to help New Brunswickers make informed decisions that enhance their quality of life.
So….. Do You Think You Can Write?  Do you like to write?

Who knows, you could be the next Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters.     If you think you can write email me, Cheryl Norrad, at thepurplevioletpress@gmail.com…… let’s see your word wizardry.

The Moncton Free Press - Alward Creates Welfare Queen

by Roy MacMullin
The Moncton Free Press

Margaret –Anne Blaney is a Palinesque figure according to some critics.  But she did win her job as MLA with real votes.   

Now she’s leaving that job.  Problem is, the job was in Fredericton and her family is in Rothesay.

So what’s a boss to do?  Should he create a job that he recently eliminated to reduce costs, and break his own rule on a hiring freeze intended to get rid of 1500 other less fortunate employees?  It appears the Premier Alward values his friend above the political firestorm that this appointment may cause.

Will Margaret-Anne add value to Efficiency NB?   If we look at her past performance as minister of the environment, she introduced politically based decision making.  Her departure from that file was welcomed by many.

People are smarter than politicians realize, having a collective intelligence that overcomes political spin.  Life is getting more and more expensive with no raises in salary, yet if you’re well connected, you go to the head of the trough.  A would-be comedian told me today that the only gas he could afford was a fart.   

Margaret’s new job provides roughly $170,000 a year, perhaps with a 10 year contract, if past history is a guide. 

It could be argued that by increasing government costs by $1.7 million for a non-existent job, to be performed by a person who is perhaps not competent, he is creating the biggest welfare queen in New Brunswick.  That’s a pejorative term to describe someone who is abusing the public dole.

Sorry for the sexist stereotype.  We don’t call a man in the same position a “welfare king”, do we?  Men get political welfare too, more frequently than women.

Personally, I wouldn’t have objected if the Premier had named Blaney as the pilot of the Province’s plane.  At least then, the Premier would have had an interesting way to know if she was competent for the job. 
When we looked for relief from Shawn Graham’s reign of error in 2010, many voted for “the farmer”, portrayed as a man of common sense.  To live in New Brunswick is to be eternally disappointed.   

From Shawn the Terrible to a Premier who listens at times but fails to understand. Which is worse?  2014 seems to be so far away.

Roy MacMullin is a writer on energy topics and the energy advocate for the Green Party of New Brunswick.  He is a co-founder of Greater Moncton Post Carbon, a director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the Richelieu Club.   He believes that we need to examine the present mode of operation of our society, given the constraints of population on the finite resources of this planet.   Associated blog  http://roymacmullin.wordpress.com

Shale gas lobby launches new website

Shale gas is a hot topic, especially in New Brunswick. We would like to invite you and your readers to an exciting new debate space.

Launched on April 2012, Shaletalk is a space for debate on the development of shale gas, designed and managed by  Parta Dialogue with the financial support of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. 

This open and respectful debate space allows users to ask questions and obtain answers directly from the industry and its opponents.

Please watch our videos on our Youtube channel at the following link: 

For more information on the project, feel free to consult any of the links below:

Also, follow us on Twitter: @shaletalk

For all questions regarding Shaletalk, contact Tom Liacas: tom.liacas@partadialogue.com.

Volunteer to help bring forest back in Baie Verte

If you plant it they will come: Help NCC restore native Acadian forest!
Mother Nature and NCC are looking for conservation volunteers!

Greening Baie Verte
Saturday, May 26th, 2012
9:00am- 3:00pm
(near Baie Verte and Port Elgin, NB)
In Partnership with Community Forest International
NCC needs help from conservation volunteers as we start to restore native Acadian forest* on our Baie Verte nature reserve on the Northumberland Strait.
Help NCC plant tree seedlings of native hardwood and softwood species to bring back the rich mixed wood forest that used to be present. This 224-acre reserve has been partially cleared during settlement and only short-lived tree species have grown up in these places (which are now starting to die).  Forests are restored in order to create a healthy ecosystem that supports a broad range of plant and animal species.
Professional biologists will lead the event and teach you about this ecologically important area. Learn from our partners, Community Forests International, about Acadian forest restoration work. This event happens rain or shine; volunteers should be prepared for the weather.
Why not spend some time in Nature this spring?
Register to help at www.conservationvolunteers.ca by selecting ‘Greening Baie Verte’ on the event calendar and clicking “Sign me up”
or call 1-877-231-4400.
The Conservation Volunteer program in New Brunswick is generously supported by: The Canadian Forest Service, Maritime Northeast Pipeline, New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, TD Friends of the Environment.
* The Acadian forest is one of 6 endangered forest types in North America , and began developing over 10,000 years ago when the glaciers began moving North after the last ice age. New Brunswick’s forest is a meeting place where the northern boreal forest blends with southern hardwood forests  (32 native tree species) creating remarkable biodiversity and beauty. Acadian Forests host one of the most diverse communities of forest songbirds in North America and are habitats for a variety of small and large mammals.

UNB Art Centre film short draws attention to water issues

Learn to raise chickens at home

The Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Group Transition Cocagne Initiative, is happy to presents the following:

How to Raise Chickens at Home

With veterinarian Nicole Cormier

On Sunday May 27th  2012, at 1:00pm, Nicole Cormier will present the basics of what is needed to raise chickens in your backyard. 

The presentation will be at the offices of the Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Group (PCSDG).

The office of the PCSDG is situated at 4585 Route 134, Cocagne, NB.

There will be an indoor presentation followed by a site visit of Nicole’s installation. This activity is bilingual.

No cost, but space is limited. For more information and to register: (506) 576-8247 or transitioncocagne@gmail.com

NB community groups opposing shale gas send open letter to Premier Alward

This is an open public letter to the Alward Government from New Brunswick community groups opposed to Slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydro Fracking) exploration and development in the province. Please publish its contents in full. Thank you.


May 23, 2012
Premier David Alward
Minister Responsible for Citizen Engagement
Centennial Building
P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB
E3B 5H1

Dear Mr. Alward:
Our government is not living up to its commitment to engage with citizens. Shale gas mining and development is one of the most important and controversial issues facing New Brunswickers today. 
During the past 12 months, thousands of urban and rural New Brunswickers have been moved to action. Some have had their well water tested. Many have participated in protest marches for the first time in their lives. Others have sent letters to newspaper editors denouncing our government’s involvement in the promotion of this industry. All of these well-informed people are cognizant of scientific evidence that confirms that shale gas extraction threatens our air quality, surface and groundwater, health, property values, and quality of life.
Despite your promise in a Moncton speech last October, our MLAs have failed to hold town hall and information meetings “to hear directly from their constituents on this important issue.” So, on May 10th, a group of citizens organized a debate in Fredericton on the pros and cons of shale gas mining. Eight government representatives, including you, were invited to participate. 
Based on our government’s booklet entitled Citizen Engagement and Responsible Government (http://www.scribd.com/doc/31665820/Citizen-Engagement-and-Responsible-Government), we fully expected our government’s active participation in this debate. Instead, our government declined the invitation.
The e-mail from Mr. Troy Lifford, PC Caucus Chair, attempting to explain our government’s refusal to participate in this debate, was perplexing. Mr. Lifford said our government has yet to decide whether it endorses the development of a shale gas industry in New Brunswick.
This statement seems contradictory to the result of the “free vote” last December, in which Conservative MLAs voted unanimously in favour of “responsible and regulated development” of this industry. Moreover, the Dept. of Natural Resources’ Web site, Natural Gas from Shale, declares, “Welcome to our web site dedicated to shale gas exploration and development,and goes on to address only the alleged benefits of this industry. This does not sound like the words of a government that is undecided on the issue. Nor have Minister Northrup’s repeated refusals to place a moratorium on the industry pending further study sounded like the stance of a government that has yet to decide.
In April 2012, when Mr. Northrup gave a new shale gas exploration license to Windsor Energy, a company which had previously ignored exploration regulations, he claimed it was to avoid an expensive lawsuit. But in December 2011, our government showed no such reluctance to pass legislation that breached the province’s agreement with Enbridge Gas New Brunswick, legislation to facilitate the economical distribution and use of natural gas. That does not seem to be the action of a government that is undecided about developing a shale gas industry.
Our government just days ago claimed to have developed “world-class” regulations to control the shale gas industry. That, too, does not seem to be the action of a government that is undecided about developing a shale gas industry.
All of our government’s public statements, actions and attitudes have made it clear that it favours the development of this industry in the province, regardless of the well-known and scientifically verified dangers it presents to our people. In such a context, Mr. Lifford’s declarations of government neutrality on the issue seem a disingenuous dodge to avoid accountability for the government’s approach to this issue, a dodge that disrespects all of our cherished democratic principles of public consultation and transparency on important issues affecting the people.
We believe that it is your responsibility, as Minister Responsible for Citizen Engagement, to guide our government in an honest and open discussion of all of the implications of shale gas development in New Brunswick, and to be straightforward and forthcoming about our government’s standpoint towards this extractive resource industry.

Is that you Thelma? Woman robs store in Tracadie-Sheila

SuspectDistrict 8 RCMP are investigating an armed robbery that occurred at a store on Main Street in Tracadie-Sheila earlier today.

On Friday, May 25 at approximately 10:30 a.m. a woman entered the Ardène store located in the Rond-Point shopping centre on Main Street in Tracadie Sheila. 

The woman told the clerk she was armed and demanded money. She then fled the store with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured.

The suspect is described as a Caucasian woman, possibly in her mid forties or early fifties. She has a heavy build, is approximately 5'5'' and spoke French. She has dark coloured hair and was wearing it in a ponytail. She was wearing a black summer dress.

If you have information on the woman responsible for this armed robbery contact the RCMP at 1-888-506-RCMP (7267). To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477).

Liberal MLA worries health by-laws will silence doctors

FREDERICTON – Opposition Health Advocate and MLA for Miramichi-Bay du Vin, Bill Fraser, is concerned that Health Minister Madeleine Dubé’s move to put through a new set of by-laws for the Regional Health Authorities will put a muzzle on doctors from speaking out on issues.
Fraser raised the issue last week after hearing concerns from the medical community that the new RHA by-laws could discipline, suspend or even dismiss medical staff for speaking out on issues that “is or is reasonably likely to be detrimental to the RHA”.
“Minister Dubé is placing a muzzle on doctors from speaking on issues that could be of concern to their patients or the wider public. These new rules imposed by the Minister could mean that doctors are at risk of getting fired if they speak out against decisions made by the Alward government.”
The medical community in New Brunswick has been vocal in past months about a number of issues with Alward government, including government’s about-face on the purchase of 3T MRI machines in Saint John and Moncton and the loss of the Canadian Blood Services processing facility in Saint John.
Fraser is concerned that these new rules are the Alward government’s retaliation against the doctors from speaking on these issues.
“Doctors need to have the freedom to advocate for patient care. If decisions are being made by Alward’s government that are detrimental to New Brunswickers, doctors should be allowed to speak up against them.”
However, when the New Brunswick Medical Society was contacted today for comment on Fraser's claims, no one was available for an interview.
Among the new rules is a condition that the CEO of the health authority must be present at every Local Medical Advisory Committee. Fraser says this rule ensures that the Health Minister has direct control over this committee and the decisions it makes.
“Last year, the Alward government changed health legislation so that the CEOs of the RHAs reports directly to the Minister of Health, instead of its Board of Directors. These new by-laws only serve to tighten the Health Minister’s grip on decision-making powers.”

Deptartment of Health spokesperson Jennifer Graham was asked for comment today. However, there was no response as of this evening.

List of roadwork happening in Fredericton this summer

Here are a few of the major works where traffic flow will be affected. All dates are weather permitted. 

• Brookside Drive – Extension of storm sewer, curb and gutter.  Road base upgrade as well as replacement of new asphalt surface.

• Canada Street – Reconstruction of retaining wall beginning on June 25 and should be completed by July 30.

• St Mary’s Street – Upgrading of road base as well as replacement of the asphalt surface beginning on May 28 and be completed by June 8.

• North Side Trunk Sanitary Sewer Renewal - Replace the sanitary trunk between Southview Condominiums and Ducks Unlimited in addition to the crossing Union Street near Station Road. Closure should last 10 days.

• Bishop Drive – Construction of a Roundabout, replacement of roadway, including curb/gutter, road base and asphalt surface. A detour will be in place.

• Cliffe Street/Two Nations Crossing Roundabout – Construction of a Roundabout, replacement of roadway, including curb/gutter, road base and asphalt surface. Traffic disruption should be minimal.

• York Street (Edinburgh Street – Albert Street) – Storm sewer renewal and a detour will be in place.

A list of all summer road construction as well as construction maps, have been posted to the City of Fredericton website at www.fredericton.ca . Details of major closures will be announced as contracts are tendered and weather permits.

City of Fredericton calls for interest in development of property in west end

FREDERICTON – The City of Fredericton has issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) for the sale and development of city-owned property located at 203, 209 and 211 Queen Street in the sest end of the city’s downtown.

A mix of uses are permitted and encouraged for the site, including commercial and residential projects, as outlined in the City Centre Plan.  Any proposed development should include adequate parking to accommodate the needs of the project.  The City is selling these properties together to facilitate a single development that may or may not be phased.

The property has a total lot area of approximately 9,500 square metres (2.3 acres), generally in rectangular shape, with 80 metres of street frontage on Queen Street and a view of the St. John River.  A brief summary of information related to soil and flooding conditions is available, but a more detailed analysis will be necessary.

“This is a very important piece of property in our Downtown,” said Mayor-elect Brad Woodside.  “There is construction occurring in the area and Council is confident that this is a good opportunity for interested developers.”

The purpose of this EOI process is to canvass interest in the development of the property and to determine a short list of proponents who clearly appreciate and accept the development objectives for the site and who have the capacity to undertake a project that meets these objectives.  A short list of proponents will be selected to proceed further.  The lowest or any bid will not necessarily be accepted.

The RFP will be evaluated against the following criteria:

• the quality of the development concept and the compatibility of the concept with the City’s objectives and policies;

• the quality of the urban design component of the submission (including the scale and appearance of proposed buildings); 

• the relevant experience of the submission principals; as well as

• the benefits to the community as a result of the development concept and the urban design.

Interested parties have until 3 pm on Tuesday, July 12, 2012 to respond.  The EOI document, entitled “Expression of Interest (EOI) P12-42:  For the Sale and Development of Land in Downtown Fredericton 203, 209, 211 Queen Street”, may be obtained by calling Bob Cormier, Asset Management Manager for the City of Fredericton at 506-460-2082 or via email to bob.cormier@fredericton.ca.

For more information about the property, including zoning information, please contact Calvin Thompson, the City’s Real Estate Manager at 506-460-2036 or calvin.thompson@fredericton.ca.

Notice of Construction: St. Mary's Street closing May 28 for roadway upgrade

FREDERICTON – St. Mary’s Street will be closed to all traffic just north of the Co-op gas bar beginning Monday, May 28. The closure is necessary for construction crews to perform roadway upgrades. 

All vehicles travelling on St. Mary’s Street in this area will be required to detour via Maple Street, Ring Road and Brookside Drive. Construction and detour signs will be in place to warn motorists of the closure and to guide motorists through the detour route.  

This closure is expected to be in place for ten days, concluding on June 8, weather permitting. The city advises residents to drive safely and reduce speed when driving through construction areas during the summer.

Op-Ed: Tories deny Liberal effort to protect cell phone customers

On May 9th, on behalf of the Liberal Opposition, I was proud to table a private Member’s bill that would have protected consumers from unfair cell phone billing practices in New Brunswick.
I was shocked and saddened when the Alward government rejected the bill last week. Tory MLA’s stated that they would not support the bill because there were no regulations tied to it. Instead of making a simple amendment, this government chose to reject a bill that was in the best interest of all New Brunswickers.
I want to explain to you what this bill was about and perhaps you’ll wonder like I do why it was rejected.
The Phone Contracts Act would have provided better protection to cell phone owners via new regulations for wireless companies. Similar legislation has been introduced in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba to help prevent cell phone bill shock.
The key issue at stake with this piece of legislation was transparency. Consumers often expect to pay one amount for wireless services and receive a bill that is double or triple the expected amount. Truth in advertising is paramount – people need to clearly understand what they’re signing up for when they enter a wireless contract. Currently, this is not the case. 
Cell phone contracts in their current form are difficult for many people to understand. Because of this, consumers too often experience sticker shock when they are charged for services they did not agree to or did not know would result in added costs.
The New Brunswick Cell Phones Contracts Act would have ensured contracts were written in plain language and that services included in the basic fees were itemized. Bills would also have had to clearly state services rendered that would result in higher costs. This legislation would have required wireless service providers to include clear disclosure of key terms, making them more understandable to consumers.
Another concern this bill addressed was the often exorbitant costs of cancelling a wireless contract – sometimes upwards of $600. This bill would have capped cancellation fees at $50. Furthermore, the legislation would have disallowed wireless companies from automatically renewing a contract or locking them in to begin with without proper and clear disclosure.
More than 80 per cent of wireless service agreements are post-paid, which means people are billed after they sign agreements and use the services. When the first bill is received, consumers tend to feel helpless since they have just signed a contract that could last up to three years. If the bill isn’t what they expect – and it usually isn’t – this legislation could have provided the protection they need.  
This bill also sought to regulate wireless advertising, and introduced requirements for record keeping. It would have provided protection against the unilateral amendment of a cell phone contract by a supplier and mandated that customers be provided with specific details on the terms of the contract, including minimum monthly charges, penalties, interest, and so on. It looked at several small issues as well, including a requirement that companies disclose whether a cell phone is new or refurbished.
New Brunswick families work hard for their money and cell phone bills are a universal source of frustration. Any family or individual using a cell phone would have benefited from legislation that ensured clear and easy-to-understand language in cell phone contracts. This legislation would have put the onus on businesses – instead of families – to make sure consumers know what services they are paying for.
This was a good bill – one we had hoped the Progressive Conservative government would move on. Unfortunately, this government has put politics first when it comes to Opposition bills in the legislature and this was no exception.
This private member’s bill was one that should have had no downside for the Tories. It’s a bill that would have protected New Brunswick consumers – something that should be the aim of all governments. This is no time to play politics, yet that is what they have done.
This bill was good for all New Brunswickers – all except for former Premier Bernard Lord and the telecommunications giant he works for. The Tory rejection of this bill has exemplified a simple truth: that this government is more interested in protecting its friends than everyday New Brunswickers. And that simply is not right.
With this legislation, the price shock that consumers face when opening up their cell phone bills would have become a thing of the past. We saw no downside to this legislation and believed it was something both sides of government could work on together. 
I am disappointed that this government has rejected a bill that protects New Brunswickers from unfair cell phone billing practices. If you live in a riding with a Tory MLA, I encourage you to ask them why they have rejected this bill. Ask them why they didn’t opt for an amendment and instead chose to reject it outright. Rejecting this bill was a blow to New Brunswickers and we all deserve answers on this regrettable decision by the Tories. 

Chris Collins is the Official Opposition’s critic for Post-Secondary, Education, Training and Labour and is the Liberal MLA for Moncton East.