Executive Council Office

Government response to Committee on Legislative Democracy report (07/06/28)

NB 859

June 28, 2007

FREDERICTON (CNB) -- Increased voter participation, a standard legislative calendar with fixed fall and spring sessions, the registration of lobbyists and a ban on contingency fees, a new consultations policy, incentives to nominate more women candidates for office, and measures to enhance the role of the Legislative Assembly are among the 20 initiatives the Province will undertake, to improve and enhance legislative democracy in New Brunswick between 2007 and 2012.

The government today released An Accountable and Responsible Government, its response to the recommendations made in the final report of the Commission on Legislative Democracy.

"While we as a government and as a party agreed with much of the response to the Commission on Legislative Democracy released by the previous administration, we felt that we owed it to the people of New Brunswick to put forward our own response," Government House Leader Stuart Jamieson said. "An Accountable and Responsible Government sets our own agenda for democratic renewal based on the commission's final report and the commitments made in our Charter for Change."

The report contains a number of commitments from the Charter for Change, including:

The report also includes a number of recommendations in common with the previous administration's response, such as:

"This process will provide New Brunswickers with an opportunity to apply for vacant positions, ensure merit-based appointments to significant agencies, boards and commissions, and set fixed terms for each position," Jamieson said.

Members of the legislature will be asked to consider a number of new measures that would enhance the role of the assembly. These include making Hansard records available online and creating an independent subcommittee of the Legislative Affairs Committee to study MLA salaries, pensions and other benefits.

A new lobbyist registration system will be developed and will be available online, and the use of contingency fees to pay for government relations services will be prohibited.

"This new lobbyist registry will help ensure that New Brunswickers know who is lobbying their government and for what purpose," Jamieson said.

The government will develop a new consultations policy, including the use of e-consultation techniques, to ensure that consultations are undertaken at the appropriate time and in accordance with recognized standards.

Local riding associations will be encouraged to nominate women candidates in provincial elections through an augmented election expenses rebate (55 per cent instead of 50 per cent after meeting a minimum threshold of voter support). This will be implemented in time for the 2010 General Election.

In addition, following the 2011 Census, the Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission will be given a limited flexibility to change the number of ridings represented in the legislature. The range of this flexibility will be determined through a consultation process prior to the appointment of the commissioners.

The response document also recommends a thorough review of relevant electoral reform initiatives occurring in other jurisdictions, both across Canada and internationally, in an effort to make further improvements to New Brunswick's current single-member plurality electoral system. The report does not endorse the commission's recommendation to hold a referendum in 2008 on a proportional representation system for the province.

"Switching from our current electoral system to some form of proportional representation is a very complex issue that will require very careful deliberation," Jamieson said. "Although the single member plurality system has served our province and our democracy well, we agree that some improvements are still needed. That said, we owe it to the residents of our province to consider all options for reform before we make fundamental changes to our system of government."

Jamieson said that the government's response outlines the first steps in a much longer journey of democratic renewal.

"The commission's final report will continue to be a valuable resource for our government in our ongoing efforts to foster democratic renewal and in our work to make our province self-sufficient," he said.

07/06/28

MEDIA CONTACT: Tim Porter, Communications New Brunswick, 506-453-2240.

07/06/28