I start today by giving you a bit of news from the front. I have
just been handed a piece of paper, and I want to inform the House
that, as of a few minutes ago, over 405 242 Canadians had signed
a petition that Stockwell Day change his name to Doris. I don't
know what the end result will be from this petition. I guess it
is like they say: Que sera, sera . . .
I would like to begin today by acknowledging Hon. Marilyn Trenholme
Counsell for her continued good work as Lieutenant-Governor of New
Brunswick. I would especially commend her ongoing dedication to
early childhood literacy initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to extend my best wishes to you
today. Yesterday was merely a preview of what a spirited session
this will be. I know you will act in the interest of order and decorum
in this Chamber, because of your great passion for this Chamber
and for this democratic process.
I would like to acknowledge the Sergeant-At-Arms, the Clerk, Clerk
Assistant, commissionaires and staff here at the Legislative Assembly,
who keep this House running from early in the morning until late
in the evening. This important democratic process could not continue
I would also like to welcome the pages. I am glad to see that Renée,
Billy, Tracy, and Leanne are back to brave another session. I am
also pleased to see some new young faces as well. Welcome to the
I also want to say a special thank you to the people of Kent South
for their support over the past 13 years. I believe that the support
MLAs receive from people in their own community is very important
and, above all, deeply appreciated. I would also like to thank the
New Brunswick civil servants. I have had the privilege to work with
these very dedicated individuals and I am confident in saying they
are the best civil service in Canada. We continue to receive their
constant cooperation as we work for our constituents.
To the staff in our office, I say thank you. Like those of us who
sit in this Chamber, the members of our team who work behind the
scenes are there because they believe in New Brunswick, because
they have hope for this province. They work tirelessly every day
on behalf of our caucus and on behalf of New Brunswickers.
I want to acknowledge my friends and colleagues here by my side,
for they are among the finest people I know. We are great in spirit
and vast in experience. I want to thank each of you for the commitment
you have made to your work. Each of you brings unique perspectives
and talents to our caucus table, and I am very proud to have the
honour to lead such a dedicated and passionate team.
Finally, I would like to recognize the people of this province.
I have had the privilege of representing New Brunswickers in various
capacities for 13 years. This is an important time for the people
of this province.
Last time this House assembled, I know that the Premier was fond
of answering questions by reminding us of the mandate that his party
received in June 1999. I hope he will be as respectful of the mandate
that each member of our caucus received as well, a mandate from
the people of their ridings to speak up for the values we stand
forpride in our province, faith in our entrepreneurs, fairness
in our social programs, and investments in our long-term well-being.
We are all proud to sit in this Chamber and continue our work for
our beliefs and for our ridings. However, I would also like to remind
my friends opposite of a truth each of us remembers as an MLA: No
election victory carries on forever, no mandate is without limits.
Each of us on this side of the Chamber understands that our personal
victories in the past are just thatin the past. Our mandate
was not a mandate to pat ourselves on the back; it was to work even
harder for the future. So I hope MLAs from all parties will join
us in our resolve not to use our wins in 1999 to absolve us of the
need to explain what we have done in November 2000. There are no
Liberal, Tory, or NDP voters today, but just New Brunswickers and
those who must work for them each and every day.
It is of those days ahead, and to those New Brunswickers, that
I speak today.
We are nearly one year into the 21st century. We are standing at
a crossroads. We are beginning to see that there are those who want
to chip away at what it means to be Canadian, what it means to be
a New Brunswicker, and those who have a far different vision of
the future of Canada than many of us.
At a time when certain forces would like to polarize and radically
transform our nation, we have been forced to reflect on our national
identity, on what we are and in what we believe.
There have probably been few internal events throughout our nation's
history that have caused Canadians from coast to coast to coast
to reflect on what it means to live in our great country. Political
historians hasten to say that Canada has lacked these defining moments
that allow a people to shape its national character. Yet, for one
week in October, our nation became consumed with our national identity.
The passing of Pierre Elliott Trudeau on September 28 sent our country
into a time of mourning and, more importantly, a time of reflection.
Like others, I took the opportunity to reflect upon why the passing
of a Prime Minister 16 years out of office should bring the nation
to a virtual standstill. My own personal reflections on Pierre Elliott
Trudeau didn't really centre on his accomplishments, although his
introduction of bilingualism and the repatriation of the Constitution
have been defining achievements in Canadian history. No, Mr. Trudeau
was far greater than a checklist of political accomplishments.
I thought back to 1968, sitting in my living room in our family's
house in Baie-Sainte-Anne and watching the Liberal convention that
chose Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I thought it was exciting, almost
as exciting as watching a hockey game. I remember that that Saturday
evening was very important, and this charismatic new leader definitely
made a lasting impression on me.
As I said, I was only 13 at the time, so you can imagine that I
was pretty impressed to see that our Prime Minister drove a sports
car and slid down bannisters. However, I was also taken with the
depth of his intelligence and especiallyespeciallyhis
love for our great country.
When I was 24 years old, I had the opportunity to come face to
face with this political icon, and that is something I will never
forget. In my community of Baie-Sainte-Anne, where they were having
an evening for my father, Pierre Trudeau, believe it or not, flew
from China to Chatham. He was a little jet-lagged. He was sitting
in our living room in Baie-Sainte-Anne while we were waiting to
go to the supper. During those days, there was not much security
around prime ministers. It was not like today. Trudeau decided to
go for a walk. We lived not too far from the water in Baie-Sainte-Anne.
All by himself, he went. About five minutes later, the phone rang
at home. Mum picked it up and got all excited because the lady on
the other end of the phone was all excited. She said, "Josée,
Josée, I think I am losing my head." Mum said, "What
is wrong, Tinto?" In Baie-Sainte-Anne, everyone has a nickname.
"What is wrong, Tinto?" She said: "Josée,
I think I am losing my head. A guy just passed right next to my
house, and he really looked like Trudeau." In fact, it wasPierre
Elliott Trudeau, and my first face-to-face. That is something I
will never forget.
Mr. Trudeau wasn't just an image. Behind the style and flair was
a man of enormous intellect, a man who had spent his entire life,
since his years in Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, forming
his vision, first for himself and then for the country.
Whether you agreed or not with Mr. Trudeau really became irrelevant.
Many of those who disagreed with him respected and even admired
For Mr. Trudeau, it was imperative that his actions and decisions
be consistent with his vision. Because his decisions were borne
out of his deep personal convictions, he was never afraid to face
his detractors and challenge them to test the strength of their
own ideas in an arena of political debate. More than anything else,
I will remember his deep and abiding passion for Canadahis
dream of a strong, caring, and compassionate nation.
If Mr. Trudeau taught me what it meant to be a Canadian, then Louis
J. Robichaud taught many of us what it meant to be a New Brunswicker.
Former Premier and Senator Robichaud turned 75 last month, and so
he retired from the Canadian Senate, ending a long and productive
career of service to the people of his province and his country.
Aside from a few meetings, Mr. Trudeau existed as a faraway leader,
a face on the television or in the morning papers.
However, Louis Robichaud was a much more tangible presence in my
Growing up in Baie-Ste-Anne in the sixties in a pretty political
family, I became very well versed in the policies of Louis Robichaud.
Certainly, his vision for New Brunswickthe vision of a progressive
and bilingual provincewas one that shaped my own political
His greatest legacy was, of course, Equal Opportunity. It is hard
to believe now, just over 30 years since it was introduced, that
this program was once viewed as radical. Equal Opportunity has become
so tightly woven into the fabric of New Brunswick that we run the
risk of taking it for granted. But I would caution each of us that
if we start to take this for granted, someone will surely try to
take it away from us.
Before Equal Opportunity, as some of us would remember, municipalities
were responsible for health and education and the collection of
taxes to pay for them. Wealthy counties could afford lower tax rates
and still be able to pay for higher-quality services. Other counties
simply could not afford these services, even if they raised their
taxes to higher levels. By assuming all tax authority, the province
lifted the burden of mammoth taxes from the shoulders of New Brunswickers
in communities around our province. In doing so, New Brunswickers
of all languages, in all parts of New Brunswick, received fair and
equal treatment in health, education, and public works. Our province
was transformed forever.
Louis Robichaud dreamed of a province where New Brunswickers would
not be marginalized because of where they chose to make their home.
So worthy was this dream, that it transcended partisan lines, and
Progressive Conservative Premier Richard Hatfield endorsed the program.
New Brunswickers are by nature a fair and generous people, and
the wisdom of Mr. Robichaud's plan was understood.
Today, Equal Opportunity is so ingrained in our provincial character
that it long ago stopped being merely a policy and started to be
a way of life.
The premise of Equal Opportunity is fairness, and it is an idea
so fundamental that it is hard to imagine why anyone would attempt
to dismantle it, but there are some who would like to. I believe
that New Brunswickers will rise in the name of fairness and say
no. And I can assure you that I will be standing with them fighting
to preserve this important part of our provincial character.
I was fortunate, very fortunate, to grow up in a time of great
political change in New Brunswick, a time when a young lawyer from
Kent County was transforming the way we thought about ourselves
and the way we thought about our province. Today, I think about
another generation, including my own two children, Sophie and Sébastien,
who also came of age in a province that was in a constant state
of motion. During the nineties, New Brunswick was defined by a sense
of vitality, energy, and optimism, and this time I had the opportunity
to be involved firsthand.
Our provincial face was changing, both at home and across Canada.
I watched this change take place. I saw New Brunswickers start to
hold their heads higher. I saw others outside New Brunswick look
at us with newfound respect and sometimes grudging admiration.
Led by another dynamic leader, Frank McKenna, New Brunswickers
began to further reshape ourselves. We were the little province
that could, and more importantly, we were the little province that
did. We improved our quality of life. We became a force with which
to be reckoned. New Brunswick was described as innovative, cutting-edge,
and visionary. We made others sit up and take notice. We were small
but smarta savvy province with drive and determination.
We moved out of the shadows; we threw away our reputation as have-nots
and we started to make a mark on the national and world stage. I
am proud of this period in New Brunswick history as a politician,
but I am also very, very pleased as a parent. Young people around
the province have absorbed that can-do attitude. They know that
just because they come from a province that is small doesn't mean
they are less than. They know the value of hard work, the strength
of innovation, and the powerthe powerof a dream.
When I reflect upon these men and their visions today, it is not
just nostalgia for the past that I feel. I also understand in a
profound way how the vision and leadership at the head of a government
can change the world around them.
When I am in my riding of Kent South, talking to families there
who have been able to live in their home, in their own language
and still realize their dreams, I know that Louis Robichaud's goal
of Equal Opportunity guides us today. When I walk the streets of
Moncton and see students at a great Acadian university using their
love of two cultures to build a thriving bilingual economy at home,
I know that the Just Society of Pierre Trudeau guides us today.
When I arrive in Fredericton and see the businesses in cutting-edge
industries dotting the downtown streets, buildings empty at night,
and the streets filled with young people working here at home, enjoying
the lowest unemployment rate of any generation, crowding into the
restaurants, bars, and stores that were only someone's dreams five
years ago, I know that the can- do fervour of Frank McKenna has
shaped another generation.
That's the thing about visions. You know, great leaders are not
the sum of a million tiny decisions, of regulations tweaked, of
committees struck, or even of elections won. Rather, visions set
the tone for all those millions of decisions.
A clear direction from the top, expressed with passion, reason,
and hard work, can rub off on Cabinets, caucuses, committees, and
citizens, if the vision is right, if the leader can lead others
to follow. If the government feels that it is being bogged down
in small decisions, in tiny battles, maybe it is because those in
government have not lifted up their eyes beyond the day-to-day issues
to understand where they would lead us. We make decisions in this
generation, but our vision is what we will give to the next generation.
When I look back at how the quality of government has shaped entire
generations, I worry about the children of New Brunswick today.
I am worried, because something has happened to New Brunswick over
the past 16 months. Something has happened, and it is changing the
face of our beloved province. There is a feeling of malaise trickling
down from the top levels of government. It is bigger than that the
headlines in the morning papers. The headlines are the symptoms
of a much bigger crisis. It is not something that you can quantify,
but it is very, very real. I know it is real, because many New Brunswickers
have told me that they sense it. I sense it too, and I worry that
it is contagious.
The Lord government has taken optimism and turned it into gloom.
It has taken a hard-earned pride and turned it into resignation.
It has taken a weekend "do-it-ourselves" and turned it
into "someone else can do it for us". It has taken decisiveness
and turned it into hesitation. How did this happen? More importantly,
why did this happen?
We are a pretty patient lot in New Brunswick. In June 1999, we
knew it would take a few months for the new government to find its
footing, to settle into its new role. I truly believed that if they
could just keep the momentum from the past 12 years going while
they found their own way, while they set their own course, we would
It's a funny thing about momentum. It can take years of work to
get it going, but it only takes a few months of indecision and inactivity
to destroy it. Late last winter, I started to see signs that the
momentum in the province was grinding to a halt. We all knew we
were facing some difficult budget cuts here on the home front, but
then I started to get calls from outside the province. "Camille,"
they asked, "what's going on in New Brunswick? Why are we not
hearing anything? Where is the buzz, the energy, the presence?"
I thought, "This is not good." I was really concerned
that the government had taken down the "Open for Business"
In the nineties, when you traveled and you told people you were
a New Brunswicker, they usually had similar reactions. They talked
about the great things that were happening here. They talked about
how proud we should be with the progress being made in our province.
Sadly, sadly, that doesn't happen anymore.
There is one other thing about visions. They are never really over.
They don't end when you win an election. Pierre Trudeau did not
set out to have a just society in 200 days and then rest. Louis
Robichaud never had a 20-point checklist for Equal Opportunity.
Frank McKenna was never happy with where he was on Day 201, Day
401, or Day 1 001. When I look at the lack of direction from this
government, I worry. I worry that "good enough for now"
has become the new governing mantra, that "It will do"
has become the threshold for success. If we on this side of the
House can do one thing during this session, it will be to banish
the phrase, "good enough" from the political vocabulary.
If the government cannot show New Brunswickers what could be, then
we will. We know that our work did not end on June 7, 1999. Work
did not end on Day 201. We will earn our seats in this great Chamber
every day by talking about our future.
Throughout the spring and summer, I became increasingly concerned
about the economy of our province. I thought back to the decision
of the government to cut two small business loan programs, SECAP
and Self-Start, programs that had helped businesses create thousands
of jobs in New Brunswick. The government insisted this would not
impact the development of small business, but it had not actually
replaced the programs with anything.
I knew it would take some time before the cracks would begin to
show. The economy would be strong for the time being, because of
the massive projects going on in the private sectorthe pipeline,
the Irving refinery, the Fredericton-to-Moncton Highway. I was still
concerned, however, about the thousands of New Brunswickers who
weren't benefiting from these projects. Furthermore, what would
happen when these activities finished up? What then? Where was the
strategy for the information technology industry? Where was the
strategy for the resource-based industries, for the tourism industry?
Where was the strategy for small business in the province?
The government has talked a lot about sector-specific economic development
strategies or regional economic development strategies. It has been
long on terminology and short on specifics. There was little indication
of what the plan was for the next year or 2, or 10. We have certainly
been kept in the dark about this government's economic development
strategy, but we were not the only ones.
This was darkness from a government that promised openness and
In early autumn, I discovered that, for the first time in 15 years,
the provincial Cabinet had refused to meet with the Conseil économique
du Nouveau-Brunswick. I later found out that the Conseil économique
was not the only group denied a meeting with the government.
This floored me. These are the individuals, the men and women, who
are involved on a daily basis with the economic pulse of New Brunswick.
For a government to reject the input of New Brunswick's business
experts seemed bizarre to me, to say the least. When I was Minister
of Economic Development and Tourism, and later Premier, I found
these sorts of meetings invaluable. I knew my files well. I had
long had an interest in economic development and business, but that
didn't mean I couldn't learn more from people getting the job done
Everyone brought his or her own experience and perspective into
those meetings. Listening to the opinions and concerns of those
who keep the wheels of New Brunswick's economy turning was vital
to developing the most suitable economic development strategy for
For a government to close itself off from these individuals and
organizations, from their knowledge and experience, would have been
unthinkable. It would have been foolish then. It is foolish now,
but it has happened.
It's not just the economic organizations that are facing closed
doors. How ironic that in an age where information is imparted in
a nanosecond, where knowledge is our currency, New Brunswickers
are being shortchanged by a government that insists on living like
hermits. This government has gone into the bunker. This government
has gone into isolation.
I have had a number of different people say to me in recent weeks,
"You know, Camille, you might not have agreed with us, but
you were never afraid to meet with us." Meeting with New Brunswickers
is part of the job of governingnot simply talking at them,
but listening to them. Having discussions with New Brunswickers,
exchanging ideas, looking at challenges from different perspectives
was one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job over the years,
and it still is.
Really, what we do here in this Chamber or in the boardroom is
useless unless we spend our time away from this Chamber and away
from the boardrooms with New Brunswickers. It is simply a matter
of respectrespecting those who have given us the privilege
of representing them. Sure, not everyone agrees with you all the
time. Believe it or not, some people will never agree with you.
That's what makes life interesting. Disagreement is never the problem,
but how you handle it can be. A difference of opinion is not a personal
affront. To see it as such is to make your life more difficult than
it needs to be. If you insist on hiding from people who do not share
your views, you are going to lead a very, very lonely life.
To govern is to look at the challenge from all angles, to be mindful
of the needs of everyone involved, and then to make the decision
that is best for society as a whole.
More than 225 years ago, Edmund Burke put it very plainly to the
electors of Bristol in England, and I quote: "Your representative
owes you not his industry only, but his judgment." Governing
by referenda flies in the face of representative democracy. It is
an abdication of the responsibility of elected representatives to
make the tough decisions that best benefit the whole of society.
Under the guise of increased local control, we see the government
transferring the responsibility from itself to others by downloading
decisions in health, education, and economic development. I want
to be very, very clear. I do not trust this government on the issue
of local control.
I saw the blame thrown on the regional health corporations when
they were forced to consider massive cuts in order to live within
the funding level set by their own government. Government members
were vehement in their attacks on their own regional corporations.
Perhaps we should also look at municipalities. The Minister of Finance
unilaterally disbanded a consultation process designed to review
the issue of municipal taxation. Only after an onslaught of bad
press did the Premier reconvene a process with our province's cities,
towns, and villages.
Can the new councils and authorities expect the same sort of treatment?
These two examples speak volumes about this government's true feelings
about local control. This government is not transferring decision-making
authority, it is transferring the responsibility for failure. It
continues to look for someone to blame. It continues to look for
ways to abdicate its sworn responsibility to govern this province.
Governing is difficult. Of course it's difficult. Whoever said it
would be easy? Do you know what? Raising a family is difficult.
Running a business is difficult. Many New Brunswickers have shared
with me some of the difficult decisions they are faced with every
day. In each of our lives, we try to make the most informed choices
possible, so why should we expect less from our government?
This government is putting off decisions that affect thousands
of New Brunswickers every day. Remember the promise about renewing
health care. This government raised expectations for health care
in New Brunswick, and it has failed miserably to meet these expectations.
I hope New Brunswickers will ask themselves one simple question:
Is health care better today than it was two years ago? I have asked
that question of people around the province, and so far I have only
heard one answer: Absolutely not. No, the system is not better,
but it's not surprising. It's not surprising when you look around.
For three months in a row doctors have shut down their offices for
I was shocked that in the throne speech on Tuesday, a throne speech
that made a great fuss about renewing health care, there was absolutelyabsolutelyno
mention of nurse practitioners. Our doctors are overworked, and
clearly it is time to look at introducing nurse practitioners into
our health care system. The time is right, and we on this side know
that this can work. We know because our government took the preliminary
steps. In January of 1998 we introduced shared care models in Grand
Manan, Saint-Quentin, and Lamèque. The government worked
hard with both the health care providers and the patients to put
in place the best model for all parties. I am sure that the member
for Fundy Isles would confirm that this approach to health care
delivery could be a model for other communities in New Brunswick.
However, in order to expand the role of nurses, we must expand
the number of nurses, and not create 300 positions on paper. Clearly,
the conversion of 300 casual nurses to permanent status has done
little to alleviate the pressure on our nurses around the province.
I have spoken with nurses who are disappointed that this government
has failed to act on any recommendation of the Nursing Resources
This fall, as we all know, New Brunswick nurses have come closer
to taking strike action than ever before in our history. I applaud
them for their willingness to talk these issues through, because
I feel badly that it took threatened strike action to get the government
to enhance its offer to them. Every year we are losing nurses to
our neighbours in other provinces and in the United States. The
time has come for this government to look at the underlying factors
in our nursing shortage. It's time to address the working conditions
of New Brunswick nurses.
Nowhere is the lack of vision more acute than in our health care
system. We are paying for this government's inexperience. First,
it told us the federal government would bail the system out. Then
it tried to blame the hospital corporations. Now, before facing
this House and after assuring us that the government would manage
the system to make its plan work, the Minister of Health tells us
that this government must pump another $46 million into the system,
because of the very costs that the corporations had cautioned the
government about eight months ago.
You know, this has cost us more than $46 million. It has cost
us a golden opportunity to rebuild our health care system. We had
new federal dollars available because of good economic times created
in the past decade. Did we invest in new technologies to save time,
money, and lives? Did we recruit doctors and nurses and buy the
labour peace that would have let us reform primary care and overhaul
the system? Did we invest now to save money in the long run? No.
The government took all the money brought in by good times and bought
only a reprise for itself. It bought 12 more months of stalling,
stonewalling, and struggling. It bought 12 more months of a status
quo that isn't working. It had the resources to lead, and instead,
it purchased the right to shirk its responsibilities.
Let's begin now, planning while we still have the financial room
to do so, improving access to primary care, working with communities
to define what a hospital means in this new day and age, better
integrating hospitals into all New Brunswick communities. The greatest
threat to health care is if we stand still, and we on this side
of the House pledge to remove that option from this government.
Health care is only one of the issues that my colleagues and I
are going to bring to the floor of this House during this session.
I know there are many issues that New Brunswickers are concerned
about, and I want to thank those New Brunswickers who have written
letters, made phone calls, or even stopped us on the street to share
their concerns with us. Your input makes us more effective at our
Clearly, education is a top priority. I want to make sure that
New Brunswick's children are being given the tools they need, not
only to survive, but to flourish in the 21st century. However, my
concern goes even beyond the curriculum. I want to ensure that our
children have enough teachers, and I want to know that the teachers
who are in the system are not overburdened, that they have the resources
and time to spend opening the minds of our children.
We are facing a teacher shortage in coming years, and, as they are
doing with nurses, our American neighbours are luring our young
teachers south. It is time to look at what incentives other jurisdictions
are offering and how New Brunswick can compete.
This government has talked about making education a priority, yet,
as my colleague from Bathurst said in her "nonstatement"
yesterday, in the whole throne speech, the government devoted only
one paragraph to education.
You know, I recently read an editorial from the Victoria County
Record, and I think it says a lot about the real priorities
of this government. I quote:
At $6.5 million for a new middle school and a much needed gymnasium
at Andover Elementary, a new middle school facility isn't cheap.
But consider this, at $1.5 million a month in shadow tolls,
that is less than five months of toll-free driving on the new Fredericton
to Moncton highway, courtesy of the province. Don't our children
deserve the same courtesy?
I want you to think about this just for one moment. For what this
government has paid in shadow tolls since April, 300 middle school
students in Perth-Andover could have had a new, healthy school.
Or think about this: The amount this province pays each day in shadow
tollseach daycould have added and paid for a nurse or
a teacher for a yeareach day and every day.
Last session, the Minister of Finance said, "The amount of
shadow tolls is totally irrelevant." I am saying no to the
Minister of Finance; the amount is completely relevant, and it becomes
more relevant with every day that passes. Some have told me that
the tolls cost us the last election, but I am telling you that shadow
tolls will cost the people of New Brunswick far greater for generations
There is now a new tollbooth in New Brunswick, erected with the
compliments of the Bernard Lord government. It is a tollbooth blocking
the road to opportunity, a tollbooth where each and every New Brunswicker
must pay the price for this government's lack of vision. It is an
"inexperience tax," and it is growing every day.
It is in the roads and schools we cannot afford, because of the
shadow tolls, because of a promise made in cold political calculation
and sustained only by ego and stubborn pride.
It is in the lost income tax cuts for the working families who will
not see the full benefit of the federal government's tax relief,
because of a government that, in its haste to win over voters with
their own money, forgot to plan for tax cuts everyone knew were
It is in the lack of financial room to move health care from beyond
crisis management. It is what in the movie MASH, Hawkeye
Pierce called "meatball surgery", where the newest crisis
keeps us from being our best. It is in the lost opportunities we
could provide to businesses through effective programs amputated
by this government to pay for their promises. It is in the communities
whose roads will not allow them to pursue economic growth.
It is in the spiraling debt of university students, still waiting
for a plan for debt relief. It is in the $895-million deficit the
books now show for the last fiscal year, and the broken promise
to our young people that they would never again be saddled with
the unpaid debts and shirked responsibilities of their predecessors.
The inexperience tax is now the most expensive job-training program
in New Brunswick's history. Sadly, it does not seem that the lessons
are being learned or that the student is even listening.
This inexperience tax is growing every day, as this tollbooth on
the road to opportunity grows more and more impassable. We are few
on this side of the House, but we will whittle away at this inexperience
tax, and we will not let further government inaction add to the
bill for working New Brunswick families.
There is not a lack of issues to talk about during this session.
Every time I stop at the local gas station, I am reminded of what
a difficult winter this is going to be for the low- and fixed-income
families who will be faced with staggering heating oil bills. My
colleagues and I will be insisting that this government look at
ways to lighten this financial burden for those who will be hardest
The official opposition looks forward to the amendments to the
Employment Standards Act. The other day, I was talking to
a young couple who are expecting their first child in a couple months,
and I am reminded that in the midst of all their excitement, they
are faced with some pretty major decisions. That is why it is so
important that this government make the decision on parental leave
public as soon as possible.
There are other decisions that need to be takenon NB Power,
for example. We have learned that the province will release an energy
policy but that NB Power's future will be omitted from the plan.
New Brunswickers want to know what to expect when they open their
power bills in coming months and years.
We in the opposition have a number of concerns for the energy sector,
and we are very, very eager to debate this important issue.
Of course, everyone knows that contracts affecting nearly 27 000
public servants will be negotiated in the coming year, and the opposition
will be watching the government's treatment of our public employees
It is my sincere hope that the ongoing strike by court stenographers
will soon be resolved. To that end, I reiterate the suggestion made
by the Finance Criticand approved, of course, by the court
stenographersthat the time has come for this government to
consider binding arbitration to end this issue.
While we are discussing the court system, I must say that I was
disturbed by the recent announcement of raises for judges. When
I was Premier, our government received the recommendations of the
Judicial Remuneration Commission. While we agreed to a first salary
increase, we refused to accept the subsequent increases. We believed
this to be a fair compromise for all parties, and we were prepared
to defend our stance.
I remember at the time that the then Leader of the Opposition suggested
that this compromise was too substantial. He basically suggested
that our government was out of touch with New Brunswickers. Yet,
less than two years later, out of the blue, the Premier agreed to
give the judges a far more generous salary increase than the one
we initially offered because, he said, "Denying the judges
would have led to court action."
With Bill C-68, you knew you did not have a chance to win, but
you wanted to have some political gain. You went to court, and you
lost in court. This time, because it was the judges, you did not
have the courage of your convictions. You said:"We will pay.
We will give you retroactive pay." This is at a time when 65
women in New Brunswick are basically being shut out of their jobs
by your government.
We are also concerned about highway safety and improvement. Last
year we saw the least amount of money in the history of capital
transportation budgets, so we certainly hope to see more dollars
when the new budget is brought down in a few weeks. I find it rather
ironic when I hear the Premier of New Brunswick stand up and say
that he is on his way to Ottawa to ask for more money to build the
four-lane highway across New Brunswick. I also talk to some people
in Ottawa, and the reaction I get there is, "Why do they want
more money?" I say, "There is a need to build more roads."
The reaction is: "They have a pot of $92 million of federal
money in their bank account right now that they are not using. Why
are they coming to us for more money when they have close to $100
million not being used as we speak?"
I also hope that the time line for the new bridge to replace the
Gunningsville Bridge will not set a precedent for transportation
infrastructure in New Brunswick. I cannot understand why it will
take five years to build a bridge across the Petitcodiac River when
the Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait was built
in three years. Something is wrong with this picture. I have traveled
across both bridges, and unless it is an optical illusion, I think
the distance from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick is greater
than the distance between Moncton and Riverview. I only hope that
construction of any other infrastructure can proceed in a more timely
New Brunswick's mayors and councillors are worried. They are preparing
to bring down budgets with 10% less money in unconditional grants
this year. There is not much room to cut services; so, they are
faced with raising taxes.
I understand that the Premier has mandated the Minister of Finance
and the Minister of the Environment and Local Government to proceed
with a yearlong consultation process on a wide range of municipal
These are very complex issues. I certainly hope this consultation
will be completed and that it will not be met with the same fate
as the consultation on municipal taxation. Yes, there will be a
lot to debate during this session.
In recent weeks, people have asked me: "What are your plans,
Camille? What are you going to do?" The most important decisions
any elected official makes are when to run and when to leave.
I am reminded why I made the first decision, every time I see this
government trying to unravel a decade of New Brunswick's good work,
every time I see this government shutting the door on New Brunswickers,
every time I see this government failing to give New Brunswickers
the government they deserve.
I decided to seek public office because I love New Brunswick.
I ran in order to fight for all that New Brunswick is, but more
importantly, in all I believe it can be. I am not about to stop
fighting now. Builders start with a strong foundation. In New Brunswick,
much of this foundation was laid by three men, Louis Robichaud,
Richard Hatfield and Frank McKenna. All of them were also builders
and they had the wisdom to add to those pieces laid by their predecessor.
In doing so, they recognized that neither a province nor a people
can move forward if the foundations are hacked and torn apart. You
cannot move forward if you are perpetually starting over.
That is not my vision for New Brunswick. Nor is my vision one where
the very structure and underpinnings, and the values associated
with them, are questioned and are under stress for the mere sake
of doing something different.
This is not building, it is demolition; at the very best, it is
housekeeping. By nature, I am a builder. I have derived most of
my satisfaction in my personal and political life from seeing things
moved ahead. I believe New Brunswick needs builders, someone who
believes that we can become more than we are today, rather than
someone who runs the serious risk of making us less than we are
by dismantling the strong foundations built over the last 30 years.
Together, I ask, all of us, let's build a better New Brunswick.