Wednesday, April 30, 2008


***DWUCP the acronym to be used for Driving While Using Cell Phone.***

It certainly can be dangerous when DWUCP, but how many motor vehicle accidents can be attributed to the actual use of cellular telephones? Most motor vehicle accidents are caused by some form of reckless driving such as speeding, unsafe lane changes, unsafe vehicles or drinking and driving.

Nova Scotia has recently created a new law banning their use when behind the wheel. It's a bold step but I am unsure if eliminating usage of this mode of communication helps in preventing motor vehicle accidents. I can see their recent change to their motor vehicle act to prevent smoking in vehicles when infant occupants are aboard since second hand smoke unquestionably harms others.

However, picking up your cell phone to take or place a business call is no more dangerous than looking at the radio before changing the station or eating a cheeseburger while scratching yourself. At least I think. Are conversations on headsets any different than when the phone is held in your hand? Probably not.

If their Province keeps statistical information that demonstrates otherwise than perhaps the ban is justified. Unlikely though given the Registrar of Motor Vehicles role under its legislation. So what gives?

Let me know what you think.



Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tasers or 9mms?

Tasers have become controversial lately. Without question, the use of tasers on certain individuals are lethal. We all know of the example where the RCMP's use of "Thomas A. Swift Electrical Rifle" killed Robert Dziekansi in Vancouver. Airport security called the RCMP for help after Dziekanski allegedly was pounding on windows and throwing chairs and computer equipment. After engaging Dziekanski with the Taser, the Mounties speculated that he died shortly after from a rare condition called excited delirium, though the coroner's office has not concluded the cause of death.

Not more than a week after Dziekansi's death, a Montreal man was killed after being tazed by by police. Quilem Registre, 38, was intoxicated when he was stopped by police on Oct. 14 for a traffic violation. Police say he became aggressive when questioned and officers were forced to use a Taser. He was sent to hospital in critical condition, where he died Oct. 17. Registre was the 17th person to die from a stun-gun-related death in Canada.

Two prime examples of the National call on a moratorium on the police use of Tasers. So what is the alternative? The handgun? The baton? Pepper spray? More non-lethal weapons that police should use on suspects they approach who may be armed and/or reportedly violent? I have travelled abroad this Country and throughout the world and if ever stopped by an officer of the law, the universal "reach for the gun" method has always been a deterrent for criminals to cease and desist of their behaviour. Unless extremely intoxicated, high, or mentally ill, those who do not understand that an officer has his weapon out usually know that severe consequences will result if they do not abide by the officer's demands.

So how do we keep officer's and the public safe if we lessen an peace officer's ability to subdue a violent suspect by removing Tasers and allowing them to resort to sidearms? I would really hearing from people on this subject as this topic will form part of discussion at the next Federal/Provincial Ministers of Justice and Public Safety Conference held in Quebec this fall.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lost People in a Highly Charged Debate

Most people know of my heritage. I am a proud member of the Maliseet community at Tobique. A relatively small First Nation nestled along the St. John River and located within short proximity of Perth Andover, New Brunswick. Our people have been inhabitants of this land for many centuries. We are holders of significant rights and special relationships with the Federal and Provincial government since Confederation and the inception of this Province's birth.

While growing up, my mother made the determination that our native language was more important than learning French. English was necessary since mastering this skill was the way to become better educated and to "get the good job." They didn't teach Maliseet in school, there wasn't an immersion program, and there certainly weren't sufficient resources to teach those who wanted to learn or maintain the language. Well, I did OK learning and comprehending the language and have the ability to teach most aspects of my language to my children. But hold on!

At the beginning of the school year my wife and I were forced into the difficult decision of answering which program our daughter should enrol. We chose early french immersion. Why? Well, like many parents we believe that without learning this language her options for employment will be limited. It's a shame we think like that, but many anglophone parents believe this to be true. I remember when all three of my daughters were born and while holding them I recall saying to myself thank god they are healthy. While raising them (and we still are) we do so in a manner where we hope they exceed all our expectations of them in life. Nobody wants mediocrity for their children and neither do we. However, I have come to the realization (as I have with my 16 year old) that no matter how much you want for your children to succeed in life we can only guide them so far. My 16 year old wants to be a journalist now after years of saying she wanted to go to veterinarian school. As her father I support her decision. Pushing her away from her goal is simply unproductive. At the end of the day, I want her to be healthy, happy, and to choose a career that she enjoys. I think as a parent that's all I can ask for.

So, why is it that some (and I say some) Parents feel compelled to believe that success will only be driven by the opportunity to learn French. Is it really because we are the only officially bilingual province in Canada or is it because of the loss of potential career opportunities? I don't know. I have heard a multitude of arguments both for and against, but if people really believe that you can't find suitable employment in our Province without being bilingual, I respectfully beg to differ. Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, Tradesman, Business owners/operators, I know lots of them and many are unilingual and have done fine for themselves.

Of the many people that I speak to in my riding on this issue some believe their children will not be able to work for the government some day because they need french to do so. On reflection, there seems to be a deeper issue here that people just aren't saying but rather masquerading in flowery language. Is it the way government assess and employs people that has them frustrated? I hear this quit a bit: If you have a degree and have the requisite experience to perform the job well, should you be turned away because you can't speak French? Sure, if you are working in areas with a high population of French speakers I can see the argument, but what if you aren't? I was raised to believe that the best and most qualfied person should get the job. If having french as a second language is a necessary component of applying for employment than it holds true that every person should have the opportunity to learn French like my colleague, Kelly Lamrock, has been saying.

It would be an overstatement if I were to say the removal of EFI has been contentious. Many parents, academics and politicians have called this an attack on the French culture. I disagree. The French culture is alive and well and is legally entrenched in our Country's highest law and New Brunswick's Official Languages Act. Like First Nation's people, there is a special relationship between the francophone and the Crown. The difference being of course the legal protection of one language versus the slow erosion of another. The elimination of EFI is a removal of a program and not a culture.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq who have become lost people once again in this highly charged debate.

Thank you for taking the time to read,


Monday, April 7, 2008

Sport or Brutality - You decide!

So, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is coming to Canada for the first time on April 19th. Montreal, Quebec is the chosen Province largely because the number one contender in the welterweight division, George St. Pierre, trains and resides there. Personally, I am a huge fan of this sport and have been since its first pay per view showing in the mid 1990's when athletes like Royce Gracie would battle men twice his weight and size. In those days the rules were a little less relaxed compared to mixed martial arts competitions today, but major injuries were still a rare occurrence. The April 19th fight card will pit present world welterweight champion Matt Serra against St. Pierre as the main event and the title and belt are up for grabs again. These two squared off months ago in St. Pierre's first title defence which led to what I classify as a fluke knockout by Serra. St. Pierre is focused now and completely crushed Matt Hughes in his most recent fight. Hands down, George St. Pierre will regain his title over the older and less physically intimidating Serra.

Sorry, I am getting lost of the reason for posting this blog due to my enthusiasm for this sport. But is it a sport? I think it is. These athletes are highly skilled, highly trained and extremely athletic. My wife thinks it's just a couple of dudes knocking the hell out of each other and doesn't see much athleticism at all. Hmmm. Well, people once thought this way about Tae Kwon Do and Judo which are now global Olympic events. I am sure it isn't what the Greeks envisioned Centuries ago but nevertheless a sport and one that will take part in Beijing at the 2008 summer Olympics.

In some Provinces, like New Brunswick, these events are considered illegal because of section 83 under the Criminal Code of Canada which reads:

Prize Fights

Engaging in prize fight
83. (1) Every one who
(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Definition of “prize fight”(2) In this section, "prize fight" means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 83; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 186.

So - sport or brutality? You decide.



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Weirder By the Moment

After a short stint of the flu, I am back to blogging.

I have to admit the past week or so in the legislature has been stymied over the Leader of the Opposition's stance on Bill 34. While I appreciate a politician's passion for debate and fighting for principles they believe in, the leader of the opposition has taken the debate on Bill 34 to another level. Bill 34 is an Act that essence reduces the number of RHA's from 8 to 2 (see my previous article "trimming the fat in health care").

While many health care professionals agree this is a step in the right direction, the leader of the opposition does not. In fact, he has chosen to "fillybuster" this Bill on second reading rather than allowing the Bill to go to committee of the whole house to examine the content of the bill, make recommendations and suggest amendments. This is day 5 of Mr. Volpe's unlimited speaking time and in my opinion is becoming weirder by the moment. Don't believe me just tune in and listen via web cast or watch it on cable.

So why is this weird? Well, for one its the first Bill up for real debate in the house since we returned on March 7th. We have yet to get any other Bills that must be introduced and debated and I believe their are close to 40 on the agenda. Secondly, it costs taxpayers in the vicinity of $100k per day to run the legislature. We could certainly be moving on to other matters by now. Finally, each department must perform 'estimates' whereby each Minister and staff appear before the house and justify its budget by answering questions from members of the opposition.

Looks like it's going to be another record session.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

How many ridiculous emails do you get in a run of a day asking for your personal banking information in exchange for a percentage of millions and millions of dollars? I mean, geesh, is it just me or are there more millionaires per capita in Sierra Leone then in any other parts of the world?

These quick scams are usually designed to induce the vulnerable citizen into believing they can inherit a cool $10 million dollars for simply providing your bank account number and other personal information. Unfortunately, people who prey on the vulnerable - usually seniors- have been successful in obtaining this information. Once the scam artist is in possession of your personal information they have access to many unsuspecting things that the victim may not realize. For example, access to your banking account information allows access to your credit card information, mortgage information and credit history. Many scam artists obtain this information so they can sell it over the Internet to other scammers for very little money. In fact, credit cards can go for as little as $10.00, but monetary damage to the card holder can be thousands; sometimes tens of thousands.

The New Brunswick Securities Commission is an arms length Corporation from the Executive Branch of Government which was established in 2004 to regulate the securities industry and to protect investors from unfair, improper and fraudulent practices. Many people may not realize of this Corporation's existence despite its ongoing successful activity. For a good read on some of the Securities Commission's disciplinary hearings see:

I don't know about you, but those who prey on seniors or the unsophisticated investor should be sanctioned to the fullest limits of the law. The New Brunswick Securities Commission does just that! Sure, tougher penalties can be imposed on these but who says they aren't on their way?

Thanks, T.J.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Putting the "Special" into Specialized Courts

New Brunswick is focusing its efforts by creating specialized courts for particular offences that take into consideration the background of the offender(s). This is a good thing. In Moncton, New Brunswick we have a Court dedicated to domestic violence offences. The Court has a dedicated Judge, Prosecutor, Social Worker and is resourced to ensure that the facts of each case are given particular consideration before imposing a traditional custodial sentence. Often, offenders that are found guilty, are given strict sentencing provisions which may include mandatory anger management treatment and no contact order provisions which prevent the offender from re- offending. The uniqueness of this Court from others is that the Judge ensures accountability and strict adherence to its Order(s) by instructing the offender to reappear for an update on the counselling he/she receives. The purpose of this is to ensure compliance with the sentence imposed on the individual.

In Saint John our Province has a Mental Health Court. This Court deals with the sensitive issues surrounding criminal offences and mental illness. It's an extremely successful Court and the Judges hearing these cases have their hands full. In some cases, people who suffer from mental illness commit crimes they may or may not be culpable for. This Court allows for the accused to demonstrate to the Judge that their actions may have been attributed to their illness. In the event that they are the Court may take into consideration the illness of the accused an impose the sentence it sees fit.

My Department is looking at the need for a Provincial Drug Treatment Court. It was a platform commitment that we intend on fulfilling. I believe it's needed here in this Province as it has been proven successful in other Provinces in eliminating over populating prisons for minor drug related offences. Take for example an individual who is addicted to Oxycontin that breaks into a department store and sells the "hot" television to purchase drugs. Should this person be sent to prison where little treatment for their drug addiction exists? What if they have the opportunity to complete mandatory rehabilitation treatment and if successful avoids receiving a criminal conviction and record? Now don't get me wrong here. If you're a drug dealer and your caught distributing illegal narcotics then it's unlikely you're going to a Drug Treatment Court. These "specialized" courts are designed to promote rehabilitation to first time offenders if they can demonstrate successful completion of the imposed counselling and mandatory treatment.

We can use more of these Courts that specialize in people that offer specialized staff, resources and treatment.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Throw the Book at him! No - I mean literally.

"... it's simply wrong to always order [kids] to stop that fighting. There are times when one child is simply defending his rights and damned well should be fighting."

Erma Louise Bombeck

The wrongfully convicted. It's an horrible travesty for any person who must experience prosecution by the State for a crime they did not commit. Thus far, we have seen remarkable examples of cases where such injustice has occurred causing the Federal Government to amend the Criminal Code of Canada by enacting special sections that provide for an application to be made to the Federal Minister of Justice/Attorney General to remedy a possible wrongful conviction.

Some of the more infamous cases that stand out in recent memory are James Driskell, who was found guilty of the 1990 murder of Perry Harder. Paroled in 2003, Driskell was acquitted after DNA samples were shown not belonging to the victim that were allegedly matched to hair samples in his vehicle. David Milgaard was sentenced in 1970 to life imprisonment for the 1969 murder of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. After 23 years in prison, The Supreme Court of Canada set aside his conviction in 1992. Donald Marshall was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sandy Seale. After spending 11 years in prison the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal acquitted him in 1983.

A wrongful conviction does not always mean the accused is innocent of the crime. It can simply mean the accused did not receive a fair trial due to an improper characterization of evidence, unreliable testimony, problems with Crown disclosure, police misconduct or wrongful identity. Take the Steven Truscott case for example.

Prior to Canada's abolition of death row, Truscott was sentenced to death at the age of 14 for allegedly murdering a classmate. In 1969 he was granted parole. On August 28, 2007 after overturning his conviction and ultimately entering an acquittal, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared his case "a miscarriage of justice." However, the High Court Justices stated emphatically that the court was "not satisfied that the appellant has been able to demonstrate his factual innocence."

It's an interesting Justice system we have. Some people think it's horrible and failing society while others see it as a fundamental tool to democracy. I am a firm believer in the latter. Without law, there is no order and without order there is no justifiable democratic

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Thick Skinned Politician

In political life you're expected to have thick skin. So the saying goes: if you dish it out you better be able to take it! Fair ball.

I sincerely believe that most people put their names forward for public office with the best interests of their Community, Province or Country in mind. Unfortunately, some fall into the grasp of personal greed, profit and corruption. The large majority of politicians serve with dignity and do great things for their respective riding's. Some sit on their rear-ends, collect a pay cheque and do nothing. Generally, people tend to give politicians an ear full when tough decisions have to be made. This became clear after last Friday's announcement concerning Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's plan for universal french language training in New Brunswick. Wow! The reaction has been enormous.

Personally, I have had quite a few angry parents calling me at home, on my cell, at my office and emailing. They say things like idiotic, moronic and a few choice words that I won't repeat on this site. What boggles my mind is the manner in which people call and feel they can express themselves. I don't mind a hot debate but it should be informed. I don't mind people expressing themselves but it should be dignified. A good friend of mine was with me this weekend when a lady stopped me in a public store and began yelling at me over this decision and how Government destroyed her child's future. After letting her vent we carried on with our business. My friend says to me - can you imagine if someone came up to me and carried on like that because they didn't like the business decision my company made?

I think his point was that this rarely happens in the private sector and if it does few people call up the CEO and lace them with personal insults and threats of non-renewal (when I say this I am not thinking of the Irvings - that's for you Charles). It's an interesting point when you think about it. Apparently, when you get elected it allows the public, at any time, regardless of who is with you (kids, wife, mother) it doesn't matter, to berate you over their beliefs or opinions while you sit there with a smile on your face.

Hmm. Strange job. I wonder how often it happens in the private sector? How many people would simply smile and listen while someone feels it's time to give them hell in front of their family for whatever reason. Most people are decent enough not to act in this manner but there are quite a few that aren't. Anyhow, I enjoy it.

Another saying should be added to the thick skinned politician repetoire, one that Stuart Jamieson told me years ago - you wanted the job, your ran for the job, you got the job, now do the damn job!

Thanks -


Saturday, March 15, 2008

If you don't believe Lamrock - Just ask the Opposition

Since being elected in 2003, I have heard some strange arguments during debate inside the Legislature about policy and decisions governments make but yesterday's exchange between Kelly Lamrock, Minister of Education and Mike Olscamp, the MLA for Tantramar just about summed it up for me on the effectiveness of the French Second Language Program in New Brunswick.

March 14, 2008 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 14 mars 2008

Mr. Olscamp: Yesterday, the Minister of Education mentioned many times that the early immersion program was responsible for streaming. I do not disagree that streaming contributed to difficult situations in the core program. As a teacher in the core program, I received some of the toughest kids who ever went through Tantramar High, I can assure you. I think that, because I believed in them, I was able to deliver a half-decent program. I never expected the core kids to achieve at the same level as the immersion kids. I can assure the Minister of Education and anyone who is listening that the early immersion students I taught in Grades 10, 11, and 12 could sit and converse with me on almost any subject, for almost any given period of time.

Mr. Minister of Education, my question to you is this: Is this business of streaming a precursor to an eventual homogeneous high school curriculum, a one-size-fits-all program for subjects like math, physics, social sciences, and history?

Mr. Speaker: Time.

Hon. Mr. Lamrock:
I think perhaps the statement that worries me is when the member for
Tantramar says that he did not expect the core students to perform like the immersion students. That is the problem.
We have had streaming for so long that we have come to believe that one system is the place where you go to fail. If there was ever an eloquent testimony to why the previous government was wrong to ignore this problem, you have just heard it. You have heard somebody say that we do not even expect students in the core program to do as well as those in the immersion program.

This team differs. We expect all kids to succeed in New Brunswick, because this team will never accept the discrimination of low expectations. If we have been streaming kids into one program for so long that we have stopped believing any of them can perform, maybe that is why we have been left last in literacy, last in math, last in science. We left too many kids waiting for help.

Mr. Olscamp: I never indicated for one minute that those children could not achieve. With your inexperience in the classroom, you lead people to believe, or at least to get the impression, that all kids can achieve at the same level. That is not the case. The core program, when well presented, allows those children with difficulties to reach a level that is their level.

Young children, or people, just like water, seek their own level. The last thing . . . I challenge
anyone in this House to stand up and tell me that they are bilingual.
We are the decision makers in this House. My experience, from listening, is that there are very few “bilingual” people in this House, but everyone can communicate in both languages. I understand them.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Au revoir to Early Immersion says Lamrock

I don't think emotional is the best way to describe the debate over enhancing our education system. Parents are passionate about their children's education. I know I am and so is my wife -who happens to be a teacher by the way. But something had to be done about the low achievements in French proficiency levels and improving our overall education system.

Admittedly, being a part of this decision was difficult for me. I have a daughter in grade 1 early immersion and one in kindergarten that was expected to begin next year. That will not happen now. She will begin learning French in grade 5. I am comfortable with this decision made by our government and as a parent I am satisfied that her opportunities to achieve bilingualism will not be tarnished in 4 years. Neither my wife or I speak French but we both feel that if our girls are to improve their abilities to obtain employment in our Province then they must learn. After all we are the only officially bilingual province in Canada.

Ask any educator about their thoughts of government's decision and you will get an answer. I have yet to meet a teacher that sits on the fence. They are either favourable or vehemently against the following findings:

The report found approximately 91 per cent of the 1,500 or so students who started early immersion in 1995 had dropped out of the program by the time they reached high school.

The study also found that only 0.68 per cent of the high school students that graduated in 2006 after completing the core program had reached the provincial objectives of intermediate oral proficiency.

I should note this problem is only unique to New Brunswick. These results are not the same in any other Province. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to the reasons. I certainly have my own personal view. However, I will say that I will continue to stand behind my colleagues for making tough decisions when they are ostensibly for the right reasons. Sometimes they may not be the most politically popular, but I'd rather campaign on making a decision to provide the best educational opportunities for children in our Province versus doing nothing to improve their chances to succeed!



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gaming in the 21st Century

I don't think that it comes to a shock to anyone that Texas Hold 'Em, has become one of the most popular forms of gambling in 2007 and 2008. It wasn't until the poker craze began in 2005 after Chris Moneymaker (yes that's his real name) won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) that Canadian Casinos began offering this variation of five card poker.

Since the 2005 WSOP, tournament prize pools in main events have become the new, and often innovative way, to become North America's quickest and newest millionaire. I say innovative because the world of online gaming offers a chance to win close to 1 million dollars every Sunday for as little as 26 bucks. It's hard to turn the channels on television without seeing a poker game these days. Good for the Industry? Yes. Good for the poker enthusiast? Absolutely. Good for the gambler? Probably not.

I have heard the argument that poker isn't the same as putting money into a VLT since you aren't sitting in front of a video screen for hours and hours putting countless $20 bills inside and hoping to score big. Rather, poker is a social game where you sit around a table with friends, sometimes for hours, and risk as little as $5, $10 or $20 bucks in tournament style play. Is this really comparing apples to oranges or are they both the same?

It's no secret that our government has put out a call for any interested company that meets specific requirement to bid on the ability to build a Casino in New Brunswick. No tax dollars will be spent to assist in its development. The only thing you get from Government is the approval to build and the license to operate. Our province will be one of the last in Canada to allow legalized table games into it's jurisdiction and offer a responsible venue for those who wish to play in a controlled atmosphere.

If a province is going to allow gaming than it should offer a reliable form of entertainment for those who wish to "roll the dice" with their money in hopes of hitting the Jackpot. I am excited for this project knowing that our Government has kept the principles of responsible gaming in mind.

More to come on this topic, but in the meantime I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thanks!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Stand By Your Man" as Spitzer says Goodbye

Is saying sorry to your colleagues and constituents enough after being exposed for purchasing prostitution services during the height of the Democratic nomination? Or is the real apology owed to your wife, children and family for the hurt and embarrassment caused for publicly exposing their personal lives? Say what you will, but New York State Governor, Eliot Spitzer, has undoubtedly found himself intertwined in allegations that suggest he patronized a high-priced prostitution ring. $1,000.00 per hour was the alleged cost of these services which were readily available to some of New York's more ---eh hum--- prominent people.

Spitzer will resign his post on Monday as incoming Lt.-Gov. David Patterson prepares to accept the post. He's an interesting guy, first African-American to hold this office and legally blind. It's unfortunate the circumstances which have led to his nomination to this important office is tainted with Spitzer's actions.

Spitzer, a former Attorney General, has been accused of spending close to $80,000 for "call girl" services and will face large criticism within party ranks as the Obama and Clinton race continues. A staunch supporter of the Clinton campaign team, his ostracizing begins immediately. Hmm. Is it just me or is there a trend here developing among high profile Democrats and extra-marital affairs?

Unfortunately, many people have focused their sympathy on the end of this Time Magazine's 2002 Crusader of the Year award winner's career. I say the sympathy should be oriented toward his wife who has stood by his side since the scandals inception. Standing by your man is never an easy thing when politician's have cheating hearts. If you don't believe me you can always ask Hilary.



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trimming the Fat in Health Care

Implementing changes to our medical system is never an easy thing! For many, Health care is the "sacred cow" that should not be tinkered with by Politicians. But, when you make administrative changes that are more effective, transparent and create true accountability to tax payers then recognition must be given for making those efforts.

Today my colleague, Mike Murphy, Minister of Health, announced the reduction of Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) from 8 to 2. By reducing the regional health authorities to 2, our Province should be in a position to improve the clinical needs of its citizens and establish shorter wait times within each region. Regional Health Authority A will be located in Bathurst, while RHA B will be housed in Miramichi.

As Murphy points out, 8 RHAs created unhealthy competition and fierce battles between regions over resources. Furthermore, each RHAs duplicitous model of "eight of everything" was a tremendous burden on the tax payer. Eight human resource departments, eight informational technology groups etc., is not responsible government in the RHA model and by reducing the number to two we should realize savings which currently costs New Brunswickers $250 million per year. Heading toward an over $50 million dollar deficit for the year is hardly an effective approach to directing more of our health budget into patient care, which is exactly what New Brunswicker's want and why Murphy's decision which takes effect immediately is the right move.

More to come. I look forward to hearing from you,


Sunday, March 9, 2008

An X Box Generation

Since the March break ends today, I thought it would be fitting to write about a topic suited for people like myself who grew up at the onset of the video game generation. I must confess this article is inspired by a part of my day battling my 6 year old in a golf game on Nintendo Wii.

I remember being 10 years old when I saw for the first time an ATARI system. It was awesome! Asteroids, tennis, tetris and pac man - what could be better than that? Hours of mindless entertainment at a simple flick of a switch. My parents couldn't afford one at the time and if we were to play we had to hang out our friends. I don't recall to many parents getting excited over the sight of these "new aged games," but I remember my uncle making an analogy about when he first saw a television. Since there were few, everyone in the neighbourhood (or in our case First Nation) came by to check it out.

Video games sure aren't what they were 25 years ago. In fact, some Provinces like Nova Scotia have considered some pretty big steps to prevent young children from being exposed to violent content. I've checked Nova Scotia's public statutes and can't seem to find legislation, but I recall a few years ago a bill being introduced which would require an age restriction on children renting video games with violent content. Like the movies for all you film fans. Good idea? Hmm. Not sure. As a parent I see value in limiting what your children see, or play with, especially when it isn't age appropriate. Researchers are quick to claim that over saturation of violent content desensitizes teenagers who commit violent crimes. I don't know, I seem to remember some U.S. Senator that said if you listen to Rap music you would end up joining a gang. Guess I just wasn't tough enough to become a gang member. I am more inclined to believe that it's just a part of growing up in a different generation.

I'll let you decide.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Not on my watch you don't says Keir.

I don't know if writing this blog will open the proverbial can of worms or not, but here it goes. Oh, and before you decide to react to what you read, I may or may not respond due to sheer volume. I suspect people may have something to say about the province's Public Utility and your monthly power bill or platform promises on the HST energy rebate.

Whether you think it's just high praise for a fellow Cabinet Minister or not, Jack Keir, Minister of Energy has earned high marks from New Brunswickers by ordering a review of NB Power's rate increase. Great job Jack!

If you haven't met Minister Keir or have yet to see him in action during question period, he's exactly what people like to see in a politician. A straight shooter with a cool approach to one of the more difficult files in government, Keir has quickly proven to many that he is an asset to our provincial cabinet.

Yesterday Keir demonstrated his leadership by putting the breaks on NB Power's 'automatic file and receive' 3% rate increase with the Energy and Utilities Board. In fact, this may possibly be the first time a review of the legislated ability to increase rates has been ordered by any Minister of Energy in any government of New Brunswick.

It's apparent that Jack believes in transparency and a checks-and-balances system for ratepayers by making this announcement. Halting this process to justify what many consider an automatic increase on rate payers is a good thing and in my books deserves top grades.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is it really a "race" between Clinton and Obama?

I know this sounds bizarre but as far as American politics goes, I am more of a Republican than Democrat. I have lived in the United States for several years and followed politics closely and subscribe to the Republican political philosophy which is odd since I became a member of the Provincial Liberal Party. This isn't to say that I am in complete agreement with every policy or decision that Bush has ever made but overall I generally agree with their stance on Economics and the Military. After all, I did serve under both the George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton administration while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and come from a mixed Liberal and Conservative family.

Anyhow, as I watched the polls come in last night for the state of Texas, CNN reported an odd little piece. They conducted a breakdown in Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Texas among other states and found that a majority of African-Americans (89%) voted for Obama while a significant majority of Hispanics supported Clinton. Caucasian male voters largely favoured Obama at roughly 56% while women oscillate between candidates.

A good friend of mine and I were chatting this morning about politics, race and the White House and he simply remarked that too many people assume the next President of the United States of America will be a Democrat. He went on to suggest that McCains' quiet campaign coupled with the absurdity that Americans aren't ready for a President who is either a woman or African American may favour his candidacy. I thought that suggestion went a little far until I caught a clip on CNN today where Texans were explaining why they wouldn't vote for Obama because he was Muslim. For those who have been following we know he is not! And besides, even if he was does this impact his ability to be President? I guess our neighbours to the South still believe that you can't be the most powerful political leader in the world unless you are a male war hero born from a significantly wealthy caucasian family. Good for McCain if this is still how people think. To bad for the Democrats and their candidates if this is the case, but more importantly to bad for the culture of America.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alberta Re-elects 11th Straight Conservative Government

Wow! Pretty impressive victory for Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach who took over the leadership in 2006 from former leaders Ralph Klein and Peter Lougheed whom began political reign in Alberta in 1971. Eleven straight victories is quite the accomplishment for any organization let alone a political party. After capturing 72 of 83 available seats, and increasing their popular vote, by roughly six percent, I was a little surprised to see a low voter turnout, but 41 percent failing to vote was actually shocking. Alberta media outlets report Monday's results as the lowest voter turnout experienced in their provincial elections. In 2003 New Brunswick saw its largest decline since 1967 with a measly 69 percent of registered voters turning out to cast their ballots.

I suppose there are a number of reasons why people fail to make it to the polling stations, but today's system is more convenient than previous elections years. With advance polling stations offered to absentee voters on election day and special ballots for those who cannot physically make it to the polling booth - what gives?

I once heard that if you don't vote you lose your right to speak up. I am convinced that's hardly the case today given that many people from other provinces still call and write to me about issues concerning New Brunswick. So, is voting becoming lost in a generational disconnect between politicians and youth? Is the public that cynical and disenchanted with politicians and party politics that they just don't care anymore? Or is there some other reason why voters aren't making it out to vote?

I'll let you decide.



Monday, March 3, 2008

Family Law Reform for New Brunswick

I was at Tim Hortons today when I was approached by a constituent that didn't like the idea of Government suspending drivers licenses of parents who refused to pay child support. I offered to buy him a coffee and sit down with him to hear his story. Geesh! I am glad I had some time on my hands this morning.

Divorce. What more can you say about this topic that hasn't been said? Everyone has a story about a couple they knew who went through a bad divorce. Everyone has a friend, co-worker or acquaintance whose parents are divorced. It's generally ugly. It's always emotional, especially when children are involved and it costs a tonne of money. Legal fees, child therapists, spousal and child support payments, custody and access arrangements etc. It creates an emotional toll on the family, extended family members, friends and quite frankly just about anyone who listens.

While practising law before becoming Minister of Justice, I had dabbled enough in family law to build a descent reputation that others who were experiencing marital matters would seek my advice. The files were always difficult, never the same and emotionally challenging. One of my biggest concerns was the delays in our family law system. For example, if a mother of two school aged children came to see me after recently separating and seeking a temporary order for custody, access and child support it would routinely take 6 months or more to obtain an order from a Judge. Herein lies the problem. Our family courts are so backed up and under resourced that in some areas of the Province, Judges are performing what are called "Triage Days." In other words, they may hear up to 15 to 20 applications for custody, access and child support in one day. Whether you think this is a good or bad thing, it shouldn't necessarily be happening. Our system is designed to be adversarial and isn't focussed on mediation as much as it should be. The Supreme Court of Canada believes that parents should be responsible enough to formalize what they believe to be in the best interests of their chil(ren) and that Courts should be minimally intrusive unless cases of serious neglect or abuse exist. I tend to agree.

In other Provinces mandatory mediation and arbitration exist. It's an effective way to allow parents sort out their schedules, marital property and finances but only after the best interests of the chil(ren) has been resolved. In places such as Nova Scotia they have a case management system that allows a Court to fast track an application for custody, access and child support within 4-6 weeks so the child(ren) are not exposed to long delays and can begin receiving support as soon as possible.

Recently, I announced the establishment of a Family Law Task Force chaired by Justice Raymond Guerette. He is an established, distinguished gentleman that has been hearing family law cases for many, many years. Prior to his appointment, I only knew him by his reputation to get things done. However after speaking with him on these important issues, I am even more confident that he and his team of senior practising family law lawyers will deliver substanive recommendations that will allow us to overhaul our family court system.

I think everyone will tend to agree that no matter how bad a couple ends up disliking each other after divorcing that their children shouldn't suffer. I am a father of three and couldn't imagine not providing for them or giving the last cent in my pocket to ensure their needs came before mine.

Thanks for listening,


Saturday, March 1, 2008

2008 Spring Legislative Session - Transformational Change

After Spring Break, the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly will resume on the 11th of March 2008, primarily for purposes of announcing the Provincial budget. Many other important legislative agenda items will be tabled during this session as Premier Graham and our Government begin "Transformational Change." Many people have asked me "what do you guys mean by transformational change?" Sure, some are sarcastic. Others are inquisitive and some just don't really follow politics and only ask what I mean when they are listening in on a conversation that is usually taking place with either the sarcastic or inquisitive. Now don't get me wrong, I am not hanging out at the bar preaching the notion of transformational change or hosting a house party and giving the Self Sufficiency pitch, but I am excited about some of the huge mountains that Premier Graham is ready to begin pushing.

Take for example the ever- so controversial, Post-Secondary Education Report. Our Government indicated the status quo was unacceptable and promised to change parts of an archaic system. Of such changes is the inability to transfer credits from Community Colleges to Universities. I could never understand, other than pure elitism, why Universities did not accept certain credits when students wish to transfer campuses. If you are an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and wish to become a Registered Nurse (RN) should you be expected to forgo your basic academic qualifications and start over? This isn't to say that all Nurses are the same. I understand the levels of expertise and professionalism, but if your introductory courses are essentially taught the same shouldn't they be honoured in that manner by either institution? I know of other examples and I am sure others do as well. I hope people understand my point here. However, beyond this point many other issues need to be resolved in our Post Secondary Education System and will once our Government determines the best time to bring forward positive changes to that system.

Ideally, students that attend either institution choose their career paths and find a good paying job in our Province. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Our Government has focused alot on trades both during the 2006 election campaign and since taking office. This is important for many people and to provincial economy if New Brunswick wishes to create an energy hub in Saint John. With the LNG terminal nearing its grand opening and the favourable conditions of a second nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau it can be done, but what about manpower? So this is what ticks me bit! I have people contacting me everyday seeking employment opportunities are University educated. Generally, they hold a Bachelor of Arts; Business; some marketing or human resource specialty and they can't find work in New Brunswick. Other people call or email my office seeking assistance to come back home with the same academic credentials. Can I help? Sometimes. Is it easy? Heck no! But, if these individuals were schooled in a trade it would be almost automatic finding work here. At present time, the residential and commercial construction trade is booming! Just look at the Northside of Fredericton and other places such as Dieppe. And with a Government focused on enhancing the specialized trade industry it's almost a no brainer that plenty of work is on the horizon.

You know years ago, parents would turn their noses up to the concept of their son or daughter becoming a plumber, electrician or carpenter. They wanted their child(ren) to become "well educated" by obtaining a university degree and getting a good job. Sure, some were able to do this while others are working but earning far less than the skilled tradesperson.

In my opinion, this concept of thinking and approach to informing students there is dignity in learning a trade is just one of many issues that require transformational change.



Friday, February 29, 2008

An Introduction to Blogging 101

I figured it was time to get involved in the blogging world. I mean why not? Aren't politicians supposed to be accessible? And what better way then to open up a blog site where people can tell me what they are thinking about current topics, political discussions or community events.

I am no stranger to opinionated debate. I try to respect everyone's opinion as long as it is respectful and I hope people remain the same. I don't have an answer for everything -jeez- sometimes I don't have any answer for anything, but I like to engage people about their opinions on subject matters that interest me.

I hope people feel they can be frank in their discussions on this blog site and at the same time know that I will be too. I often like to say it like it is and I hope those who choose to blog here do too!