Thursday, March 27, 2008
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: http://www.nbsc-cvmnb.ca/nbsc/content.jsp?id=79&pid=7
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?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
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
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 society.
Monday, March 17, 2008
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!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
HANSARD DAILY / FASCICULE
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.