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New Brunswick.

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On October 31, 2007, Premier Shawn Graham announced the first changes to Cabinet since the Liberal Government took office in October of 2006. Eugene McGinley resigned as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and was sworn in as Minister of State for Seniors and Minister of State for Housing. Wally Stiles was appointed Minister of Human Resources.

Three additional portfolios which were under the responsibility of other ministers were announced as separate ministries: Hedard Albert, former Minister of Human Resources, was appointed Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport and Minister responsible for the Francophonie; Carmel Robichaud, former Minister of Family and Community Services and Minister responsible for the Status of Women, was appointed Minister of Local Government and Minister responsible for Community Non-profit Organizations, and Mary Schryer, former Minister of State for Seniors and Housing, became Minister of Family and Community Services and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. Minister of Health, Michael Murphy was appointed Government House Leader replacing Stuart Jamieson who retains his portfolio as Minister of Tourism and Parks.

The Second Session of the 56th Legislature convened at 11 a.m. November 27 when Members elected former Deputy Speaker and long-time educator Roy Boudreau as Speaker before recessing until 3 p.m. for the delivery of the Speech from the Throne by His Honour Hermenegilde Chiasson, Lieutenant-Governor.

Throne Speech

The Throne Speech proposed a legislative agenda to set in motion transformative change toward a self-sufficient New Brunswick.

Among the highlights: a balanced budget for 2008-2009; the mandate of Service New Brunswick to expand; government departments will transfer customer-facing services to Service New Brunswick; a new Provincial Health Plan to be introduced; amendments to the Pharmacists Act to enable pharmacists to prescribe certain drugs; midwifery to be regulated; legislation to legalize living wills and to provide for substitute decision makers to make health care decisions; a Task Force on Access to Family Justice to report on options for increasing access to justice in family law disputes; pay day lenders legislation to set limits on the cost of borrowing; mandatory coroner's inquests for workplace fatalities to be instituted; a Domestic Violence Death Review Committee to be established.

Other highlights: A Commissioner on the Future of Local Governance is examining the structure and organization of the province's local government; targeted property tax relief to be introduced to help with the tax burden associated with rising assessments; new performance-based standards for municipal wastewater effluent from wastewater treatment facilities to be adopted; a Special Committee of Cabinet on Early Childhood Development and Care to be appointed; a long-term plan for early learning and child care to be tabled; the I'm Ready for School initiative to be introduced; government to establish and invest in 22 community schools in 2007-2008, with support from local communities and the private sector; a Diversity in Learning initiative will support trades and vocational education; a learning disabilities strategy focussing on on early detection and intervention to be launched; a literacy strategy to be released; a working group considering the recommendations of the Commission on Post-Secondary Education's report will recommend the best model for a post-secondary education system in New Brunswick and an accompanying implementation plan early next year; amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act will respect presumptive cancer coverage for firefighters; minimum wage will increase to $7.75 an hour by April 2008; a population growth strategy to be introduced; investment initiatives to be introduced to support the agriculture and aquaculture sectors to contribute to self-sufficiency; government to address the issue of access to capital for new and growing small businesses through the newly launched NB Growth program; the result of the $2.5-million feasibility study into a potential second nuclear generating station at Point Lepreau to be announced; government to consider policy options for community wind development initiatives and review NB Power's renewable portfolio standard to ensure that it reaches its maximum potential in renewable energy; feasibility study to be launched into bringing natural gas to northern New Brunswick; the Electricity Act to be reviewed to ensure that the utility structure and the electricity market adequately reflect the self sufficiency goals and energy hub agenda; as outlined in the Charter for Change, initial funding of the $100-million Northern New Brunswick Initiative to improve the economic infrastructure of the northern counties of our province will be allocated in 2008-2009; a trust fund for the Petitcodiac River to be established and planning to begin for the restoration of the Petitcodiac River.

Bernard LeBlanc moved the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne which was seconded by Joan MacAlpine-Stiles. The House adopted a motion appointing Bill Fraser as Deputy Speaker. Brian Kenny remains one of the Deputy Speakers.

Opposition Reply

In critiquing the Throne Speech, Opposition Leader Jeannot Volpe stated that: "The speech from the throne, like the Action Plan to be Self-Sufficient, can be summed up in one word: hope."

Mr. Volpe noted that trusting in hope is not taking control of the future. People need leadership. He claimed that "Shawn Graham's Liberal government has no confidence in New Brunswickers" noting that it has canceled the tuition rebate program that promoted higher education; it has cut the budget for highway infrastructure by $60 million; it increased small business taxes by 500%, which will affect research, innovation, and new product development.

According to Mr. Volpe, the self-sufficiency plan, like the Liberal government's speech from the throne, is not for all New Brunswickers-only for the friends on the campaign bus.... He claimed that during its first year in office, the Liberal government systematically attacked the very foundations of prosperity in this province.

In concluding, he noted that "the provincial economy is built on enhanced productivity and competitiveness. New Brunswickers must be given the necessary tools for training and education. This training must meet their needs and those of business. It must also be ongoing so that it enables people to constantly adapt to a changing world. The training will enable them to be more productive, and this will raise their salaries. Once the employee makes a product, it must be delivered to the client, who often lives outside the province. That means that a good infrastructure and telecommunications system are needed. When the product is delivered, it usually generates taxable income. A competitive taxation system enables businesses to keep part of the profits to reinvest in marketing or new technology. Innovation and new technology will enable businesses to make progress and innovate to become more competitive, create opportunities in the market, and create even more jobs."

Mr. Volpe submitted this is the Progressive Conservative plan to build a more prosperous New Brunswick, building New Brunswick with New Brunswickers, by giving them the necessary tools and by rewarding success instead of encouraging failure.

New Rules

New rules outlined in the First Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure tabled by Committee Vice-chair Kelly Lamrock and Minister of Education, were adopted November 28. The new rules propose to facilitate and expedite the transaction of business in the House by capping debate on departmental estimates at 80 hours, retaining the Committee of Supply as the main committee for the consideration of estimates instead of the Standing Committee on Estimates, allowing government more discretion on controlling the various stages of Government Bills, expediting the passage of appropriation Bills through the House, and allowing the Opposition to set the agenda on Thursdays with regard to Opposition Members' Business (Opposition Members' Public Bills and Motions).

The Select Committee on Wellness will hold public hearings in January and February of 2008. The Committee will travel to various communities in the province to hear from citizens on the importance of adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles. In addition, the Committee will hold a series of meetings aimed at engaging citizens and stakeholders in discussions on wellness and on understanding the interconnection between wellness and other public policy areas. The Committee aims to stimulate dialogue and to better identify the roles and responsibilities of citizens, stakeholders and government as agents of change with respect to wellness.

On Opening Day, almost 2,000 people watched via live webcast the proceedings for the election of Speaker and delivery of the Throne Speech. In addition, hundreds of people watched the recorded proceedings via webcast later that day. The proceedings continue to be available via the Legislative Assembly website, www.gnb.ca/legis.

The sculpture Britannia, which has stood at the top of the central north entrance pediment of the Legislative Assembly building for over 125 years, was recently removed as part of an ongoing refurbishment of the building's roof and masonry. The sculpture had to be removed so that the pediment roof could be reinforced, as it had greatly deteriorated over the years. Conservation repairs to the Britannia sculpture will be carried out in the winter of 2008.

It is expected that the government will introduce the capital budget and a number of initiatives and pieces of legislation prior to the Christmas break.

Loredana Catalli Sonier

Clerk of the Legislative Assembly
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Title Annotation:Legislative Reports
Author:Sonier, Loredana Catalli
Publication:Canadian Parliamentary Review
Article Type:Conference notes
Geographic Code:1CNBR
Date:Dec 22, 2007
Words:1501
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