Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A teeny weeny cabinet shuffle

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

A very small shuffle to the cabinet was announced today, with two new ministers added to the cabinet and three ministers changing jobs.

Surprisingly, none of the additions to the cabinet were women (of which Cheryl Lavoie and Joan MacAlpine-Stiles were options) or from Moncton proper (of which Chris Collins and, again, Joan MacAlpine-Stiles were options). Instead, Wally Stiles, an MLA from Greater Moncton, and sitting speaker Eugene McGinley were added to the cabinet - increasing the representation of Greater Fredericton to 4 (if you count Grand Lake-Gagetown), while Moncton stands at 2 or 3 (depending of if you count Shediac) and Saint John stands at 5 or 6 (depending on if you count Charlotte-The Isles).

This decreases the size of the Liberal backbench to 10 and means there will have to be a new election for Speaker. Deputy Speakers Roy Boudreau and Brian Kenny would be possibilities. Other than Larry Kennedy, who past experience suggests is content to be a backbencher, the only other MLA with substantial legislative experience is Joan MacAlpine-Stiles.

I think Wally Stiles is certainly a good choice for cabinet, in general, as I always thought he was a lot stronger of a performer than a number of people that went into the cabinet over him during the Lord years; however I am not sure how well received it will be by the press, as he is a recent floor crosser, or by other Greater Moncton MLAs like Bernard LeBlanc and Chris Collins.

As I predicted, Mary Schryer has earned a promotion and that promotion has been to Family & Community Services. That was all I got right however; the size of the shuffle and the rest of the players invovled were pretty off base.

The Premier sheds his responsibility for Wellness, Culture & Sport which goes to Hédard Albert.

Albert's Human Resources portfolio goes to new minister Wally Stiles.

Former speaker McGinley picks up Schryer's responsibilities for Housing and Seniors, which makes sense as McGinley was critic for seniors' issues in opposition.

Finally, Carmel Robichaud, takes over the Local Government portfolio which had been held by Finance Minister Victor Boudreau. She also gives her responsibilities for Status of Women to Schryer and gains new responsibilities for the non-profit sector as a result of the Bradshaw Commission.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tax cuts for everybody!

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I wonder how many hits this page will be getting over the next 24 hours?

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced some substantial tax cuts today. Unlike what is usually the case with tax cuts, these will actually add up to something meaningful. A guy or gal earning $40,000 will get $225 extra back next year when they file their 2007 taxes. That isn't chump change.

At the same time, the GST will drop to 5% (and presumably the HST will fall to 13%, thought the provincial Liberals may hold it higher as was recently recommended by an economist).

Corporate taxes will also go down and, most importantly to me, a subtantial payment will be made on the federal debt. Overall, I am pleased with this. If I were prime minister, I think I would have not done the GST thing and instead paid down more debt - that was the purpose of the GST afterall - and maybe saved a bit more for contingencies. However, I am not writing this to get into the merits of the announcement; I want to write about the politics of it.

So, what does this mean? I think it reinforces my prediction that there will be an election in December.

How so? The Tories have now blown their goodies that would ordinarily be spent in a pre-election budget. They clearly are aiming for an early vote. The Liberals are unlikely, however, to cooperate by voting non-confidence. Therefore, I suspect any Liberal attempt to tinker with these changes or slow them down in committee will be met with an election call by Harper on the grounds that the Liberals are obstructing the agenda and preventing the implementation of the GST cut by the promised date of January 1.

I hope all you candidates out there saved your toques from the 2006 campaign!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wally & Joan

I had a good chance to chat with the newest Liberal MLAs. They were treated as heroes and certainly seemed to be enjoying their new party.

We talked about the different "cultures" between the two parties and they felt the same way I had when I was a Tory. A lot of folks in the NB PC Party seem to be bitter and fixated on minor issues, like they've got a chip on their shoulder. They felt that way too.

Also one of the first things they mentioned was how different of a leader Shawn Graham is. Joan said you really feel a part of a team and are listened to and consulted where under Lord it was as though they were pests. And she was even a minister!

Graham's speech

Interesting fact: today is 20 years since the swearing in of the McKenna govt. I understand all of the surviving 58 are having a private reunion in Fredericton tonight.

- early Nov release of Self Sufficiency Action Plan which will transform four pillars:
Work force

- health care changes coming

- relations with other govts, business and non-profits will change as will relations with First Nations

- work force to be transformed by transforming post-secondary education; making courses more credible, tackling student debt, making sure students learn skills that can keep them in NB and so that employers can recruit within and not outside of NB. Time has come "to move from protest to programs" in PSE. Got long applause and standing o for that

- economy: must let world know NB open for business, new ambassador program got 100 members in one week; pride in NB will help transform economy


800 delegates

Fed continued

Last question was about poverty, Andy Scott gave a very good, impassioned, well thought out answer about the federal spending power on social programs.

I smell this as a key theme of any Liberal platform in an upcoming election campaign.

Federal Q&A

Most questions relatively standard with standard answers. Of note though, one guy asked a question about confidence measures and the caucus provided a wishy-washy answer. Here was the follow up:

Q. You kind of side stepped my earlier question, what I want to know is that if the government introduces a bill on, for example, climate change or Afghanistan that is fundamentally opposed to Liberal policy, will you vote against it knowing it would cause an election?

A. (Paul Zed) Yes.

There were great applause.

Constitution and Q&A

Three minor constitutional amendments passed with relative ease though there was a bit of debate around an amendment giving the Women's Commission more representation on the party executive.

The provincial Q&A was pretty low key. Only a few minor questions on post-secondary, with the majority of questions going to TJ Burke on a variety of subjects ranging from auto insurance to pensions.

Liberal convention - first take

Great parties.

Over 600 delegates, supposedly many more registering tomorrow which will be pretty impressive for a Liberal convention in a remote Tory corner of NB.

I missed Dion's speech and have heard really good and really bad reviews. Nothing in the middle. Will try to get an unbiased take. Most "real" so far was something along the lines of: "Great ideas, needs better English and more charisma, but if he could get these ideas to resonate with the people he'd win."

Friday, October 26, 2007


I am not sure if this is a coincidence or not.

Two days after I commented that Real Clear Politics, and through them's Ben Smith, shouldn't be listing Bill Richardson in their presidential polling summary if they didn't include Joe Biden as well because they've basically become tied in the polls.

If you check those two sites today, Richardson has been removed. Seems unlikely that they would notice and react to an obscure Canadian blogger, but I had emailed Ben Smith about it so maybe I'll take the credit ;)

Live blogging the NB Liberal convention

The New Brunswick Liberals are holding their biennial meeting this weekend in Edmundston. I will be attending and will live blog the interesting details here. So, start watching around 6 or 7 p.m. tonight ... that is you don't have something more exciting to do on a Friday night.

UPDATE: I have a preliminary run down of what will happen posted over at CanadaEast.

(the below is a copy of what was posted at CanadaEast)

LIberals to convene in Edmundston

The New Brunswick Liberals - both provincial and federal - will be meeting tonight and tomorrow in Edmundston for their biennial meeting. The party will discuss internal constitutional amendments, elect a new party executive and hold accountability sessions with their elected members. Not surprisingly, or perhaps so to some, the party will also party quite a bit.

I will be "live blogging" the developments over on my other blog as I am not sure how or if I can do that here. Here is a run-down of the rather light agenda:

Friday evening
6 p.m. - Routine proceedings (O Canada, Introductions, etc)
7 p.m. - Speeches, etc from candidates for party executive
7 p.m. - Simultaneously, the Young Liberals elect their executive
7:45 p.m. - Beginning of federal portion of event
8 p.m. - Speech from Stéphane Dion
8:30 p.m. - Federal social event (music, partying, etc)
11 p.m. - Official program ends for the evening

Saturday morning
8 a.m. - Discussion of and voting on constitutional amendments
9 a.m. - Q&A/accountability session with provincial caucus (including premier and cabinet)
10:30 a.m. - Q&A session with federal caucus
11:45 p.m. - Results of executive election announced and new president makes remarks
12 noon - Premier's closing address
1 p.m. Adjournment

As always, I look forward to your comments here and over at the other place. If you would like to reach me during the convention, I will be checking my email at

UPDATE: I read in today's Telegraph-Journal that 1000 protesters are expected to be present to express their concerns about the potential changes for UdeM-Edmundston under the post-secondary commission report. Protesters are pretty standard fair for a convention of a government in power, but I hope that overzealous members of the party don't hijack the accountability session on Saturday with questions just on the subject of the future of UNBSJ and the UdeM satelites.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Biden the darkhorse

As I've mentioned before, Joe Biden is my favourite Democrat in the U.S. presidential race. I've noticed him starting to get some traction in the all important state of Iowa which, as of now, still stands to be the site of the first vote in the U.S. primary season. If New Hampshire moves its primary up to December, as has been mused, it is likely that the Iowa caucuses will go second and all those who have invested major efforts there to get a surge may be very disappointed, we'll assume, though, that that won't happen.

Anyway, back to Biden. He has seen some good news in Iowa in the past few weeks.

1.) He stands a close third in terms of support of local Iowa politicians. He has 11 endorsements of state representatives and senators compared to 16 for Hillary Clinton and 13 for Barack Obama. This compares to 10 for John Edwards who was for a long time considered the frontrunner in Iowa and who placed a close second there to John Kerry in 2004. Also, according to the same source, he has spent more days in Iowa this year than any other candidate and face time is very important in the Iowa caucus where only about 100,000 die hard party members vote.

2.) He has gained the endorsement of Storm Lake Times. This is a small town paper, but it is the first newspaper anywhere in Iowa to endorse anyone so far this election.

3.) He's edging up in the polls becoming the clear favourite of the lower tier both in Iowa and nationally. Bill Richardson used to be considered among the top tier for his lengthy experience and fourth place standing in polls. Now Biden, who has as much or more experience depending on how you look at it, takes turns with Richardson being in fourth and fifth place. In two of the six most recent national polls, Biden is ahead of Richardson; they are tied in a third. The most recent Iowa poll has Richardson at 9 and Biden at 6. This may not sound great, but Richardson has been falling from double digits, while Biden previously registered as 0 or 1. Moreover, a poll at this time in 2003 had John Kerry at 9 and John Edwards at 7.

4.) David Yepsen, considered the god of Iowa pundits, has been talking Biden's chances up a lot. First, he said Biden would do surprising well then he put it into writing explaining that Biden was going up in the polls at Richardson's expense and was getting out good crowds to his events.

Indeed, what prompted me to write this post was seeing Richardson stuck at 3% in the top corner of Ben Smith's blog. I noticed that while Richardson is still included with the "big three" in the Real Clear Politics average, he probably shouldn't be. I did a review of the polls in their average and it shows Biden has climbed to 2.7% compared to Richardson's 3.1.

So, while Dodd, Kucinch and Gravel get 1s and 0s, Biden and Richardson get mid-high single digits. They probably don't have any business being in the "top tier", but certainly Biden now has as much claim to that as Richardson which is a big difference from a few months ago. I think it would be fair to say that they now constitute a "middle tier" and if coverage is going to draw in Richardson, Biden should be there as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Great Floor Crossing Debate

Spinks and I are having a "point/counter point" on floor crossing and what should be done about it in the future over at CanadaEast.

You can read Spinks' original post here and my rebuttal here.

(a copy of my rebuttal from CanadaEast follows)

Floor crossing, an emotional subject

This past weekend the New Brunswick Cry Babies' Progressive Conservative Party had their annual meeting and one of the measures discussed was a scheme to penalize future floor crossers by making them pay back any monies spent by Tories to get them elected.

This is a very problematic policy. Primarily because it would be illegal if the amount spent was more than $6000 (because that is the maximum an individual can donate to a party) and that it would be impossible to differentiate between donations made to the riding association because people were good Tories and those made because people were friends with, or fans of, the candidate.

However, the PC executive director says that he isn't even sure if they will enforce this policy - even in opposition they are going to bend their own rules! - so that discussion is moot.

Spinks and I agree that this particular motion is a bit silly on the part of the Tories. It makes them look petty and it became the main focus of their convention. As I have said before, though I think the Graham Government is doing well, it is not perfect and there is a lot to criticize. Rather than say "THEY RAISED YOUR TAXES!" and repeat it over and over and over, the Tories instead focus on mundane, nitpicky things. It is no wonder the Liberals lead the Tories by a margin of 2-to-1 in the polls.

However, where Spinks and I disagree is on the merits of floor crossing. Spinks says:

However I don't think floor crossing should be totally scrapped. If your
political party is doing something that is so totally counter to your conscience
and/or the desires of your consituents, a politican with integrity needs to be
able to bail IF they have done all they can to make things work. If that means
going to another political party then fine.

But there's one thing that politican needs to do first.

They need to ask permission from the people who voted them in.

Some people vote for a local candidate and a lot vote for a political party
so when MacAlpine-Stiles says those with a beef about the crossing are only "a
few people who have an axe to grind," I disagree. I suspect there are a lot of
people in the two ridings who aren't pleased with what happened or more
importantly that they had no say.

Spinks is right that more people vote for the party than the person in their local ridings; a lot of folks vote for a particular party because they want that party to form the government and they could care less who the candidate is. However, after the election that doesn't really make much difference.

We'll use Wally Stiles as the main example here because he is from the more conservative riding and won by a much larger margin. I think it is fair to say that the majority of people in Petitcodiac wanted a PC government and that a good chunk of those who voted for Stiles would have voted for any candidate the Tories put up.

However, the situation here is a matter of the Tories being an opposition of 25 seats (before the Stiles crossed) or 23 seats (after they crossed). The fact that they changed their affiliation is completely irrelevant to the status of the PC Party in the legislature. Whether they crossed the floor or not, their voters - who voted to elect a PC government - were not going to get what they wanted.

If it was a situation where they crossed the floor and changed the balance of power in the legislature, or if it was a case like when Peter Trites crossed from the NDP to the Liberals and cut the size of the NDP in half by doing so, then I think you can make the argument that the people had their way and then it was wrongly taken from them. In this case, the people never got what they wanted in the first place and the floor crossing didn't really change anything.

By-elections are expensive things that result in people being without a representative for at least 6 weeks, which is not something that should happen automatically. When Tanker Malley left the Tory caucus in the winter of 2006, I think you would have found that most of his constituents supported it, at least initially. If he had had to resign and go through a by-election, he wouldn't have returned to the legislature before the budget vote and could not have done for his constituents what they wanted him to do.

So, I think, a policy of forcing floor crossers to go back to the people who elected them is routed in emotion and not logic. An alternative might be possible, such as creating a recall mechanism for floor crossers, but an automatic by-election just doesn't make sense to me.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A polytechnic or not a polytechnic, that is the question

For my thoughts on the reports that the government is guaranteeing Saint John will retain a "university" in any post-secondary education restructuring, please see this post on my CanadaEast site.

(a copy of my post from the CanadaEast site follows)

Give polytechnics a chance

I've got to admit I am pretty disappointed with this news.

I have been an enthusiastic proponent of the Post-Secondary Education Task Force Report. I think turning things upside down as Robichaud did two generations ago can really help put us on the fast track for success. The proposal to create a polytechnic in Saint John was controversial, but, on the face of it, it makes sense for the following reasons: New Brunswick has too many universities; UNBSJ has a poor national reputation as a backwater to a backwater; Polytechnic-like institutions are a growing thing and make a lot of sense in the 21st century economy; and Saint John would have the competitive advantage of having the first English polytechnic east of Toronto.

However, instead of sticking to their guns, the government appears to be backing down to a loud emotional reaction from some individuals in Saint John. That is unfortunate. It remains to be seen exactly what the end result may be, UNBSJ may still become a "technical university" or a "university of applied sciences" or something else which is the same thing that has been recommended by the commission, but doesn't lacking the connotation of the word "university" that opponents of the original plan seem to be obsessed with.

I certainly hope that the end decision isn't to give us essentially the status quo in Saint John but still create two Francophone polytechnics in the North. That would essentially change nothing in our English schools and give Franophone New Brunswickers more options in their schooling than Anglophones, something that I suspect would cause a lot of problems in the long term.

Let's hope we see a more sensible conclusion to this debate and that the government has the nerve to stand up and do something bold and sensible, regardless of its popularity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My take on the Throne Speech: an election by December 17

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

It looks to me like Canadians will be going to the polls sometime before Christmas. Today's Throne Speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a stroke of political genius. Though it is not provocative enough to turn Canadians off, it does have some cleverly placed lines that make it very difficult for the Liberals to swallow, and, if they can swallow it in the short term, even more difficult in the long term.

First, the speech says:

It is now widely understood that, because of inaction on greenhouse gases over the last decade, Canada’s emissions cannot be brought to the level required under the Kyoto Protocol within the compliance period

Translation: The Liberals could have set us up to deliver on Kyoto but they failed, including under the tenure of Environment Minister Stéphane Dion.

The Liberals may be able to get past that and other triggers - though not without a lot of teasing and chiding from the Tories and other parties - but here is Harper's silver bullet:

In the last session, our Government introduced important and timely legislation to tackle violent crime. Unfortunately much of this legislation did not pass. That is not good enough to maintain the confidence of Canadians. Our Government will immediately reintroduce these measures with a single, comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime bill to protect Canadians and their communities from violent criminals and predators. (emphasis added)

So the Prime Minister will introduce legislation covering all of their crime proposals (perhaps including ending the long gun registry?) in one bill, which they have already implicitly indicated will be a confidence measure.

It is still unclear how and when an election will be triggered but it seems to me there will be one this year.

If the government falls on the vote on the Bloc sub-amendment vote on Thursday, an election could be held as early as November 26; a date that would be 7 years less a day from the 2000 election and not unusually late. A vote for the Liberal amendment on Monday or against the main motion next Wednesday would make for an election no earlier than December 3. The press was reporting that Dion had decided earlier in the day to go for an election but that his advisors were trying to talk him out of that. His brief remarks this evening indicated that he was pretty unhappy with the Throne Speech and sounded like he would likely be voting against it. However, my understanding is that most of the Liberal machine is well aware they couldn't win an election this fall and they will be aggressively trying to talk him down from that position.

Thus, it is my prediction that the Throne Speech will pass, but that in the coming weeks the government will fall on a bill deemed confidence. That, or the Prime Minister will simply call for an election due to "dishonest obstruction of the government agenda by opposition parties after they allowed the government's agenda that laid out these items to pass just a few weeks ago", leading to a vote on December 10 or 17.

Mike Murphy - new government house leader?

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I am assuming that this isn't a typo but in a news release announcing that the house will sit beginning November 27, Mike Murphy is named as government house leader.

There has been no cabinet shuffle but it does appear that, without fan fare, Mike Murphy has taken over the house leadership duties from Stuart Jamieson who is battling cancer. However, the government directory still names Jamieson as the occupant of the job.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roger Duguay, the new leader of the NDP

I have some advice for the new leader of New Brunswick's third party. Check it out at my CanadaEast blog.

(a copy of my post from CanadaEast follows)

Roger Duguay's next steps

I was away this weekend, so I hope you all checked out Spinks for the scoop on the NDP leadership race. The candidate I thought was the best choice for the NDP was the winner, so I hope he proves me right and can recapture some momentum for the NDP.

Spinks and I agree, as do many others I have spoken to on this, that though we may not vote NDP or support their platform, a third voice in the legislature is better for democracy and brings on better and more accountable government so we hope they do modestly well.

So, Mr. Duguay, if you are reading, here is what I suggest you do next.

First, I read somewhere else previously that Mr. Duguay, who works as a supply teacher, was planning to move to Fredericton if he won and would supply teach as possible to support himself and work the leadership the rest of the time. I think that this is a good move, it puts him close the legislature and the press and it lessens the burden on the NDP coffers as they won't have to pay him (or at least not as much as they would otherwise).

Now, that would have been my first piece of advice, but what to do once he is in Fredericton?

It is important to build a relationship with the press. Just showing up will not do it. He should take the time to meet informally and personally - lunch or dinner is what I am saying - with all of the members of the legislative press gallery.

It is also important not to make oneself too available to the press or you will oversaturate them and they will not bite when you speak because they will be so used to hearing you on every issue. The press must report the government and opposition point of view on every issue, the NDP does not enjoy that luxury. Therefore, it is better for the NDP to save their noise for when they have the most effective contrast on key issues than it is to pepper the press with comments that mirror either the Liberals or the Tories day in and day out.

He should also pick a few priority issues and push them hard. Unveil them to the media, write public letters to the MLAs whose constituents are most effected by the issues and encourage them to raise them. Then hammer the two larger parties whenever he has a chance for not advocating these positions and parlay that into a narrative of how the NDP voice in the legislature is one that is important and relevant and must be restored.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wither the New Brunswick NDP?

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

It is no secret that our NDP is in bad shape. After winning 10% of the vote and seats in 5 of 6 consecutive elections from 1982 through 2003, they were shut out in 2006 and saw their vote fall to an almost all time low of 5.1%.

This weekend the New Democrats meet to pick a leader, but regardless of who wins, it may be too late for our social democratic party. A very scary lesson should be learned for the NDP by looking at the results of the Ontario election last night.

Though it was actually a good night for the NDP; they had their best popular vote showing since 1995 and increased their share of seats from 7 to 10 versus the last election. However, that was the result received by a relatively strong and vibrant NDP. The real story of the night was the growth of the Green Party. The Greens won only 2.8% of the vote in 2003 and surged to over 8%. Moreover, they placed second in one riding, ahead of the Liberals and NDP and most notably, displaced the NDP as third party in 17 more ridings and ahead of the Tories for third in another.

That is to say that, in a province where the NDP formed the government as recently as 12 years ago, where the NDP has an established base of support and organization and was going into the election with 10 seats, the Green Party still managed to triple its vote and beat the NDP in 18 ridings (of 107, that is 17%, almost 1 out of 5). Especially interesting is that both the NDP and the Greens gained support, while the Liberals and Tories faltered. Thus, even if the NDP gets its act together and doesn't bleed support to the Green Party, they risk being overtaken anyway.

Today, there is no Green Party in New Brunswick. However, the organizers of the federal Green campaigns here indicated last fall they would have a party together and field a full slate of candidates in the next election. Whether or not that will be true remains to be seen, but, if it is, it is not hard to imagine the Greens doing as well in New Brunswick in 2010 as they did in Ontario in 2007.

The results for the Green Party in New Brunswick in the 2004 election was 3.4% and in 2006 was 2.4%; an average of 2.9% which is better than the base of 2.8% the Ontario Greens brought out of the 2003 provincial election.

So, back to the primary subject at hand: this weekend, the New Brunswick NDP are choosing a leader. What can they do to prevent disaster?

Ironically, in my view, it is to not vote for the best choice. I am a big fan of Dennis Atchison who is a moderate in the mould of Robert Chisholm who took Alexa McDonough's perpetual third party Nova Scotia NDP and turned it in to a contender for government in one election cycle. Theoretically, that is the best candidate for the NDP to choose. However, this is a bit of a unique circumstance. If this was 2005, then I think the NDP could be on the cusp of a breakthrough if they had someone like Atchison at the helm. But, the NDP chose to forfeit that opportunity, chose an unpalatable leader and crashed and burned. From the ashes, especially with the risk of losing their status as the third option, the NDP must choose the candidate that can prevent that from happening.

Could the Greens beat the NDP in the popular vote in 2010? Most definitely. But the one thing that the Greens are unlikely to do is elect an MLA. Roger Duguay, who has run with good success three times, could, as leader, win his riding. He got 26% of the vote in a three way race in 2006 and that was with the party suffering its worst defeat in 32 years. Should he be the leader and should the NDP run even a marginally better campaign, I think he would be the favourite in his home riding.

Therefore, if the NDP wants to avoid being displaced by the Greens, Duguay must be their choice.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

And now, for something completely different

Well, not really.

I have been invited by CanadaEast (the web arm of Brunswick News, which is in turn the newspaper arm of Irving Corp) to write a blog from a "left-wing" perspective on New Brunswick politics. Though I consider myself more of a moderate or centrist, I guess my Liberal label makes me a left winger by default.

This blog will continue, but I will cross post the relevant pieces of it over there. There may also be some "point, counter point" between myself and whoever my right wing counter balance is, so I'll link you to there for that as appropriate.

I will see some benefits if I manage more than 5000 page views per month (my current average here is 3920) so please stop by my brand new, shiny second home which you will find at

UPDATE: We are now online and ready to go. You'll find my site at the revised URL and my right-wing counterpart at Most readers of this blog will be familiar with my blogging friend Spinks; it is he who will speak from the right. This should be very good fun!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Meet The Press

This just popped into my inbox:

October 3, 2007
Ottawa, Ontario

Public event for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for today, October 3rd are:

3:45 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be available to take questions from the media.

Press Theatre
National Press Building
150 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
That's right folks, Prime Minister Harper is sitting down for a Q&A with the press, the national press, in the national press theatre, for the first time since he took office. It is very unusual and something very interesting must be a foot. Or, as someone just suggested to me, maybe he is just going to sit back and take a bunch of questions about the Liberals at Dion's expense?

Either way, a quasi-historic moment, at least in the context of the Harper primeminsitership, and worth tuning in for if you're a nerd like me. That would be 4:45 Atlantic and it will be presumably carried on Newsworld, NewsNet and CPAC.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Graham guess

Per a request of a commenter and due to my insatiable desire, I am going to try to predict the Graham cabinet shuffle.

The press has been functioning around these main hypotheses:

1.) Stuart Jamieson, who is battling cancer, will keep his tourism portfolio but possibly lose the house leader job

2.) Victor Boudreau and Premier Shawn Graham who have more than one full department, will shuffle away some of their responsibilities

3.) Junior minister Mary Schryer and a Moncton-area backbencher will be promoted

4.) Some other high performance backbenchers may be promoted

I think some of these have merit and others do not.

The first move that would make a lot of sense to me is to give the Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour portfolio to a non-Saint John minister. I think that this report should be fully implemented but it is unpopular in Saint John, in my view only for cosmetic reasons, so to make it more politically saleable, it should be given to a strong, non-Saint John minister. I think if they move to implement it quickly, by the time the 2010 election roles around it will be popular in Saint John and across New Brunswick.

Second, this government has made a fair bit of noise and some major announcements in terms of support for Aboriginals. I think that the government will elevate the role for Aboriginal relations in government, which is largely a federal area of juridiction, by moving Intergovernmental Affairs and Aboriginal Affairs into the same portfolio with its own minister as was the case under previous Liberal governments.

Third, I believe Finance and Local Government will remain together because the unconditional grant, the key file in provincial-municipal relations, is actually under the finance minister.

Fourth, I believe the Premier will retain the Wellness, Culture and Sport portfolio as he has a keen interest in this area and speaks of it regularly.

Fifth, the premier has a cabinet with 2 women and a caucus with 4. Both are small numbers, but the symbolism of not moving at least one of these women in to cabinet would be bad. Greater Saint John currently has 4-5 ministers, Fredericton has 3, Moncton has 1-2, therefore both Chris Collins and Joan MacAlpine-Stiles will be added to the cabinet.

Therefore, here is how I see the cabinet shaping up (+ dontes added responsibilities, - denotes some responsibilities removed, * denotes new role and/or department, n/c denotes no change):

Shawn Graham (-)
Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport

Hedard Albert (*)
Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour

Donald Arseneault (n/c)
Minister of Natural Resources

Victor Boudreau (n/c)
Minister of Finance
Minister of Local Government

T. J. Burke (n/c)
Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs
Attorney General

Greg Byrne (*)
Minister of Self-Sufficiency and Economic Development

Chris Collins (*)
Minister of State for Youth, Retention and Repatriation

Ed Doherty (*)
Minister of Aboriginal and Intergovernmental Affairs

Rick Doucet (*)
Minister of Human Resources

John Foran (n/c)
Minister of Public Safety

Roland Hache (n/c)
Minister of Environment

Stuart Jamieson (-)
Minister of Tourism & Parks

Jack Keir (n/c)
Minister of Energy

Kelly Lamrock (n/c)
Minister of Education

Denis Landry (n/c)
Minister of Transportation

Joan MacAlpine-Stiles (*)
Minister of State for Seniors and Minister of State for Housing

Roly MacIntyre (+/-)
Minister of Supply and Services
Government House Leader

Mike Murphy (n/c)
Minister of Health

Ron Ouellette (n/c)
Minister of Agriculture and Aquaculture

Carmel Robichaud (*)
Minister of Fisheries
Minister responsible for the Status of Women

Mary Schryer (*)
Minister of Family & Community Services

I kind of made up a few new portfolios on the fly here, including creating a new super ministry, the Department of Self-Sufficiency and Economic Development, which would merge Business New Brunswick, the Regional Development Corporation, the Population Growth Secretariat, etc. This seems to have been foreshadowed in last months deputy minister shuffle when the deputy minister for self-sufficiency added Business New Brunswick to his responsibilities. Also we get a Minsiter of State for Youth, Retention and Repatriation who would have responsibility for the Youth Council and delegated authority from the new super ministry to tackle the probelms of youth leaving and getting them home.

My justification for the other changes:

  • Albert has had a light portfolio and capable of taking on more and is a former college instructor and has two degrees from UdeM where the L'Ecuyer-Miner Commission is also unpopular

  • Doherty seems to have had some success in Aboriginal Affairs so it makes sense to keep him there, the combination of Intergovernmental Affairs and taking PSE away from a Saint John minister is explained above

  • Doucet's calm demeanor would be a good fit for Human Resources

  • Giving MacAlpine-Stiles only a junior role seems to be a good middle ground between not wanting to alienate your backbench by rewarding a floor crosser and needing women and Monctonians in cabinet

  • MacIntyre is a veteran legislator and very strong willed, he therefore is a good fit for House Leader who must not only know parliamentary procedure but be willing to stare down his opposition counterpart in negotiations

  • Fisheries is a logical fit for Robichaud, the MLA for Neguac

  • Schryer is due for a promotion and with responsibility for Housing and Seniors she is already well engaged with much of the Department of Family & Community Services

Self kudos

A timeline:

Sept. 16 - nbpolitico: Graham to shuffle cabinet in early October
Sept. 19 - NB mainstream media: Graham thinking about cabinet shuffle
Oct. 1 - NB mainstream media: Graham to shuffle cabinet soon

Monday, October 01, 2007

Chat live with the premier

I was doing my daily check of Communications New Brunswick and noticed that the premier is scheduled to do a live chat with the Globe & Mail on Wednesday.

I've not been able to find a promo or info on the Globe site.