The Daily Kel

Blog for Kelly Lamrock, M.L.A. for Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak, New Brunswick

Monday, November 06, 2006

U.S. Midterm Elections -- Ten Races To Watch

Tomorrow, voters in the United States will decide whether or not to bring to a close a Congress that has run up a huge deficit, allowed ideology to replace reasoned debate, and abandoned any notion of independent oversight of the executive.

Needless to say, I am eager to see the results -- although any progressive who follows U.S. politics knows to be trepidatious until the votes are counted.

In any event, since other bloggers like Politics NB are eagerly posting predictions. Here are mine, along with some key races to watch.

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

10. IDAHO-1: In a state that went nearly 2-to-1 for Bush, you'd think the GOP nominee would automatically win. That thought seemed to motivate everyone but Elmer the Safety Elephant to run for the Republican nomination. This crowded field allowed Dan Sali, an extreme right wing candidate funded entirely by the Club For Growth lobby group, to win the nomination with just over 20% of the vote. Sali is quite a character; in addition to being cited for lawsuit fraud by his own physician he has alienated many in his own party -- Idaho's other GOP Congressman said he wants to throw him out a window, and the Speaker of the Legislature said he was "a complete fricking idiot". The Dems nominated sane-looking Larry Grant, a moderate running with the line "If you're a Republican looking to vote for Larry Grant, you're in good company".

9. ILLINOIS-6: In Henry Hyde's old seat, Dems run Iraq vet Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in combat. Always classy towards soldiers, the GOP candidate has mostly been noted for unfortunately accusing Duckworth of wanting to "cut and run", and Photoshopping her picture in attack ads to darken her skin and alter her eyes to draw more attention to her Asian heritage. Classy. Duckworth, BTW, is one articulate, bright woman.

8. NORTH CAROLINA -11: Heath Shuler bombed as an NFL quarterback. Taking on Abramoff-purchase, er, client Charles Taylor, he may break 50% -- which is more than I could say for this Blue Dog Dem's completion percentage when I drafted him in my football pool.

7. NEW YORK-20: Kirsten Gillibrand, who I've written about before, really deserves to beat John Sweeney, who never met a White House talking point he wouldn't read. Gillibrand is a remarkably articulate candidate who seems able to go offscript on education and foreign policy and sound very reasonable. Sweeney's personal attacks seemed to get cut short when an Albany newspaper reported a domestic abuse 911 call from his house. The polls seemed to go south, too-- although it's gonna be a squeaker.

6. TEXAS-22, FLORIDA-14: Lump these together. No way Dems would win these if not for Tom DeLay and Mark Foley, the two disgraced incumbents. Because of their post-nomination immolations, they've left Republicans having to try to boost a write-in candidate against Dem Nick Lampson in DeLay's seat and (good luck) having to get Florida voters to vote FOR the lecherous Foley in order to get the GOP replacement elected.

5. COLORADO-4: As troops die in Iraq and poverty rates go up, Marilyn Musgrave says stopping consensual same-sex relationships is the most important issue in America today. After a surprise interview where she was asked "If you could stop a gay marriage or save an American soldier, which would you do?", she stopped giving interviews and hoped to fly below radar in this GOP-heavy District.

4. NEW YORK-24: Sleaziest attack ad. GOP national campaign runs an ad claiming Michael Arcuri, the Dem Attorney-General, called a phone sex hotline from a hotel and charged the taxpayer. Staffer came forward with phone recirds and said he actually mistakenly called the number. Phone records show a call under 1 minute to the 800 line, followed by a call to an identical number with a local number which happened to be the court services office. GOP knows this, won't pull the ad until stations refuse to run that garbage. Justly, Arcuri's lead widens and even the local GOP candidate begs his party to pull the hatchet job.

3. WYOMING-AL: Dem Gary Trauner deserves to beat GOP non-entity Barb Cubin. When she threatened to "slap" a wheelchair-bound Libertarian candidate who pointed out her unfortunate ties to Jack Abramoff, Trauner got traction. She tried to fix it by saying she got the idea from Rush Limbaugh saying he's like to slap Parkinson's-ravaged Michael J. Fox for campaigning for stem-cell research. Nice role model, Congresswoman.

2. WASHINGTON-08: Dave Reichert, who denies global warming and votes the party line on Iraq, runs into smart, successful businesswoman Darcy Burner who's running because her husband, serving in Iraq, was denied proper armour by chickenhawk Reichert's vote.

1. SOUTH DAKOTA-AL: If Dems are smart, their '08 ticket will be Barack Obama-Stephanie Herseth. Herseth is on the brink of turning this red state's lone seat into a stronghold through (gasp) simply taking rational stands on the issues. Check out her web site and the ads -- this woman has national-level skills.

DEMS GAIN 27 SEATS AND TAKE HOUSE.

QUICK SENATE PREDICTIONS

10. Vermont: Socialist Indy Bernie Sanders wins Senate seat. Rush Limbaugh rushes for candy and painkillers.

9. Connecticut: Indy-by-necessity Joe Lieberman actually has "Joementum" and beats Ned lamont. Reminder to Dems -- preaching to the choir doesn't get it done.

8. Rhode Island: GOP incumbent Linc Chafee closes in race by running ad reminding people he would NOT vote for Bush in last presidential election. In a tight Senate race, Bushies grin and bear it. Chafee may be GOP upset of the night, but I'm still picking Dem Sheldon Whitehouse.

7. Maryland: race got tight at the end, but state should be blue enough to get Dem Cardin home.

6. Tennessee: Harold Ford tries to be first black Southern senator. GOP opponent Corker runs attack ad that plays -- get this -- jungle drums whenever Ford's name mentioned. Gotta love Republicans. Of course, Corker opened up a lead, and I think the GOP holds very ugly.

5. Missouri: Every poll seems to show a tie. On a hunch, I'll pick Dem Claire McAskill in a squeaker.

4. Virginia: "Macaca"-spewing bully George Allen gets his comeuppance from Dem veteran Jim Webb. Second most-deserving GOP loss of the night, next to....

3. Montana: Conrad Burns makes Jim Bunning look like a rocket scientist. He is a target of Abramoff probe and claims he doesn't need to ask Bush about Iraq plan because "I think he's got a plan, he ust doesn't want to tell anyone what it is because we'll just screw it up." maybe that's why he's in tough against Jon Tester. Tester's got the best ads this cycle -- check out his site -- and I think competence wins in the end.

2. Ohio: Sherrod Brown beats a pretty decent GOP incumbent, Mike DeWine in this swing state.

1. Pennsylvania: After 12 years of taking extreme positions in this red state -- like arguing that homosexuality is like "man on dog" and arguing for states' rights to criminalize contraception, Rick Santorum loses to moderate pro-life Dem Bob casey Jr.

DEMS TAKE MT, VA, RI, OH, MO & MN TO CARRY SENATE 51-49

Monday, October 23, 2006

Three Questions

"I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed." -- George Carlin

How do you deliver change in a system without short-circuiting the system? That's the challenge.

First thing I decided is that we're not going to throw out good ideas because they were someone else's. Too often government sputters because the new management is hostile to everything the old guys did. Business doesn't run that way. Neither should we.

I criticized the government for wasting a lot of time restructuring administration instead of addressing the classroom. So, it would be hypocritical of me to now restructure DEC's because "they" created them. The structure's fine. Not the biggest issue. So, we keep it.

The QLA asks some good questions, too. Early literacy and intervention. Reaching kids in the middle group of learners in a system too often focussed on crisis management. Testing and accountability. So, we keep working on those.

But we add, too. In some cases, we add resources and resolve. Add some issues that were forgotten. Test what isn't working. And maybe think about some assumptions about how education works, and how a public system can offer more innovation, rewards for risk-takers, parental choice and local leadership. Ask how schools can serve the whole community, or how we screen earlier for learning disablities, or how we can do a better job of providing diversity in our course offerings.

Really, I want to keep what was good and build on it. I have some pretty strong ideas, but I also don't believe that I, and a few folks in my office, are going to single-handedly make our province a leader in education.

The first thing I've done as minister is start a tour of schools in the province. Every district. I've asked to see classes where teachers are doing innovative things. Talk to students about what makes them learn, and what makes them want to. Speak to parents.

I've asked three questions that cover the change people should prepare for. And now, I'd like to offer these here for any thoughts you all care to offer.

1. How do we encourage and reward innovation from teachers and principals? Did you know that the STU education class often has a higher entering GPA than some law schools? Absolutely true. Today's teachers are high-achievers, they have two degrees, they had to show a passion for their profession just to get admitted. So, why do we have education plans and remuneration plans that are so top down? If we're going to be leaders in education, it will be the sum total of many small innovations that get us there, not waiting for one big ministerial lightening bolt of an idea.

2. How do we interven more quickly and more appropriately for exceptional learners? The big challenge -- being leaders in education means getting everyone on the bus. But one important note -- "exceptional" means gifted kids as wellas those with learning challenges.

3. How do we ensure that every child has a chance to find something they are good at, and passionate about? My old mentor in education, Chip Anderson, was an expert in making students stay in school. He believed that you study those who succeed to find out what they do right rather than asking what others do "wrong". He found that high achievers have a strong sense of their strengths, and use them to find something that makes them persist and overcome obstacles.

So, why do we have art, music, extra-curriculars, hands-on learning, proper libraries and trades in the schools? Because they give kids a chance to love learning.

So, those are my three questions. And I owe it to the system to consider other answers as well as my own. Thoughts?

Draft-y In Here. Must Be Holes In The Argument

The Tories seem upset because there was a draft of the Liberal platform. Several, in fact.

Did they go with the first draft of theirs?

If not, what's the point?

If I went through the Department of Education, think I could find a draft of the Quality Learning Agenda?

Do you think that would be worth my time?

If not, why is the opposition's complaint worth your time?

Back To Blogging

OK, take a breath..... you can do it.

I'm back at this. It's been a whirlwind three weeks since getting the call from the Premier. You work so hard to know your files, write bills, propose ideas, push ministers, knock on doors, change minds, sell change.

And then, one day, you're the Minister of Education. It will not last forever. You are expendable. One day, you will be expended. So, you had better make every day precious. Don't just deal with whatever comes up. Don't play it safe. Use your political capital for change.

Suddenly, every minute you're wondering if maybe you could have done something more with it. Meanwhile, there are so many more little brush fires, small issues - but urgent to the person talking to you -- that you have to balance with why you are here.

I'm back to blogging because I want every avenue I can take for people to keep in touch with me. Sometimes the department seems so big that I worry about feeling distant from the community I represent.

So, I'm blogging. Let me know your thoughts. And thank you so much for the opportunity to do this job.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Memorable Campaign Ad

I know this is Canada, but this is neat....

Kirsten Gillibrand is a progressive Democrat running in a Republican district. She is actually competitive with a GOP incumbent who just votes as the Bushies tell him to.

As she closed in, the congressman began attacking her family members.

I think this is one of the most interesting ads I've seen yet. I love the retro feel, and it really hits home. Whatever your politics, you've got to love the creativity.

http://www.gillibrand2006.com/Decency

Why I'm For Dryden

Ken Dryden published this in the National Post. I find it interesting that political insiders assume he can't win, yet the public seems to like him.

I support Ken because I agree iwth his view of government -- a way to bring people together to achieve big, collective goals we couldn't achieve as individuals.

I agree with him on child care, on Kyoto, and on the Kelowna Accord.

But the biggest reason I support him is because he actually writes his own stuff, develops his own ideas, and consistently offers substance instead of spin and attack.

I think politics is a little broken today. Jon Stewart defined "spin" as making an argument you know is illogical in order to further a cause you believe in. You see it a lot -- all members of a party using the same attack line that doesn't really hold logical water.

(*e.g. - Politician x voted against our budget, so he opposes money to build Highway "Y" in his riding, because the budget contained money for "Y".)

Federal politics seems to often be contrasting choruses of spin lines. Because someone has to win, the winning backroom gang convinces themselves that it was spin that won the election, so we get more of it. Even though declining turnout, slimmer mandates and more regional division would suggest that voters miss the politician who can unite us. No one ever runs against that guy.

I think Ken is that guy. He at least aspires to be, and I think the public will agree if insiders let them make that choice.

For all my fellow Liberals looking for "winnability", there is no "winnability" other than being the best potential PM. (Paul Wells wrote something like that after Stock Day crashed and burned, and he was right).

Here's Ken's piece....

Ken Dryden – nice guy, good goalie, really admire all he’s done – can’t win. Who says? Doesn’t have the “killer instinct.” Politics is a rough sport, you know. Gotta go into the corners with your elbows up.

Really? Do you know what going into the corners is really about? It’s to get the puck! Go in with your elbows up, you’re off for two minutes – and they get it. The best, the best, know what the prize is, then go after it, get it, then do something with it. Just like those who are the best at politics.

After the last election, we – as a party, as citizens – said we needed to do politics differently. Except political and media insiders looked at each other, winked, and said, “But politics doesn’t work that way.” Who says? Why not? Has anybody tried? Has anybody asked the public? Has anybody wondered why the public is disgusted with politics?

Big important things – Afghanistan, the future of our aboriginal peoples, global warming – and what do they see? The shouting, laughing, backslapping; the name-calling and disrespect – the stupid political games. This is how politics works? Who does it work for? Anybody asked the public?

I always thought politics was about people. People who aren’t doing very well and need a boost; people who are doing well and can do even better. If it isn’t about that, why do it? It’s a lousy life. But if it is about people, it’s great. It’s taking that instinct that’s in all of us – to help others – that we express every day in our service clubs and church groups, and give it a big chance, with all the power of government behind it. I always thought elected politics was about winning the public’s trust and support in order to get that big chance. We have been involved in this Liberal leadership campaign since slightly before the beginning of time. And for something that goes on this long, there’s got to be a way of keeping score. Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? Who’s got “momentum”? So we take what we know – who’s supporting who; the amount of money raised – and in the absence of anything else they become the way we keep score. Then spinners spin, and those who report, in the absence of anything else, report the spin. And inside our own little world, we spin harder and faster and pretend the horse race has been decided before the public’s voice has had a chance to be heard. Because that’s how politics “works.”

Who says? I always thought politics, like any competition, was about understanding yourself, what you believe you are and do best; and what you aren’t, your weaknesses, seen through your opponent’s eyes. And seeing your opponent that same way – then developing a plan. In this case, and before our convention in December, I thought the task for every voting member and every delegate was to imagine this is June 2007 and the writ is about to be dropped for a new election. It’s the Conservatives and Stephen Harper against the Liberals and ____. Then to take each Liberal leadership candidate one-by-one and imagine what that campaign would look like. Not just how we would see it, but how the Conservatives would as well. How they would run against each of us. What they would say. What they would want the public to hear. What the public would be most likely to hear. Who would the Conservatives be drooling to run against? Who would they not? Two weeks ago, a poll released by CBC Newsworld showed among the general public who identified themselves as Liberal supporters, I was tied for first with Bob Rae. Among the public in general, I was first. To me, the interesting response was in one of the supplementary questions in the poll: among those who identified themselves as Conservative, NDP or Bloc supporters, if ___ was elected Liberal party leader, would you consider voting for him/her? With my name in the blank space, more than 40% of Conservatives said “yes,” more than 40% of NDP’ers said “yes”, and more than 40% of Bloc supporters said “yes”. A week later, with front-page headlines, in a poll of Liberal members and potential delegates, I was tied for fourth, and the commentators wrote about how the race was over and it was now down to the top three.

This is stop-the-spinning, get-real time. The stakes in the next election are clear – it’s Kyoto or it’s not; Kelowna or it’s not; child care or it’s not. It’s a generous, inclusive, connecting Big Canada, or it’s not. For those who are voting this weekend to select delegates to Montreal, remember, it is your vote, your decision. Nothing’s been decided. It is up to you. And that everyone elected as a delegate to Montreal is really a surrogate for the 32 million Canadians who are not there. We have to give ourselves our best chance to win. We owe that to Canadians. In Montreal, the first ballot belongs to the political machines. Every other ballot belongs to the people. Ken Dryden? Can’t win. Who says? Not the people.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thank you!

I've learned a few of you actually visit this blog, so I should start updating it again.

I'm honoured by the margin of victory in my riding. Thanks.

Now the work begins. I hope we can live up to this.

I'll resume blogging Monday with some ideas that are top of mind now.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Difference (3) -- Leadership

I think Shawn Graham should be Premier of New Brunswick.

Media profiles like to portray the two leaders in a "Felix and Oscar" light. One guy has a detailed knowledge of programmes, but no clear values -- the other has a broad set of values and a team to work on the details. One guy is smooth at the podium and shy one-on-one -- the other is a charmer working the room but uncomfortable with formal speeches.

I know them both, one better of course, but I will say that they are both people who deserve better than to be made into a cartoon character. They each, in their way, have strengths and a sincere desire to do what is right.

But here's the tiebreaker for me.

The Tory campaign is mostly about where we are. They say it's pretty good, and if we just keep on going, it will all be fine.

Bernard Lord sees a Premier as running to be a smart guy who will make good decisions when something lands on his desk. He will deal with whatever comes up. Life will throw us challenges, and he sees the Premier as the guy who will handle it.

Shawn's campaign is about what we could be. It's not that things are awful, but that there's a better way beyond what we see in front of us.

He sees a Premier as someone who encourages new ideas, takes chances and tries new things.

If you present each with an idea, Lord will ask "Why should I do this?" Shawn will ask "Why haven't we done this?" One sees himself as a bulwark against bad decisions, the other sees himself there to push good ideas.

If they were hockey players, Lord would be off to the side, waiting for the puck to come to him, confident that it will and he'll know what to do. Shawn is a guy who will dig in the corners, forecheck and take some risks if it means scoring another goal.

As I see New Brunswick today, we've got to go dig out that puck and control the play. Shawn Graham should be Premier.

That's my last word. I'll blog after you have yours.

Kelly

The Difference (2) -- Issues

The media, and parts of the blogosphere, are saying that there's "no difference" between the parties.

I know there's no free trade of '88 or auto insurance of '03 here. Not even a good sponsorship scandal.

But I think sometimes those covering the election fall into the trap of believing that differences have to be ones that can be set out in a soundbite.

Hey, I know that with polling and focus groups and traditional media, both parties will have numbers that tell them what to put in the front window. And I know that the Tories have made many promises of things they voted against in the Legislature -- Route 8, protecting seniors' assets, environmental regulation, gas tax cuts.

Fine. I will leave aside the issues where the parties say they agree and you have to assess credibility. I'm biased there and will leave them out.

But there are differences worth debating here. I will list ten.

1. Liberals believe that the 2,000 qualified applicants to community college need to receive trades training. Tories believe that we will just train surplus workers if we open the doors. I believe that a trained workforce attracts companies and jobs. I believe that not training people in, say, high-tech manufacturing means we don't getcompanies that do high-tech manufacturing here. In the new economy, workers create jobs. Tories don't buy that. We do.

2. The Liberals endorse the MacKay report to increase resources and screening for special needs kids, and to have diverse career options like trades and fine arts taught in schools. The Tories do not, and believe that the current funding level works.

3. The Tories would have education spending go up slightly slower than inflation, and cut taxes. The Liberals would freeze but not cut income taxes, but increase education spending. Big choice there -- and worth voting on alone whichever side you're on.

4. Liberals support tax credits for workplace literact programmes, because there are too many workers vulnerable to change even though they are employed. The Tories believe that you save money by only giving literacy training to unemployed people.

5. Liberals believe that high tuition fees disproportionately scare away low-income families, and we need to lower first-year tuition and give more grants to get people into school in the first place. Tories believe tax credits after graduation are the best way to get people into school.

6. Liberals believe we need to redo the municipal granting formula. The Tories believe we should freeze it the way it is.

7. Liberals believe we should have legislated clean air targets as in Kyoto. the Tories don't.

8. The Liberals believe that we should hold Stephen Harper to the aboriginal peoples' funding for education and infrastructure set out in the Kelowna Accord. The Tories do't.

9. The Liberals believe government should spend to create more daycare spaces. the Tories believe that if the free market doesn't do it, government shouldn't either.

10. Liberals believe student loans should not be reduced based upon parental income. Tories believe that, to some extent, they should.

There are others, too. I'm a Liberal, and I support the Liberal position in all of these. I've tried to state them as factually as possible to show they exist. But even if you don't, these are worth voting on.

With all due respect, if you don't see a difference here, you're waiting to be spoon-fed.

Get out and vote.

The Difference (1) -- The Riding

Another new attack flyer from the opponent today.

My opponent has a final attack line. I have "too many ideas". She's counted 100, apparently. She says "Kelly Lamrock's ideas are confusing".

I will freely admit that my opponent cannot be accused of confusing people with too many ideas. Most of her stuff appears to have been drafted by the central PC campaign, praising the past work of the government. I cannot find one local project she believes needs to be advanced.

And I have, admittedly, a lot of them. Tax credits for workplace literacy. Community schools to give kids activities after hours and keep them off the street. New community college programmes like high-tech manufacturing. Microcredit so small businesspeople with good ideas get a little startup money. Tuition reduction for students. Reforming social assistance to help low-wagte workers. A training centre for actors and writers to do historical storytelling at heritage sites. Tough clean air laws.

I run because I want to do something with the office. I don't just want to handle whatever comes up. That's how I am.

Here's the deal.

In politics, some MLA's don't come to office knowing what needs to be done, and what they want to accomplish. Those are the MLA's who wind up reading their party's talking points back to you, not standing up within their party.

Then there are the MLA's who listen and have a list of problems they want to solve. Those MLA's write their party's policies, shape the budgets and get stuff done.

One candidate has lots of ideas. The other finds ideas "random" and "confusing".

Once candidate says "here's what I will work on". The other says "here's what my party tells me they've done".

I can't change which one of those candidates I am. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Route 8!!!

There it is.

Shawn announced that the full Route 8 Bypass would be fundedand built in our very first capital budget.

Built.

Not announced. Not studied. Not appropriation. Not brush clearing -- I swear the Tories must need a silviculture programme just to grow enough brush to clear every year so they don't have to actually build the road.

Built.

Pavement, not promises.

I loved Larry Jewett's signs regarding Kirk MacDonald's deathbed promise of $110Million for Route 8.

$110 Million promise PLUS 110 Million excuses EQUALS No Action on Rte. 8

For the government who has changed the route four times, announced the Bypass five times, voted it out of the budget three times, and in general offered Marysvillers all help sort of an actual road -- that seems fitting.

Now, we know what getting the road "resolved" should mean. We will build it. Now.

Just to be clear, if we're in government and we do not build this road, I won't run again.

That sound you hear is the sound of Tories eagerly hitting the "Copy" function on the keyboard. But I mean it. I don't want to be another politician who played games with people's lives in Marysville.

And because Shawn Graham listened, I don't think I will be.

OK, I'll Defend Jobs Starting Now ... No, Now ... OK, Well, Now!!

My opponent has sent out an attack ad about me. My first personal attack ad! It's a big moment.

She's trying to revive the issue that Shawn Graham will actually allow 19 people who run the energy projects in Saint John to (gasp) work at the energy projects they run. This is apparently remarkable.

Using her logic, every government employee must be in Fredericton or its a "lost job". I am not immediately sure how it will help to have the ifeguards at Parlee Beach, the instructors at Campellton Community College, or the safety inspectors at Point Lepreau relocated to Fredericton, but, hey, I admire her pluck.

Let's assume for a moment, that my opponent really cares about the 19 jobs. Maybe she sent this piece out attacking me because she has suddenly decided she can be silent no longer.

In it, she says that she will defend "every single Fredericton job".

Cool.

Since my opponent is, she claims, a "founding member of the local Progressive Conservative riding association", I'm sure she has always been vocal in her party for Fredericton jobs.

So, here's a challenge. A shiny penny to the first Tory who can produce a public quote, or private correspondence, from my opponent opposing any of the following....

-- the cutting of 32 teaching positions from Fredericton schools

-- the cutting of 95 employees of the Department of Education, including the art and music education co-ordinators

-- the cutting of over 100 health care related jobs, including those working in public health clinics

- the privatization plan of NB Power which would allow for the loss of hundreds of Fredericton jobs

-- the elimination of 80% of the jobs at the Department of Agriculture

--Jeannot Volpe's plan to move 50 Departmnent of Finance jobs to Edmundston


Or maybe she meant she would defend every Fredericton job .... starting now. Or, well, you know, defending the jobs that her party lets her defend. Or, maybe....well, never mind.

Please...I'll Give You Money.....Please!!

So, now Bernard Lord says we can afford a bigger tax cut.

Bigger than he thought in the last budget.

Bigger than he thought when the election started.

When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it not only concentrates the mind wonderfully, it apparently changes tax policy.

Desperate promises should not govern this province. What would be cut to pay for this? The toll promise cost us the Department of Agriculture (110 jobs), art and music education and curriculum work at Department of Education (95 jobs), and public health nurses' support staff (111 jobs). It also led to four straight years of real-dollar cuts to education.

The Premier insisted two weeks ago that the surplus was only $22 million and there was no room for new promises. Now, he says "growth in the economy" allows a bigger tax cut.

That's a pretty sweeping change in his tune. I haven't seen growth that sudden and suspicious since Barry Bonds testified before Congress. What changed?

Not the polls, surely?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tory Ambition, In Their Own Words

Wayne Steeves on restoring Noonan's mail service.

"If Canada Post wants to talk to me, they can call me."


Rose May Poirier on helping Pepper Creek avoid recreation user fees, which kick in by end of September.

"We are continuing to study the issue."

Jody Carr on giving Fredericton a community college so we don't turn 400 people away from the trades every year.

"There's no point in training people who might leave anyway."

Paul Robichaud on eliminating the Department of Agriculture specialist jobs that help Maugerville farmers.

"Have a nice day."

Heather Hughes on getting the trucks out of Marysville, including the log trucks that spill where kids wait for school buses.

"Route 8 is resolved."

Gee, guys, I can't imagine why people think you're a do-nothing government.

I guess it's because they can find no concrete example that would make you a do-something government.

Did She Really Say That?

My opponent, Heather Hughes, is quoted in a Gleaner profile of the race as saying this:

"Route 8 is resolved"

Again.....

"Route 8 is resolved"

Wow.....

Let me just say this.

Generally, a road is resolved when it is actually paved.

Or, perhaps, if a truck appears to start work on the road.

Or, more generously, when it actually shows up in a government budget for which government members vote.

When there is no road, no budget, and government members vote AGAINST three seperate motions to build the road, that is somewhat unresolved.

There are two possible explanations for this.

1. "Resolved" does not mean what Ms. Hughes thinks it means.

2. Ms. Hughes will be satisfied if her Leader tells her vaguely that someday, possibly, he may get around to funding Route 8, he's just opposed to it right now.

Neither explanation bodes well. And I note that in Marysville today, the Gleaner was a helpful thing to show people.

Pavement, not promises, will make this issue "resolved".

Arts Debate

I had an interesting forum on arts policy with Dennis Atchison (NDP-Fredericton Silverwood) and Will Forrestall (PC-Fredericton Lincoln). Both did well, and it was a nice thing to have a debate where people were thoughtful, civil, and focussed on ideas.

I mean, I did have to differ with Will when he mentioned the MacKay Report as a "Conservative accomplishment". They commissioned the report, but when I moved a motion to accept it, the government MLA's voted it down. I think it's important -- it means early help for special needs kids, retoring arts, music and trades to classrooms and giving teachers the support resourcesthey need to give kids individual attention. And I believe the government should be held to account over voting their own report down.

Two other areas of difference

1. The Tories seem proud of this $500 tax deduction for families who put kids in recreation programmes. And play and exercise is a public good, no doubt. But is an $47 tax reduction (because you get 9.5% of $500) really going to make a difference, given that it will go to those parents who can afford to pay out of pocket for programmes in the first place?

I made this pojnt -- when I was in elementary school, we had phys. ed. 3 times a week, taught by a specialist trained in kinesiology. We played sports on school teams, because we had coaches.

Today, elementary school kids get gym once a week, taught by the kids' teacher, who may or may not have the ability to do so. And there are no school teams -- they got cut. You want to play, you pay for a private team. (We pay the FDSA, CAMFA, and YBC. It costs us $600 bucks a year, with the discount we get because I coach my son's YBC basketball team).

My point is this -- is it worth giving $47 bucks to a two-lawyer household like mine if that robs us of the fiscal capacity to have proper physical education and sports in public schools that's free to all kids? Isn't that pandering?

2. Tories still think having a guy in an office called "The Captal Commission" means they've done the job. I think we need a Capital Commission with real money and a mandate -- give core funding to arts and heritage groups, invest in heritage buildings, fund animations, guides and theatrical performances at heritage sites and beautify our region. But more on that later....

Debates

Well, the debates are over. Going door-to-door I think Shawn did pretty darn well -- that's what I'm hearing even from disinterested observers.

No point in giving you my observations, really. These things are like a Rorsharch Test, you see what you want to see. That's more true since 1984. Ever since Turner froze during Mulroney's "You had an option...." tour de force, candidates are terrified to let their opponent get off the assualt of the night. So they just yell over each other.

Might be time to really mess with the debate format. Lose the talking heads and have more citizens ask questions. Make eack person have their own time to reply. Lengthen the time for a reply -- honestly, in 60 seconds all you can do is repeat a sound bite, and that masks differences in intellect and complexity between candidates. Let the citizen questionner ask a follow-up -- anything that forces spontanaeity, really.