The Daily Kel

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

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.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Asleep At The Switch (2)

Did you see the Gleaner article on Noonan's mail service? Canada Post has suspended mail service because some parts of Route 10 are unsafe for the truck to stop.

In May, I asked Wayne Steeves if he might review things like speed limits, brush clearing and signage, as well as giving mail trucks a permit for flashing lights, if it would get Canada Post to restore service to some homes. Why not meet with them and discuss it?

"If Canada Post wants me, they can call me" replied the lazy Minister of Buck Passing.

Now, the other day, Richard Duplain from the Gleaner calls. He tells me that Canada Post says they would restore mail service to some boxes if the government would change the law to let their vehicles have flashing lights. BUT he asks "Wayne Steeves' office says there's nothing in the law that stops mail trucks from having flashing lights. Is there?"

Three minutes on the internet later, I find this section of the Motor Vehicle Act:

225(3) Flashing or revolving lights are prohibited on motor vehicles except in the following cases:

(a) an authorized emergency vehicle,

(a.1) a motor vehicle operated for the purpose of implementing or training for the implementation of an emergency measures plan under the Emergency Measures Act,

(b) a Department of Public Safety or Department of Transportation vehicle,

(c) a school bus,

(d) a service vehicle,

(e) any vehicle as a means of indicating a right or left turn, and

(f) any vehicle equipped with an emergency flashing switch permitting the parking and tail lights to flash only when such vehicle is parked on the highway or any portion thereof due to an emergency or under circumstances beyond the control of the driver.


Now, I can see why Steeves' office couldn't find that section. It was so cleverly disguised in a section in the Table of Contents called "Lighting Equipment On Vehicles".

Here's the fact. In May, Noonan lost its mail service and Canada Post asked permission to put lights on trucks so they could restore service. Wayne Steeves cared so little that, four months later, his office didn't even know their laws prevented that.

To misquote Oscar Wilde, to be clueless in one Question Period is misfortune. To be clueless for four months can only be described as arrogance.

Asleep At The Switch Again (1)

The Tories never seem to realize that ignoring problems annoys people.

Here's a simple problem. Pepper Creek, with a lot of young families with kids who play sports, voted strongly to join the City's plan to build rinks. But because they are in a bizarrely-aligned LSD with further away communities, their votes were overwhelmed.

Now, kids face user fees of over $600 per year.

With two lines in a law, we could let Pepper Creek make its own decision. I wrote the Local Government Minister and got no reply.

So I wrote the City -- and as always, they gave me a prompt reply. I asked if we could suspend the user fees for Pepper Creek for a year until we can fix this gap in the law. They said they will if both parties agree to fix the problem in a year.

I'm in. So, how about it, Minister Poirier. Will you please answer my letter so we can get kids in Pepper Creek playing sports, as it should be?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lessons From Maugerville

So, did you ever notice that in big grocery chains in Atlantic Canada, the produce isn't from here?

Well, I've been talking to folks out in Maugerville who are getting hurt by that. Turns out other governments (allo, Quebec!) support agriculture more and that drives up the relative cost of buying local.

Not that the taste compares -- as you can find out with stops at Foster's, The Country Pumpkin and Harvey's Big Potato. But it isn't even in the store.

Two things come to mind:

1. We need a dedicated Agriculture Department. the technologies, financial challenges and communities are distinct.

2. We need to support upgrades in equipment and research to keep our farmers competitive.

Anyone else got thoughts out there? This is really important to people who are now in my riding, and I've got to learn to be a good representative.

The University Plan Unveiled

I was so happy to be back at STU today for our announcement on post-secondary education. My leader did a great job -- and I have to say that it's been great as PSE Critic to serve with a leader who makes it such a priority. I've always had an open door to talk about making university more affordable, recruiting faculty and supporting research and development.

Earlier this year, I'd introduced a bill to lower first-year tuition fees. The focus on the first year was for this reason -- studeis show young people from lower income families tend to perceive university education as more expensive than it is. Break down that barrier, get people in the door and let them develop a passion for learning and a career goal.

Here's what Shawn announced:

-- A $2,000 grant to all first-year students to offset tuition. (This way, we lower tuition without leaving schools without resources)

-- A $25M per year fund for Hope Scholarships for upper year students with financial need and academic promise

-- An end to parental contribution deductions for student loans (another bill of mine the Tories stalled)

-- A $10M top up to graduate tax credit programmes for high-debt students

-- A new university commission to look at upgrading infrastructure, funding and commercializing research, making schools accessible and attracting faculty

This is good stuff. Those of you looking for a difference this election between platforms, remember this -- the Tories will give you a tax cut if you make it through university. The Liberals will also give you that tax cut, but will also help you get in the front door of the school in the first place.

That, and they don't think Fredericton should have a community college. Boo.

Highlights So Far (3) -- Community College

We did it! Shawn announced the Fredericton Community College today. It's a plan backed by City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Team Fredericton. The team offered the Lord government the land for the new campus, and they wouldn't take it. We will.

Not only will we have traditional trades, but new areas like high-tech manufacturing, tourism and film and engineering. We can also have more joint university-college degrees.

Now, folks know I kept introducing legislation to create spaces for the 2,000 people turned away from community college every year. We have to be mopre aggressive on training.

And you don't just fill jobs with training, you create them. Why should innovative companies here sell technology but see products built elsewhere because we don't train people in that high-end manufacturing area that builds on our strengths.

More on this later. But here's a reason I'm proud of having introduced so much legislation. Any politician can read their party's briefing notes. Most do just that, and rely on their leader's office to tell them what to say.....

But when you work hard to know the issues and research what policies work, you can actually help write party policy. And when you do that, sometimes you can also get your city's needs heard.

Like with a new community college.

Highlights So Far (2) -- Sorry, Brent

Political watchers might be surprised that I consider Brent Taylor a friend (and that it may even be mutual). He's a principled conservative, but like Norm Betts before him, he knows what he believes (unlike many ministers who just read their briefing notes).

So, why were we sparring in the media about ambulances?

Well, I don't like it when Tories play the game of "here's what we'll do if you elect a Tory". The Premier kept trying all last session to claw back commitments n Liberal ridings by saying "well, voters rejected our platform, so they don't want that road/school/hospital".

I mean, voters in my riding chose my platform -- but they still haven't built that Marysville Bypass, eh?

So when I saw the press release where the ambulances for Doaktown were promised if Brent was elected (but not Rick Brewer), well.... something was up. And when Brad Green wouldn't confirm that it was an unconditional promise, I had to say something.

Brent wouldn't play those games -- but his party's backroom boys do. Look, if you're Health Minister and you think an ambulance service is needed, put it there. If not, don't. But don't try to be ambiguous about other motivations.

If my party ever makes promises with those kinds of asterisks, I will have a very public fit.

Highlights So Far (1) -- Hockey Night in Fredericton

I feel badly that I haven't been doing this from the start -- there's so much to do in a small local campaign that the "new media" touches sometimes get left out. But there are some things I'll remember from the first two weeks of this summer campaign.

The big one was Ken Dryden's visit. Ken is a great Canadian and a thoughtful, direct politician. I've been proud to support his leadership campaign because I think he is that rare politician who knows why he wants to run. His belief that government should inspire people to accomplish big goals we can only reach together is in keeping with my views. His reflections on education, literacy nd children's issue convinced me he understands the country he wants to lead -- all of it, not just the 37% you need for a majority (like some Prime Ministers and their focus-group-driven five priorities).

Anyway, Ken came to give the campaign a boost. He sure surprised the gang at Tim Horton's when a Hockey hall of Famer came in. He also revved up the crowd at the Devon Kinsman Center with a strong speech about the need to speak out on the environment, child care spaces, and the kelowna Accord for first nations education.

But the road hockey game I'll remember for quite some time. Shawn, TJ, Ken and I played some local boys in a quick game. Scoring off a Dryden pass was pretty cool. I think most Canadian guys my age will understand if just for a moment, a voice in my head boomed "Lamrock, from Dryden and Graham, at 3:42......"

The Blog Begins....

There are two weeks to go until election day, and I thought it was high time I joined the blogosphere. If I'm going to talk about the new economy and the knowledge industry so much, I figure I can't avoid this format.

If I'm re-elected in Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak, then this will also allow me another mechanism for getting feedback from my constituents.

I'll do my best to share with you some of the ups and downs of the campaign trail, and some of the ideas I hear at the 5,300 doors in my new, sprawling riding.