An update from the MLA

I want to thank everyone who came out to my first round of four community meetings this year to bring forward issues you want to see addressed by the provincial government. I will bring these forward at Question Period, as Member’s statements, and raise them directly with the appropriate members of cabinet. I know that some of you had intended to participate but were unable to attend, so please feel free to e-mail, call or schedule a meeting with me to discuss your concerns.

The ongoing frustration – and that’s putting it mildly – over the long wait times in Emergency at the Chalmers hospital continues to grow. I know that ER doctors from our larger hospitals are working hard to get Horizon and the Province to take action, as they are more aware than anyone else about the frustration, duress, and even danger this can put their patients in. Additional medical staff is needed to end the long-waiting times, and this means some additional funds need to be provided.

I have raised it with the Minister of Health, pursued it in Question Period and met with the new CEO of Horizon Health, emphasizing that it is a patient safety issue that needs urgent attention. I cannot understand the reluctance to hire the additional medical staff needed to solve the problem. Please send me your ER stories so I can continue to give examples of the problems you are facing. I will protect your anonymity, but it is important to have examples of the problem to continue to press for action.

On the positive side of our health care system, our province’s very first midwife, Melissa Langlais, will begin work here in Fredericton on May 8, soon to be followed by three others. I know the Chief of Obstetrics at the Chalmers has been eagerly waiting for the midwives to enable her and her colleagues to focus on high risk pregnancies. Congratulations to Sonya Burrill and all the members of NB Families for Midwives for all of their work to finally have midwifery established in our province. I was able to play a small supporting role in having the Province’s very first midwives located in Fredericton. Next, I want to see a four-year baccalaureate midwifery program established at UNB, as no university offers this east of Québec.

I attended the formal thank-you celebration for all those who made it possible for the Chalmers hospital foundation to raise the necessary funds to completely renovate the pediatric ward, which will also provide in-patient mental health care for children and youth. Congratulations to all those who contributed to make this possible.

The announcement that UNB is closing down its pool this fall, has created a sense of urgency to get the necessary commitments to building a new aquatic centre for Fredericton that will serve families throughout the region while providing a home for our competitive divers, swim racers, and synchro swimmers. I have spoken with officials from the UNB, Fredericton and the provincial government. The Mayor assures me that there is plenty happening behind the scenes and a meeting with UNB was in the works. I agree with the Mayor, that this needs to be a regional project that involves our neighbouring municipalities, and will work to ensure the province provides financial support.

At the Legislature, I am pleased to say that my efforts to have political donations from corporations and trade unions banned have borne fruit. I introduced a private members’ bill to achieve this, but the Liberals said it was premature given the Commission on Electoral Reform had not yet released its recommendations. My bill was defeated at second reading. However, the Commission did recommend an end to political donations from corporations and trade unions, along with a reduction in the total allowable donation from $6,000 to $3,000. The Official Opposition introduced amendments to the government bill that would lower the cap on donations to ban corporate and union donations. Much to everyone’s surprise the government MLAs voted to adopt the amendments. As of June 1st, corporations and trade unions will no longer be able to make donations to political parties, their candidates, or party leadership contenders.

As everyone is aware, the fast-track roll-out of the new property assessment system led to inflated property bills for more than 2,000 New Brunswickers. I called on the Premier to establish a public inquiry led by a respected judge to investigate the fiasco, find out who decided to press forward when the problems were first identified, and who was involved in the resulting cover-up. I also wanted the judge to make recommendations on how to bring overall fairness to the property tax system, given the low taxes on industrial properties and double taxation on camps, family homes that are not a primary residence, and on all apartment buildings.

The Premier responded by appointing Justice Joseph Robertson, who is now on the faculty at the UNB Law School. Justice Robertson is a great choice, but his mandate seems to be restricted to an internal review of what happened, which is not what we need to ensure political accountability, to clear the air, and to restore faith in the property tax system.

You can keep current with my work in number of ways. Visit regularly; follow my facebook page, my tweets, my Instagram posts and my You Tube channel. Stay tuned for some brand new videos on tackling poverty and on the terrible treatment of both our woodlot owners and the Crown land.