“It’s unacceptable,this is the premier announcing details of how New Brunswick is rolling out its part of a national initiative.”-David Coon
Article by: ADAM HURAS
Premier Brian Gallant participates in a photo shoot in daycare provider Kathy Potvin’s room at Garderie l’Envolée in Fredericton.
A prudent way to get the message across or pure politicking?
Premier Brian Gallant has held three daycare press conference in 10 days.
It’s a tactic the government also used when it made a series of piecemeal announcements on pot late last year.It now has other provincial parties calling foul and a political scientist saying that it smells.
But Gallant himself contends the issues at hand are “very complex,” shooting down calls of electioneering, while adding “it’s better to take the week and explain to New Brunswickers how the free daycare program will work.”
The press conferences also saw Gallant flanked by Liberal MLAs, but then unelected local Liberal candidates as well that are running in the fall provincial election.
“Slow-drip news rollouts seem to be a way to maximize media coverage and thus popular recognition,” said Tom Bateman, a political science professor at St. Thomas University. “The matter of candidates smacks of petty partisanship.
“Governments in Canada are increasingly in a pattern of fusing governance and campaigning. Partisanship is increasingly stamped on all government functions.”
Bateman then quoted from a book titled The Blueprint: Conservative Parties and their Impact on Canadian Politics, edited by two other New Brunswick political scientists, JP Lewis and Joanna Everitt, that states political parties are becoming “garrison parties.”
The quote comes from former Conservative campaign director Tom Flanagan, who adds that politicians are now like “child soldiers in a war-torn African country: all they know how to do is to fire their AK-47s.”
Premier’s Office spokeswoman Tina Robichaud shot down questions on Thursday as to whether the multi-step release of the daycare initiative was politically savvy, pointing to comments Gallant made on Wednesday that disagreed with that theory.
“I think it’s important to underline that this is a very complex issue,” Gallant said. “There is no doubt, based on when I was explaining the different combinations of income and number of children, that it is a very complex issue.”
To the direct question of electioneering, Gallant said that’s “not at all” the case.“I think it’s better to take the week and explain to New Brunswickers how the free daycare program will work and how the subsidies for middle-class families will work,” he said.
The premier’s office did not address questions about unelected Liberal candidates at events.
“It’s distasteful,” Progressive Conservative MLA Jeff Carr said in an interview.
Carr said that he remembers being told by his brother, Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton MLA Jody Carr, not to be pictured in photo ops alongside him when he was a candidate seeking office.
He also said that the slow release of daycare details is “typical, old-style campaign mode.”
“It does two things: It’s an attempt to keep the public focused on what the government is trying to do, rather than what they haven’t been doing, or keep the focus on the premier and not the distractions,” Carr said.
Green Party Leader David Coon said in an interview on Thursday that Gallant’s press conferences politicize a “wonderful” national initiative.
“This is a national effort to ensure that preschoolers have access to early learning, which is so important and a long time coming,” Coon said.
He contends that’s in contrast to the Gallant press conferences.“What the premier is doing right now is campaign-style announcements, there’s no question about that whatsoever,” he said.
The daycare deal was actually signed between the provinces and Ottawa in June last year with the announcement of $1.2 billion over three years for daycare.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside Premier Brian Gallant, then announced in Moncton last August that a bilateral agreement on how New Brunswick’s piece of that money would be spent.The details of that deal have not been readily available.
Coon has repeatedly asked inside the legislature for ministers to table the federal-provincial agreements they have been signing.
“It makes it that much easier for the premier to hold these election-style announcements and roll them out,” Coon said. “And that’s what he’s doing.”That bilateral agreement has since been posted public by the federal government and it lays out parts of the announcements Gallant has been making.
The contract lays out that the province commits to upgrade at least 300 daycares into early learning centres by 2020, a move that will increase infant care spaces by 10 per cent, or 200 spaces.
It also details a “low-fee policy” to ensure affordable access and that at least 75 per cent of all children under the age of five will be registered at the early learning centres.
The contract estimates that 9,880 children will benefit from the low fee policy of which 6,320 will be from families of middle to low income families, those making below $55,000.Coon added that Liberal candidates shouldn’t be at the events announcing the details of a national strategy.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “This is the premier announcing details of how New Brunswick is rolling out its part of a national initiative.
“He should be doing that as the premier and not the leader of the Liberal party.”
Coon added: “Obviously there is no rule against it, it’s just in poor form.”
MLA, Fredericton South and Leader, Green Party of NB