Report from the Legislature

There have been a number of positive developments since the Legislature began sitting this year.

Families expecting a baby will soon be able to “call the midwife”. The provincial government has announced it intends to integrate midwives into our health care system, beginning with a pilot project. I have been championing midwifery in the Legislature and supporting the efforts of the New Brunswick Midwives Association to bring this about. This is such good news for women, families and babies in New Brunswick.

There is good news as well for improving youth mental health care. The unfortunately named Integrated Service Delivery Program, which places Child and Youth Teams in schools to tackle mental health, addiction and behaviour concerns is expanding beyond its successful pilot project phase in Charlotte County and the Acadian Peninsula to more areas of the province. There is funding in the provincial budget to put Child and Youth Teams into schools in Saint John, Hampton, Sussex, Miramichi and the Restigouche Chaleur Region. I will continue to advocate for it to be instituted in Fredericton as soon as possible.

The capital budget had good news for Fredericton. Some readers will remember I took a tour of the Chalmers Hospital last year to publicize how badly overcrowded things have become. After being left out of the capital budget last year, things are back on track with the funding being provided to develop the architectural plans for the much needed hospital addition.

I am also pleased to note that my efforts to end the outdated practice of letting MLAs decide which community groups receive funding to hire summer students were successful. The Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour announced she was ending this practice, and was increasing the number of summer positions being funded by 200. Hopefully, this ensures fairness for both students and the organizations receiving funding to hire them.

In the riding, we have a large apartment building for low income seniors owned and operated by the Department of Social Development called Evelyn Grove. Some time ago, the position of superintendent was eliminated and the evening security was discontinued leaving the seniors without the support they once had. After meeting with the managers of the Downtown Fredericton Community Health Centre, they agreed to have one of their outreach nurses provide monthly visits to assist residents with routine health matters. In the meantime, I have been working to have a superintendent returned to the building. I have raised this directly with the Minister of Social Development and I am hopeful the situation can be resolved. With the loss of the superintendent, the Fredericton police have responded to forty 911 calls from Evelyn Grove since January 2015.

I want to mention how appreciative I am to all those who participated in the meetings I held to get input on how to improve our education system. I sat on the Education Commission’s Advisory Committee and wanted to be sure I brought people’s concerns to the table. I received wonderful input from parents, teachers, students and community members. It’s all available to read on my website, along with my letter to the Minister of Education summarizing the key recommendations.

I am pleased to report that I was successful in ensuring the New Brunswick Student Leadership Alliance will be receiving a more adequate budget to support the leadership activities of high schools students around the province. Last year at Public Accounts Committee I discovered they were barely being allocated enough for a single meeting of students. The Student Alliance will be receiving a more adequate budget as of this year.

The Multicultural Association and all the First Friends families have done a remarkable job getting the Syrian families settled in Fredericton. It was wonderful to meet both the Syrian families and their First Friends at the welcome events organized by the Fredericton Islamic Association and by UNB. I had the chance to go out to the airport to welcome one arriving family, and it was an experience I will not forget.

Everyone is settled in their apartments and their children are at school. The longer term work of building a life for themselves in Fredericton has now begun in earnest. I met with the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Immigration, Settlement and Multiculturalism to better understand what the government has planned to assist with long-term integration, and to see if there was any help I might offer locally. With the number of Syrian families settled in the riding, I now have an Arabic translator available every Monday should family members been needing assistance from me and my office.

Back at the Legislature, I was pleased to secure all-party cooperation in advancing two of my bills. Bill 5, my legislation to help create jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors was voted on to the Law Amendments Committee for detailed study and possible amendment. Bill 10, my legislation to ensure all students in our public school system learn about First Nations, our treaties, the history of our relationship, residential schools, and the challenges of today, unanimously passed Second Reading. I am hopeful it will be law before summer.

Finally, I have been appointed to the Select Committee on Climate Change. This committee of MLAs will hold hearings around the province to help shape the provincial climate change strategy that the Premier will take to the next First Ministers meeting in October. This is where Canada’s plan to deliver on the commitments Prime Minister Trudeau made at COP21 in Paris last December will be fleshed out.

The House is currently adjourned until May 17, so my work at the Legislature will continue in the form of committee work until we resume sitting.