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It’s time for real leadership on climate change.

The Gallant Liberal government has announced that they will not put a price on Carbon.

By only levying heavy industry, the Gallant government risks not covering enough of the economy by the Carbon levy to satisfy the standards set out by the Federal government. With this half-baked plan, Gallant risks missing our emissions reduction targets. By not implementing a carbon pricing policy that positively affects market behaviour, Gallant has decided to pass the buck of the coming climate crisis to the next generation.

This is another cowardly move that throws away a huge opportunity for this province to move forward. We will miss out on a historic opportunity to put people back to work, finance large-scale investments in publicly-owned renewable energy, fund ground-breaking research and development in renewable energy technology, and jump-start our future green economy. We can do this all while reducing poverty by offsetting the impacts of a carbon price on consumers with a targeted tax refund.

An NDP government would take a portion of the revenue from a real Carbon Levy and invest it in building large-scale renewable energy infrastructure, green energy technology, electrified public tranportation, and a housing retrofitting program to reduce energy costs for residences and small businesses. This is a historic opportunity to create ‘green-collar’ jobs that harness the skills, know-how and wisdom of New Brunswickers and build the green economy of our future.

We will make the investments we need now to jump-start the green transition. These investments will pay long term dividends to our province, and our common future. New Brunswick has highly skilled workers – welders, electricians, sheet metal workers – who are sitting on their doorsteps waiting for work after the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline. It’s time to put those skills to work, and introduce free retraining programs for workers in sunset industries. It’s time for a jobs-first climate plan.

Under an NDP government, New Brunswick would become a world leader in renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, nuclear and other sources of green energy. We would harness our natural resources in a way that helps New Brunswickers and our planet at the same time. We would return a large portion of the revenues from the Carbon Levy back to taxpayers with a carbon rebate – so we can progressively shift markets away from carbon – without making consumers pay for the climate crisis that the big polluters created.

We need a government that shows real leadership on carbon pricing and that will take this province into the future rather than keeping us mired in the past. It is time for the Government of New Brunswick to take climate change seriously. It’s time for real climate leadership. It’s time for a New Deal for New Brunswick.

-Jennifer McKenzie

Our Public Healthcare – Worth Fighting For

Jennifer McKenzie, The Daily Gleaner, September 20, 2017

 

Why do we have Public Healthcare in Canada?

When Tommy Douglas was six, he moved to Saskatchewan from Scotland.  When an old injury flared up, he was sent to hospital where he was told his leg would have to be amputated.   A well known orthopedic surgeon took an interest in his case and operated on his leg for free if his parents would allow his medical students to watch.  His leg was saved.  That only rich people could afford such surgery began to concern Tommy.

He went on to found the first social democratic party in Saskatchewan where he introduced the first single-payer universal health care program in North America.  Later, while he led the NDP which held the balance of power federally in the House of Commons,  Lester Pearson’s Liberal government introduced federal universal healthcare.

 

Why are New Brunswickers concerned?

Everyone knows a nurse who works in Extra Mural or Telehealth.  It is my niece, your sister or cousin, or his wife.  They are strong capable caring women and men with a huge capacity to love and care for their patients. Everyone knows someone who has benefited from their care.

Since the Gallant government announced their intention to transfer the management of the Extra Mural Program and Tele Health to Medavie Blue Cross, many New Brunswicker have expressed concern to me about their opposition to this privatisation of our public health services.

The Extra Mural program, which has been operated by the Horizon and Vitalite health authorities for many years, has earned praise across the country for providing a high quality of health care to residents in their own homes. It is the wrong move to allow a private company to administer this key piece of community health care.

 

Does this move contravene the Canada Health Act?

The federal government is responsible for insuring that these services conform to the five principles set out in the Canada Health Act in providing funding for health care services to the provinces.  The Act requires federally funded health care spending to be managed by public administration and operated on a not for profit basis.  That Medavie Blue Cross is a private ‘not for profit’ company does not mean that this test is met.

 

What can happen when Healthcare is not publicly administered?

I am also concerned about some of the performance factors which are to be used to give Medavie a bonus. For example, one of them is increased nurses’ visits or case load. Year over year, case loads will increase, stress levels will increase and patient care will suffer in order to meet this criteria.

Who do we call when things are not going well?  This move adds a layer of insulation to our publicly elected officials’ accountability, again, a  good reason for public administration by public servants.

We need people who are responsible to New Brunswickers to administer our healthcare, not people who are responsible to a private corporation with its own private interests.

 

What are the underlying trends that affect this move?

Indeed, there is now a disturbing trend by the Gallant government in supporting privatisation of Health Care: support for the private blood clinic in Moncton, privatization of dietary and other services in hospitals to Sodexo a French multi-national company, and now this transfer.

We are the oldest and fastest aging province in Canada. Even this government recognizes that healthcare spending must increase by over 4% per year because of our aging population.

Why then did Premier Gallant negotiate a healthcare formula with his federal Liberal counterparts that didn’t include aging?

New Brunswick economist Richard Saillant, director of the Donald J. Savoie Institute at University of Moncton trashed the health deal and called it ‘ironic’ that we – having the oldest population in the country – would be the first to accept a deal.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, average annual health care costs for seniors is almost five times higher than for Canadians under 65.  For those over 80, it is almost eight times higher.  This means that every year, funding will be squeezed more and more to meet our healthcare needs.  No wonder the Gallant government is trying to shelter itself from accountability.

 

What are our next moves?

We have Tommy Douglas to thank for single payer public healthcare and we have him to thank for all the care we receive under public healthcare.  He was visionary and we are better, healthier and happier for it.  This move to put the management of Extra Mural and Telehealth under a private company, Medavie Blue Cross, is not what Tommy envisioned.

There is only one way to fight this move – and those inevitably to follow – and that is to get involved politically.  I have now done this by becoming the leader of the only party that founded public healthcare and we continues to fight for it.  Join me!

Why do we manage our Crown forests so bizarrely?

Jennifer McKenzie, The Daily Gleaner, October 18, 2017

Last Wednesday I was invited to speak at the Annual General Meeting for the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners.  They have been in the news lately as the Southern New Brunswick Forest Products Marketing Board and its sister group the Southern New Brunswick Wood Co-operative are in a lawsuit with J.D. Irving Ltd et al who are effectively challenging the marketing board legislation which was meant to  give the Woodlot Owners Association the right to negotiate and sell wood from private woodlot owners in their area.  The New Brunswick government has been silent during this whole affair.

This is the latest twist in a long standing dispute that has arisen from a sequence of bizarre decisions made by our government under successive Liberal and Conservative parties.  The consequences of these decisions are being felt mainly by woodlot owners in their pocket book. They are completely ham-tied trying to jump through the hoops of large industrial players and the government’s mismanagement of the forestry file.

If you read my last column on Governance, you would know that I took issue with the first strategic objectives listed at the top of every report submitted by ministries to the Public Accounts Committee.  The first objective listed on all reports is More Jobs.  So perhaps that explains the way that we have managed and continue to manage our forests and Crown Land?  In fact, by Statistics Canada’s figures, the number of jobs created by the forest sector over the past fifteen years is on a decline. Since a high of almost 20,000 jobs in 2004, we have lost over 30% of our forestry jobs, a good many of them gone from the Pulp and Paper industry.  So what then explains this Gordian knot of a problem?

From the government’s own private forest task force report in 2012: “Over the past decade, forest policy innovation in New Brunswick has withered”  “Important provisions of the Crown Lands and Forest Act (1982) and the Natural Products Act (1999) have been neglected” and “Proportional source of supply provisions have not been effectively implemented, and despite its legislated authority, the New Brunwick Forest Products Commission does not arrive at an equitable price for purchased primary forest products”  “Conflicts among private woodlot owners, the government and parts of the forestry industry remain unresolved.”  Why hasn’t this been resolved five years later on?

An NDP government would implement a new forestry strategy.  We would consult with all stakeholders to develop a plan to allow a variety of forestry industries  to have access to Crown forest while encouraging older growth forests, stopping the clearcutting that is detrimental to forest and soil ecology; and stopping spraying of glyphosates and other sprays harmful to forest health and possibly human health.

Most of the best forestry practices of the world agree that a diverse forest is a healthy forest and that creating a monoculture or a forest with less diversity is an unhealthy way to manage our woods.  Indeed, why then do we spray our forests with glyphosate, allow clearcutting only to replant and cultivate a few select species over much of it?

The NB forestry industry creates fewer jobs per acre of forest land than in our neighbours in Quebec, Ontario and Maine. Why is this?  One  reason is the failure move to insure value added to forestry products industry here in the province. Under an NDP government, our Crown land would be managed to support emerging value-added industries in the province for the benefit and jobs of many New Brunswickers.  We would encourage innovation and high value products for use here and around the world.

An NDP government would review best practices from around the world and find a made in New Brunswick solution to provide fair access, while being environmentally and socially responsible and providing the best economic advantage possible to as many people as possible.  We would take back the management of our forests from large corporations.

New Brunswickers know the woods.  We have many highly trained and highly skilled woodsmen and craftspeople across this province who are either unemployed or under-employed.  Let’s allow their creativity to shine through and let’s become an example of how a province can use its abundant resources to create a variety of jobs while preserving the natural beauty, health and vitality of our forests.

Maybe then the knot will start to unravel?

 

Jennifer McKenzie

Leader of the New Brunswick New Democrats

Good Governance – Why does it matter?

Jennifer McKenzie, The Daily Gleaner, October 4, 2017

When I left as outgoing Chair of the Ottawa School Board, the staff gave each of us a children’s book that best described our personality.  As part of a ratpack of five New Democrats, we had spent eight years working together overhauling the governance model of the school board and we had all gotten to know each other rather well.  The book they gave me was called Mathematics and Big Ideas.

Part of our overhaul of the Board was to clearly define roles and responsibilities.  Politicians govern and staff administer.  No more politicians meddling in the day to day operations of the board and no more staff doing politics.  As we set the policy, goals and controls to monitor progress, the senior staff grew able to read our minds (well it was all written down) and administer their staff to meet our objectives.  Still, it was very disconcerting to get a book that had me pegged so well.

So when Terry Seguin asked us to speak on the Public Accounts Committee on the CBC political panel last week, I was on solid ground.  After reading much of the background material for the Public Accounts Committee, I found the mechanisms, levers and controls that are used to drive and control the various ministries within the Government of New Brunswick.

Three things struck me.  First, the series of unfortunate decisions and mistakes that this government has been making is not a random sequence at all but rather by their own design.  The strategic priorities at the beginning of each Liberal Government report in recent months are listed as Jobs, Fiscal Responsibility and best place to raise a family, whatever that means.  Nowhere is the health and well being of our citizens listed, nor other priorities that matter to the people of New Brunswick.

And so, it should come as no surprise then should it, that we spray our forest and our citizens with glyphosate and other chemicals in the name of jobs and big business.  It comes as no surprise that we pay bags of money to big business enterprises for dubious job creation exercises. It comes as no surprise that important healthcare gets shuffled off to business entreprises to manage.  And no wonder that people were allowed to swim in sewage at Parlee Beach for so many years.

The second thing that struck me was the lack of the front end work needed to do things right the first time.  I love the creative front end of a process best of all.  By doing this part right, you can strategically (and less expensively) knife edge to a solution that is well thought through and likely to be successful.  It is the time where you collect best practices and  evidence-based research from around the world, where you collect all the data, statistics and background material you can find to make the right decision and the time when you talk to all the people who work on the front lines and others as well to learn how to best solve the challenges in front as they see them every day.

One of the most important ingredients of any creative process is to have a large diversity of views and perspectives at the table.  The thirteen men who sit on the Public Accounts Committee all have the identical perspective of a middle age white guy.  Is it any wonder that women’s, youth’s, seniors’s and minority views – hugely important if you are going to represent the whole population of New Brunswick – are completely missing from our governance model?

It comes as no surprise that literacy and numeracy scores are stagnant in our schools and communities. That the government’s response to the ice storm which is to amalgamate municipalities – a mostly blame the victim exercise –was doomed to fail.  And that the property tax fiasco is still stumbling along and getting worse by the day.

The third thing that struck me was the obfuscation of any substantive financial information.  Any governor worth her or his salt know one must follow the money to really get to the heart of the priorities and understand the activities of an institution.  Where was the financial information they need to do that? Nowhere to be found.

That is why the NDP is calling for a Legislative Budget Officer, of the kind found in the Federal Government, Ontario, the US and other jurisdictions, who would be responsible for providing financial information to the committee and other opposition members on request.  Having this type of function in government led to the defeat of Trumpcare when it was revealed by the Budget Officer that 32 Million people would lose their health coverage.  It led to the exposure of Harper’s grossly misleading costing of the F35 Bomber program among other things.

We must dare to dream of a New Brunswick with a world class education system, of jobs that youth want to stay for and return to, of a government that looks out for the health and well being of every citizen and that puts the priorities of the people at the forefront of everything we do.  That’s socialism to me.  That is what I bring to you as the leader of the NDP as we vie for your support to govern New Brunswick.  Join me!

Jennifer McKenzie Announces Support for $15 Minimum Wage

“Today I announce that the New Brunswick NDP will join the campaign for a $15 minimum wage “ said Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the New Brunswick NDP in an announcement in Saint John today. New Brunswick families deserve a fair wage and a decent living. That’s why an NDP government would increase the minimum wage by $1 a year for four years until it reaches $15 an hour.”

 

“We cannot prosper and thrive in New Brunswick if each and every one of our workers can’t feel safe and secure at work and able to get ahead financially. Other provinces are now moving to recognise the harm to all of society when we have too much income inequality. Ontario and Alberta have now joined a North American movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage. Its time we did too.”

 

The New Democratic Party will also address the world of working men and women and help to make real improvements in their working conditions and incomes in the upcoming election.

 

“Today I announce that an NDP government would conduct a comprehensive review of employment standards in the province with the clear objectives:

 

To improve the working lives, working conditions , and well being of all New Brunswick workers;

 

To increase the coverage of employment standard legislation to those currently excluded by the legislation;

 

To introduce common employer provisions to make franchisors responsible for the working conditions of employees of franchisees;

 

To end the practices of split shifts , call ins without pay and never knowing when you are scheduled to work’”

 

“We will run on a package of labour reforms that will help improve the lives of women and reduce youth out-migration” say the leader,   “I want to make the voices of women a priority in our political discussions and working women are disproportionately represented in low paying precarious work.”

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