Alward fails to deliver new powers for third parties

Premier David Alward has failed to deliver on a campaign promise to give unelected third parties a voice in the legislative assembly.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says he isn't surprised Tory promise has been ignored

New Brunswick's smaller political parties still do not have an official way to question ministers despite a campaign promise by Premier David Alward 1:51

A proposal to allow unelected third parties to question cabinet ministers has failed to materialize despite it being a campaign promise by Premier David Alward.

Alward has said the 60,000 people who voted for third parties in New Brunswick's 2010 election deserved a voice in the legislature, even if the party they voted for did not earn a seat in the chamber.

However, the Alward government has not acted on a promise to allow "third parties to pose questions to ministers," which was clearly outlined in the Progressive Conservative Party’s 2010 campaign platform.

Alward’s office said the proposed legislative reforms aren't dead, rather they are in the hands of a select committee of MLAs.

According to the legislature, the Select Committee on Legislative Reform last met 12 weeks ago and has not scheduled its next meeting.

It has also not come to any decisions nearly three years after Alward outlined what should be done during the election campaign.

The province’s third parties are forced to try and drum up attention through other means, such as holding press conferences.

New Democratic Party Leader Dominic Cardy makes his way to the legislature's press gallery every Monday to raise concerns about government policy directly with reporters.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy holds a weekly meeting with the media to raise his issues because he does not hold a seat in the legislature. (CBC)

This week Cardy was criticizing the provincial government's blueprint on shale gas development.

The weekly meetings with the media are the best Cardy can do to join the political debate in New Brunswick since he's blocked from participating in the legislative debates.

Cardy came in third in the 2012 byelection in Rothesay. The NDP has not held a seat in the legislative assembly since Elizabeth Weir resigned in 2005.

The NDP leader said he isn’t surprised the Alward government has not acted on its promises around legislative reform.

"Politicians like talking about inclusion when they need their votes," Cardy said.

"That's when they want people included in the process because they want them to vote for them. Afterwards it’s much easier to do your job with less scrutiny."

The Alward government did appoint Don Desserud, a political scientist, to propose a series of reforms on how to make the legislature more collaborative.

The Desserud report did not offer many concrete proposals that would instantly give smaller political parties a new voice in the legislative process.

Instead, the report offered starting points for reform and left it up to the province's 55 MLAs to work out the finer details.