nb-alward-platform

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is promising to cut the number of cabinet ministers to 16 if he wins the Sept. 27 election. ((CBC))

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is promising to slash the number of cabinet ministers to 16 from 21 if the Tories are victorious in the Sept. 27 election.

The Tory leader released six areas of government reform on Wednesday during a news conference that outlined parts of his election platform.

"I believe we need to lead from the top. We need to demonstrate to New Brunswickers, the challenges we are going to face as a province," Alward told the news conference.

"And because of that we need to be part of that solution. And this is a way, in some small way, to save as much as $5 million, still providing good government. The ministers will have more work to do but that's part of the responsibility of the roles they're taking on."

Alward is promising to hold a ministerial position himself plus have 15 other ministers. By comparison, Premier Shawn Graham holds a cabinet portfolio and has 20 ministers joining him in cabinet.

The Bernard Lord Progressive Conservatives reduced the number of cabinet ministers to 15 after the 1999 election.

Lord increased the number of ministers following the 2003 election. Alward was appointed as minister of agriculture when Lord expanded his cabinet in his second term.

While the Tories are cutting the number of cabinet positions, Alward is committing to increasing the number of independent officers of the legislature.

The PC platform will create a standalone Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, which is currently housed in the Office of the Ombudsman. Additionally, the Human Rights Commission will also become an office of the legislature.

The other points in the PC government reform plan include holding referendums on major issues, reviewing pay and compensation for MLAs, allowing non-elected parties, such as the New Democratic Party and the Green Party, to put questions to government members and eliminating the $5 fee on Right to Information Act requests.

Additionally, the party wants to bring in a law that would require any MLA who wants to cross the floor or sit as an independent to run in a byelection. The Tories saw Natural Resources Minister Wally Stiles and Moncton MLA Joan MacAlpine-Stiles bolt from their party in 2007.

The governing Liberals were quick to criticize.

The plans hide some deep cuts to public services, said Justice Minister Kelly Lamrock.

"I don't know how he can talk about caps on spending and merging departments, and at the same time say he's going to respect commitments on poverty, seniors, nursing homes, and the education system," he said.