New Brunswick

Brian Gallant's smaller cabinet faces long list of demands

Premier-designate Brian Gallant and his Liberal cabinet ministers will be sworn in at 2 p.m. today, but already interest groups are lining up to lobby them on a variety of issues.

Premier-designate Brian Gallant will swear in his 13-person cabinet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday

Premier-designate Brian Gallant will unveil his new 13-person cabinet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. (CBC)

Premier-designate Brian Gallant and his Liberal cabinet ministers will be sworn in at 2 p.m. today, but already interest groups are lining up to lobby them on a variety of issues.

Gallant will name a 13-person cabinet, which is the smallest executive council since Louis J. Robichaud’s government in 1965.

The leaner cabinet will not stop the long line of special interests, who will be pushing their own policy demands.

One environmental organization is hoping the new Liberal government will correct a perceived wrong committed by David Alward’s former Progressive Conservative government.

Lois Corbett, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said she is looking for the Gallant government to act quickly on getting the details of the new forestry deal released publicly.

“He and the party made a commitment in the platform, so I have every expectation that will be released,” Corbett said.

“I think that expectation, beyond relief, is followed up with hopefulness that he will see what is wrong with the strategy that increases cuts along rivers and streams and brings in a new improved version to make sure we have public forests in the future.”

Lois Corbett, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said she wants to see how the new Liberal government will deal with the Alward government's forestry plan. (CBC)
The platform promises to release all “relevant information” about how the forest management plan was created. Gallant also committed to evaluating “options under the current forestry plan and submit the sustainability provisions in the plan to a proper review.”

The Alward government unveiled its Crown forest strategy earlier this year. The Alward government announced a 21 per cent increase in the annual allowable cut of Crown softwood.

The plan was intended to create more jobs in the forest industry.

However, it was criticized by many opponents as being done behind closed doors and without enough consultation.

Corbett said the Conservation Council would also like to see the new government follow up on the party’s campaign promise to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Small business concerns

Small- and medium-sized businesses will also be watching to see how the Gallant government addresses their concerns.

Denis Robichaud, the director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said taxation is one of the key areas that he wants to see movement on.

“We see positive measures, I think, in the Liberal program on that side, such as the reduction of the corporate income tax for small business, which would go from 4.5 [per cent] to 2.5 per cent,” he said.

“But the new Liberal government also plans to return business property tax rates to the levels in place in 2012 so that worries some of our members also.”

The Alward government cut property taxes for businesses in 2012. At the time, the New Brunswick Business Council said it didn’t request the property tax cuts.

The Liberal platform says it will recoup $30 million a year by cancelling these property tax cuts for businesses.

Robichaud said the other top priorities for business owners are the new provincial drug plan, and the accompanying payroll costs, and the increase to the minimum wage.

The Liberals have promised to increase the minimum wage to $10.30 per hour by the end of 2014 from $10. The minimum wage will be raised incrementally to $11 per hour by 2017 and future increases will be based on inflation.

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $10.40 and it is $10.20 in Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland and Labrador’s minimum wage was increased to $10.25 from $10 on Oct. 1.

Focus on seniors

Cecile Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, said she would like to see the responsibility for home care services moved to the Department of Health. (CBC)
A seniors’ advocate is hoping Gallant’s smaller cabinet will also include a dramatic shift in how services are delivered in the province.

Cecile Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, has been lobbying for home care to be removed from the Department of Social Development and placed within the Department of Health.

 “Right now, we have about 57 agencies and basically getting money from the government, which really doesn’t actually meet the needs of the workers that are doing the work, rather than contracting out put it under one umbrella, basically provide them better working conditions and benefits so that they can do the job properly,” she said.

She has also pushed for a long-term care act and some tax relief for seniors.

Cassista said she received letters from the Liberals while they were in opposition, supporting her stance on home care and she hopes the incoming premier will be keeping his promises.

The Liberal platform promises a Long-Term Care Act that would “ensure clear and consistent expectations for seniors in nursing homes and special care homes.”

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