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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alward Government Calls The Deficit A Crisis

The Conservative government describing the province's financial situation as a crisis, but their first throne speech doesn't explain how the crisis will be addressed. The 14 page document is a laundry list of the Conservative campaign promises.

The province could face a deficit of a billion dollars by next year and a debt expected to hit 9.5 billion.

Premier David Alward says he wants to consult with the people to determine how to address the fiscal crisis.

He says they have gone to the internet to find ideas from staff and the peopleon how to fix the province's finances.
Alward also says a deal with the federal government is being finalized that will see the Harbour Bridge transferred to the province and the tolls removed.

Crown and Defense Rests In Murder Trial

The Crown and the defense resting their cases in the 2nd degree murder trial of 27 year old Crystal Dawn McKenzie.
She's charged in the stabbing death of her common law husband, 29 year old Patrick Thomas, back in March.

The defense argues McKenzie had no intention to kill Thomas but was trying to defend herself and her home.  They say she wanted to keep him out of their Alma Street apartment but struck him with the knife when he had his hands around her throat.  The defense also stressed the years of abuse she endured.

The crown argues McKenzie had many other options aside from stabbing Thomas, such as calling the police or seeking help from friends.  She followed Thomas throughout the streets seeking confrontation, which lead to her being dragged and choked on Waterloo Street.  The crown says Thomas never tried to get into their Alma Street apartment.  They say she was fed up and snapped from being in an abusive relationship for years.  The crown reiterated that several witnesses heard her say she was going to kill him.

The jury is currently in deliberation.

Enbridge Gas Applying To Increase Delivery Charges

Enbridge Gas is applying to increase its delivery charges for natural gas. General Manager Dave Charleson tells CHSJ News, if the Energy and Utilities Board agrees, the rate increases would not go into effect until after the winter heating season.

He says today they are not able to recover all their operating costs throught the rates that we charge to ensure that they start to recover more costs and keep them below the cost of the competing fuels.

Charleson claims residential customers who use natural gas will still be paying less than by using other fuels but he expects opposition from the industrial users.

There Are Signs Of Hope In The Local Housing Market

It's still not pretty but there is hope in local housing market.

Stats from the real estate board show on a seasonally adjusted basis, sales activity edged up two per cent between September and October.

The average price for a home sold last month was just over $165, 000 down 8 per cent from October 2009, 145 homes sold last month which is down 15 per cent from last year.

Across the province, sales are down four per cent on a year-over-year basis for October.

Three Local Groups Vying For Contest Money

A third entry from Saint John is seeking enough online votes to secure money from the Aviva Community Fund. Seth Asimakos of the Saint John Community Loan Fund concedes they have a lot of catching up to do with just three days of voting left. Asimakos tells CHSJ News they want to construct a new building along Prince Edward Street to house non profit organisations like the Learning Exchange and also provide affordable housing.

The first phase is $500, 000 and another $600 to $700 thousand dollars for the next phase

The other projects from Saint John are about Marsh Creek and constructing a playground at Seawood School in memory of the late RCMP officer Jason Porter and his two children, 5 year old Hannah and 2 year old Jack who died in a traffic accident along Highway 7 two years ago.
To vote for one of the projects click here.

Saint John Murder Trial Nearing A Verdict

It's into the home stretch at the second degree murder trial of 28 year old Crystal Dawn McKenzie after she testified in her own defense. The case will be going to the jury later today.

 McKenzie is charged in the stabbing death last March of her common law husband 29 year old Pat Thomas on Alma Street just off Waterloo. The court was told she had been dragged along the street by her hair just before the stabbing.

Her lawyer David Kelly claims McKenzie acted in self defense after years of abuse while the prosecution maintains she could have called police.

New Session Of The Provincial Legislature To Open With Speech From The Throne

(Premier David Alward)
       (File Photo)

The new session of the Legislature kicks off this afternoon.

Premier David Alward tells CHSJ News, since becoming Premier, he has already begun to work towards some of his key priorities which include include the health care, pension reviews, automobile insurance, and forestry.

The provincial deficit remains a high priority and his government is promising decisive action with the goal being to balance the books in four years time.
The Legislature will kick off with the Throne Speech, which which outline the Alward government's top priorities.
This might be wishful thinking but the new Premier also tells us he's looking forward to having a co-operative spirit to the Legislature.

Big Changes Approved For City Pension Plan

(Saint John City Manager Pat Woods)
             (File Photo)

The long awaited changes to the city's financially beleaguered pension plan are now reality.

Common Council will accept City Manager Pat Woods' recommendations to the pension to help make it more self-sufficient.

They consist of two sets of changes -- one for fire, police and the inside workers at City Hall and  the other for the outside workers, management, professional, and non-union members.

The former will see their pension credit reduced from 2 percent to 1.5 percent per year as well as having their benefits slashed by about 40 percent. However, they would still get their wage increases.

The latter group will see benefits cut by about 20 percent but with a 2 year wage freeze.

City Manager Pat Woods concedes it's not an easy pill to swallow but the changes will bring down the city's annual payments from 20.7 million dollars to 13.7.

Rockwood Park Recommendations Get Thumbs Up From Common Council

(Saint John Common Councillor Peter McGuire)
                    (File Photo)

Common Council is moving forward with development along Rockwood Park.

Council approving recommendations from city staff to allow apartments, townhouses, and single family homes along the edge of the park. Councillor Peter McGuire says it's a good use of land.

The recommendations include creating active transportation links between Crescent Valley and the Park and also between Sandy Point Road and the UNBSJ.

Council needs to make several municipal plan amendments before any development can begin.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase along with Councillors Patty Higgins and Bill Farren voted against. David Thompson of the Conservation Council is accusing Council of breaching the trust of those who donated or sold land years ago for park purposes.

Discovery TV Channel Teaming Up With School District 8

(Phillippe Cousteau of Discovery Education Canada)
           (Photo by Tamara Steele)

School District 8 students, teachers and administrators hosting the official launch of Discovery Education Canada in the city.

The program uses the resources of the Discovery channel in a classroom program that students and teachers can cater to their needs.

Chief Spokesperson Phillipe Cousteau tells CHSJ News he met with elementary and middle school students and this program makes learning relevant for young people today.

The program includes 3 million video clips that are available for use.