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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Province Slightly Improving In Removing Red Tape

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business releasing it's annual Red Tape Report Card.

The province showing slight improvement from it's 2010 C- score by getting a C+ for 2011.

The report evaluates government's progress on regulatory reform.

The grade puts the province in the middle of the pack -- the CFIB says a government wide plan to reduce red tape is still lacking but steps have been taken over the last few years.

Premier Alward is also getting credit for setting a red tape reduction target of 20 percent, a promise he made when he was campaigning.

British Columbia got the highest grade while Northwest Territories was at the bottom.

Power Restored To West Side

Power is back for Westsiders who were in the dark this afternoon.

Darin Lamont of Saint John Energy tells CHSJ News the outage was due to a problem with a NB Power transmission line.

Power went out for about 2000 customers at around 1 this afternoon.

Areas affected included Manawagonish Road, Westgate Park and Lorneville.

Power To Be Back Within An Hour

Westsiders will have their power back in about an hour.

Darin Lamont of Saint John Energy tells CHSJ News about 500 people are still without power in the Westgate Park and Manawagonish Road area.

The problem has been traced to an issue with an NB Power transmission line.

Horizon Health Network Gets Federal Money To Combat Smoking

The Horizon Health Network receiving over 600-thousand dollars from Health Canada to help New Brunswickers stop smoking.

The money will be used to train over 500 health care professionals in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI and has the potential to reach 10-thousand speakers over the next three to five years.

In 2009, Horizon Health Network was designated one of three Centres of Excellence for Clinical Smoking Cessation in Canada.

Higgs Questions Methadone Program Management

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs is wondering about the management of the methadone program with 1400 clients and a huge wait list.
Julie Dingwell is with Aids Saint John disagrees with him.

She says there would be an end to the wait list in sight but, more treatment spaces are needed for those who are waiting.    She adds opiate addiction doesn't go away without treatment.

Dingwell says we have to pay either we can pay for healthcare or judicial costs or pay for methadone which is much cheaper.

Deputy Mayor Feels Pension Reforms May Not Be Approved

Mayor Ivan Court believes the city will get its pension reforms approved during the spring sitting of the legislature.

Court says in a recent letter from the Premier, the wording seemed to recommend the city should have its budget in order for the spring.

But Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase says while he does have some optimism, he is also a political realist.  He says there is opposition to the proposed pension from retirees and members of the police and fire department.

He's not as confident that the reforms will be passed.

If the reforms are not approved, the 2012 budget will be short 9 million dollars and 100 city jobs will be cut.

The Lights Are Out On The West Side

Saint John Energy is looking into why 2000 west siders are without power.   

Vice President of Engineering and Operations Darin Lamont tells CHSJ News Westgate Park, Fairville Boulevard and Lorneville are impacted.

He says crews are looking into the cause and no word yet on when power will be restored.

Cutbacks Being Felt Already At St. Joseph's Hospital

The President of local 1199 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees at St. Joseph's Hospital is speaking out about the cutbacks that have taken place thus far, never mind what might be coming down the road.

Lisa Allen says the cutbacks are being felt already because departing employees are not being replaced with jobs being cut through attrition. Allen argues that means heavier workloads for the remaining workers and some patients missing out on their baths.

As for the number of hospital beds in the province being above the national average, Allen wonders how many of them are being used by people who should be in nursing homes if the space were available.

Murder Suspect In Court

A two day preliminary hearing will be held in the spring to determine if 50 year old Stephen Wallace Martin should stand trial for the killing of a man in the north end before Christmas.

It gets underway on May 2nd with two days set aside for testimony. 

The body of 74 year old Robert Ryan was discovered by firefighters after they were called to 374 Mount Pleasant Avenue North. 

Police have not said how he died but determined it was a homicide.

Higgs Reveals How Much You Would Pay In Tolls

Provincial Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has divulged what it would cost drivers if highway tolls were imposed. 

He says the Alward Government has estimated it could generate 50 million dollars a year in revenue by charging 3 cents a kilometer in tolls.
A round trip from Saint John to Edmunston would cost over 22 dollars....A return trip from Moncton to Fredericton would cost 11 dollars.......9 dollars from Saint John to Moncton return and $6.50 from Saint John to St. Stephen and back. 

Higgs cautions before tolls can be imposed there would have to be a referendum and the federal government would have to go along.

PlanSJ Close To Adoption

PlanSJ is now just one step away from becoming law. The new municipal plan has its first and second reading at common council Monday. 

According to Deputy Planning Commissioner Jacqueline Hamilton, public consultation on the plan revealed that some amendments were necessary.
There will be a total of 21 changes--most of them to do with how people will be allowed to subdivide rural properties, and other site-specific issues.

The third and final reading of the new municipal plan will happen in the coming weeks.

Lots To Say To The Provincial Finance Minister On Upcoming Budget

Provincial Finance Minister Blaine Higgs began the first pre-budget consultation meeting before a standing room only crowd at the community college by saying the Alward Government is considering a system of highway tolls that could raise as much as 50 million dollars in revenue. 

The meeting lasted longer than scheduled because so many people wanted to have a say.

Micheal Saunders came up with another idea to raise revenue and tackle the problem of diabetes by charging a soda tax of one cent an ounce. At the same time, Saunders called for the price of beer to be reduced. 

Gerald O'Dell told Higgs the province has been giving too many handouts to the rich. 

Higgs was also told there are too many managers in the school system and we don't need any more than 40 M-L-A's. He was also urged to bring in balanced budget legislation.

Council Delays Approval of 2012 Budget

Common Council holding off on approving the 2012 budget -- the version released a few days ago put the budget at $144 million dollars and the tax rate unchanged at $1.785.

But Council has decided to meet this Saturday to go over details of an alternate budget -- one that doesn't have pension reforms approved by the province and is 9 million dollars lighter.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase says says council is nervous about moving forward without a back-up plan. -- he says it would be impossible for the city to find the money half way through the year.

If council is forced to make the 9 million dollar pension payment, 100 jobs will be immediately lost and city services will be reduced but the tax rate will remain unchanged at $1.785.

A special meeting of council to pass one of the two budgets is expected next week.