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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dealing With Accusations Was Like "Chasing Ghosts"

Chasing ghosts -- that is how former city councillor and former fire chief Glen Tait describes dealing with accusations of wrong-doing by John Ferguson regarding the pension board.

Ferguson is charged with defaming the city's pension board.

Tait told the courtroom Ferguson never showed concrete proof of illegal activity by the board, even after getting the chance to lay out his entire case during an open session of council.

Tait, who was also a pension trustee, said he was affected by the allegations because people could have assumed he was Ferguson's inside source on the shady activity.

Ferguson said he knows the "name, rank, and serial number" of the source and Tait held the rank of Fire Chief.

There will be no testimony tomorrow as the jury will be using the day to go over the vast volumes of documents in the case.

McGraw Says Cuts Are "Closer To The Bone"

The President of the Amalgamated Transit Union says the most recent cuts to Saint John Transit are "closer to the bone" and will be felt by a lot of people.

Tom McGraw tells CHSJ News this cut of 4000 hours of service will likely hurt more.
He says as you get closer to the root of the system there can be more of an impact on people's lives on a daily basis

McGraw says when you cut service hours in order to meet a budget you also cut into your revenue source which can have a spiralling effect.

NDP Leader Praises Government's Pet Policy Reversal

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is thanking the Social Development Minister for doing the right thing by reversing the eviction orders for NB Housing tenants in Moncton and ordering a review of the no-pets policy.

Cardy hopes Minister Sue Stultz will take action on the problems of health, safety, and
crime that are a serious problem in many NB Housing complexes.

Cardy adds now that residents can keep their pets, the government must make sure rats, drug dealers and other unwanted pests are cleaned out of buildings paid for by New Brunswick taxpayers.

Uninsured Drug Plan Consultations Begin

The Province announcing consultations are underway on the development of a prescription drug plan for the uninsured in our province.

Health Minister Madeline Dube says about 30 per cent of New Brunswickers do not have prescription drug coverage and must pay for their drugs.

Dube says the government is committed to a plan that would fairly subsidize costs based on an person’s ability to pay.

The government wants input on how the plan should be designed, who would be eligible for the plan and the how costs would be shared.

Submissions will be accepted on the Department of Health's website until April 30 and after that will be posted online.

To find the link, click here

Health Council's Snapshot Shows Improvements

The New Brunswick Health Council's population health snapshot has some good news including improved access for people in the province looking for a family doctor.

The snapshots for the province are updated for all seven zones with most up to date information available.

Stephane Robichaud is the Chief Executive Officer at the N.B.H.C. and he tells CHSJ News an increase in the number of doctors is good news and there are improvements on wait times for certain procedures as well.

C.O.P.D. or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is third in the list of top ten reasons for hospital admissions despite the fact that it impacts only 2.7 per cent of the population.

To have a look at the population health snapshot, click here

Another Profit At NB Power

For the third consecutive quarter, NB Power is reporting another profit with net earnings for the nine-month period ending December 31st at $121 million, compared to $53 million for the same period the year before.

The $68 million increase in earnings was the result of a number of factors, including an $84-million reduction in expenses for fuel, purchased power and transmission.

Sharon Murphy of the Conservation Council tells CHSJ News if NB Power wants to stay in the black, it sould continue buying cheap hydro electricity from Quebec because it's far less expensive than nuclear power from the Point Lepreau plant.

NB Power is still saddled with big debt estimated at 4.5 billion dollars, as of the end of last year.

Emera NB Donates Five Thousand Dollars To P.R.O. Kids

P.R.O Kids receiving support from Emera NB to the tune of 5-thousand dollars.

The group matches youth with sports and recreation opportunities.

P.R.O. Kids Chair Kathryn Davison tells CHSJ News the money will be of great help as the city was originally going to increase its contribution by 5-thousand dollars this year but refrained in order to deal with the city's pension plan.

Emera General Manager Rob Belliveau says it's important for companies to give to the community especially when many municipalities are facing tighter budgets.

Defamation Trial Told Of Conversation About City's Pension Plan

The defamation trial of former Common Councillor John Ferguson has heard from the pension board's doctor and former council member Glen Tait.

Dr. Micheal Keating evaluated applications for permanent disability pensions for 11 years and told the court he never misapplied the definition and was never accused of doing do.

Glen Tait testified about a conversation he had with Ferguson at a Cities of New Brunswick meeting in the Miramichi.

Tait told the jury Ferguson claimed he was looking for solutions to the pension plan but Tait accused him of trying to lay blame for the problems and Ferguson replied "You're too smart for me".

Tait also told the jury Ferguson never divulged the source of legal advice he claimed to have showing negligence on the part of the pension board. Tait denies the pension board was derelict in its duties.

Saint John Transit Facing More Cuts

City transit making more service reductions after losing 250-thousand dollars out of its budget.

3 workers will be laid off and 9 routes will see a reduction in service, including priority neighbourhoods like Crescent Valley and the South End.

But Saint John Transit General Manager Frank McCarey tells CHSJ News no routes were eliminated but some buses will now be arriving hourly instead of every half-hour.
Saint John Transit recently eliminated 12 positions on Boxing Day.  The cuts come as the city tries to deal with its massive pension deficit.

The reductions will come into effect on April 1st.

Gas Prices Virtually The Same After Weekly Setting

Fears about rapidly rising gas prices have not been realised.......At least not yet. 

The price of self serve regular in the city has risen by just over half a cent a litre to $1.30.8 while there has been no change in the price of diesel after the weekly setting.

It remains at $1.37.6. Heating oil has gone up to $1.22.2 a litre with propane lower at $1.02.4.

Family Homeless After Fire

Four people are homeless after the house they were renting and most of their belongings were destroyed in a fire late yesterday at 11 Millie Lane in Pennfield. 

There's no word yet on how that fire got started.

The Red Cross is helping our the couple and their two school-aged children with emergency lodging, food and clothing.

No Two Tiered Minimum Wage In New Brunswick

The minimum wage will be going up to ten dollars an hour on April 1st and there will be no two-tiered minimum wage for workers in the province who earn tips.

That announcement made by Labour Minister Martine Coulombe who says the government decided a single minimum wage is the right approach for the provincde.

An online survey on the proposal of a two-tiered minimum wage revealed almost two-thirds of respondents were against the idea.

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association warns the 50 cent an hour increase on April 1st could result in a reduction of hours and jobs.

Former Fire Chief Says He Worked Well With Former Councillor

Pension Board lawyer Barry Morrison attempting to debunk John Ferguson's comments about of secrecy and bullying at City Hall with testimony from Glen Tait.

The former fire chief telling the court he thought he and Ferguson worked well together. Tait saying that he and and Councillor Titus, a fellow trustee, would have shared all information they had about the pension deficit with Ferguson.

According to Tait, Ferguson never seemed reluctant to accept counsel from senior staff, and there was never any confusion as to the options on the table.

Tait also testifying testifying he arranged a meeting between Darrell Wilson and John Ferguson to discuss issuing pension obligation bonds. Morrison stating Ferguson withheld crucial information about that conversation from council.