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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mayor Gets Heat For Icy Analogy

Mayor Ivan Court got some heat Tuesday at the Court of Queen's Bench over a certain icy analogy he used to describe the city's pension problems.

The Mayor was under cross examination by defence lawyer Rod Gillis in the ongoing defamation trial of a former city councillor. Gillis reminded Court he once referred to the city of Saint John's pension problems as an iceberg. He asked,  "Are you a student of history, Mayor Court?" 

 "Then surely the implications of your iceberg analogy are not lost on you, given the 100th anniversary that is soon coming up?" The centennial anniversary of the Titanic's sinking is April 14. 

When Gillis tried to suggest Court was part of the crew on the ship steering toward that iceberg, Court testily replied, “I wasn't on any crew! I was a common councillor representing the taxpayers of the city of Saint John.”

CFIB Praises Alward Budget For Its Restraint

Praise for the Alward government budget from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Atlantic Vice-President Leanne Hachey tells CHSJ News they were expecting the worst but pleasantly surprised to see government's going to do the hard work themselves in an effort to fix our financial problems.

She says they have to give the government full props for doing the tough work of finding efficiencies within government and restraining spending big time.

Hachey adds for the second year in a row the government has come in with spending increases that our less than inflation which is unheard of and the road less traveled for provincial governments.

Lacey Applauds Tories For Protecting Taxpayers

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the Alward government was right for choosing to protect the interests of taxpayers against special interests demanding the province tax more and spend more.

The CTF applauding the government for not raising personal income taxes, HST or general corporate income taxes.

Atlantic Director Kevin Lacey tells CHSJ News the government’s commitment to take action on the huge pension deficit is a difficult, but necessary reform. 

Double Taxation To Be Reduced In 2013

Good news for those who own apartment buildings or a second home - reforming the property tax system was one of the elements in the province's 2012-2013 budget.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says there will be a gradual reduction in the property tax rate of apartments, second homes, and cottages as well as a drop in the provincial business property tax rate.

The changes will be phased in over 4 years beginning in 2013.

Budget Spending Includes $6.4 Million For Pay Equity

Provincial Finance Minister Blaine Higgs making a variety of spending announcements as part of the new budget.
Higgs says they includes $10.3 million for affordable housing and $10 million for Invest NB to foster economic growth.

It also includes 9.8 million for nursing home renovations and replacements and 6.4 million for pay equity which was met with applause in the legislature.

They also include $5 million for primary health care and $3.6 million for early learning and childcare which includes enhancing childcare affordability for low income famillies and $3 million dollars for special care homes.

Provincial Budget Being Unveiled In Fredericton

The Provincial government is tabling an $8.2-billion budget with a $183-million deficit forecast for 2012-13 and a provincial debt expected to hit $10.8 billion by the end of March 2013.

But the budget is forecasting the net debt to hit $10.8 billion by the end of March 2013.

The government will reduce the number of public sector jobs by 1,500 by attrition for each of the next three years, saving about $86 million annually by 2014-15.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says the government will spend an extra $6.4 million this year in salaries to address pay equity.

There's no change in personal income taxes, but the tax on buying a home doubles to 0.5 per cent on June 1, which is expected to generate another $7 million a year.

Hoyt Runs In Ward 1

Ward 1 candidate Ed Hoyt wants a seat on council after 12 years of being on the outside looking in and because he's tired of the status quo like the rest of Saint John.

Hoyt is taking a chance on municipal politics after an unsuccessful attempt provincially in the last election.
He tells CHSJ News he has experience with all three levels of government.

He says the biggest hurdle the City has to conquer is the pension crisis adding it has thirty other issues but they won't get addressed because of it.

Deputy Mayor Worried About Signals Being Sent to Superintendent Of Pensions

Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase is worried about the message council is sending to the Superintendent of Pensions by not making an 800-thousand dollar deficit payment.

Councillors Bill Farren and Patty Higgins voted down making the payment.

He tells CHSJ News it doesn't send a good impression as the city is trying to get pension reform approved.

He's afraid the superintendent will view council as not being resolved in settling the pension woes.

Mayor Ivan Court also voicing his displeasure via his Twitter account, calling the actions of Councillors Farren and Higgins as outrageous.

Emotional Testimony Marks Mayor's Appearance At Defamation Trial

Mayor Ivan Court became quite emotional while testifying at the defamation trial of former Common Councillor John Ferguson.
Court's voice began cracking when he spoke of the late Pension Board trustee Kevin Estabrooks writing his own eulogy 7 weeks before dying to make clear he didn't do anything wrong or steal any money.
Court says, to him, that's defamatory because to destroy someone's name is defamation since nothing is more important than your good name.
He also testified Ferguson's accusations hurt people with so much animosity at Council, you could sometimes cut it with a knife but no proof of gross negligence on the part of the Pension Board was ever offered.
Court believes Ferguson's real problem was that he just didn't like city management for some reason.

HDC Puts a Human Face on Homelessness

The stories of people who are homeless need to be heard--so says from Kathryn Asher, a researcher the at Human Development Council. She helped prepare HDC annual report card on homelessness.

Asher says they collected a lot of data from the province and other organizations, but in the end it was the personal element that was most important.

She tells CHSJ News about the importance of wraparound services for people who are trying to get on their feet with literally nothing to start with, including food, clothing, and employment opportunities.n

To see the  video testimonials from people who have lived in the city's shelters and received other assistance programming, go to

Ferguson Defamation Trial

Naked Man Apprehended In The Uptown

A quiet night reported by City Police but one thing happened which was a bit out of the ordinary considering the frigid temperatures.

A man was picked up after being seen running naked along Union Street. 

Police then had to find some clothes for him to wear.

Stephen Chase Not Re-Offering

Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase's name will not be on the ballot in the upcoming municipal election.

He tells CHSJ News he is moving on to other things and wants to pass the torch after being on council after 14 years.

He says one of the things he is looking forward to is walking through places like Rockwood Park and not worry about where funding is going to come from.

City Not Making Error-Related Pension Payment

The city will be on the hook for interest and penalties for deciding to not make good on a 800-thousand pension payment miscalculation.

Councillors Bill Farren and Patty Higgins voted against making the payment which was part of a 2011 deficit payment.  Council need two-thirds of council to approve it.

Bill Farren says he voted against the payment as a sort of protest against the pension board, which to him seems to operate by their own rules.

[CLIP]...arm's length group (14 secs)

As for criticism that his vote downloaded additional costs to the taxpayer, Farren would only say he doesn't think the interest is very high and the public is footing the bill either way.

The payment was suppose to be made by the end of the month.

Minister Doesn't Slam Door On More Powerful Imaging Unit

The Health Minister is downplaying any suggestion politics are involved in a decision to move forward with a less powerful M-R-I machine for the Regional Hospital.
Madeleine Dube says it's about providing a standard level of service to all New Brunswickers.
But -- Dube says her department will monitor ongoing upgrades to units that are available and she's not closing the door to upgrading the Regional to the higher powered unit at some point in the future.
The Alward government is taking heat for refusing a million dollar donation from the Regional Hospital Foundation to upgrade the new M-R-I machine to the more powerful unit.