Political column: What is going on in our NB legislature?

(Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

In our world today, there’s a lot going on in every corner of the globe — from the Hong Kong protests, to Brexit and the upcoming UK election, to the United States’ impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, along with civil unrest across the globe. We New Brunswickers, as Billy Joel once put it, didn’t start the fire. One would be naïve to say that nothing is going on here though, there is lots going on in our provincial legislature, and in our little province.

By print time, there will be 13 bills in their first reading tabled in the legislature, covering various topics from the need for proof of immunization in our schools and preschools to amending the Crown Lands and Forests Act.

The provincial government had its second speech from the throne on Nov. 19, outlining their policy priorities for the foreseeable future. These priorities included reforms to fiscal policy and spending, local government, healthcare and education.

During the speech from the throne, a farmer brought around 50 chickens to the lawn of the legislature to protest provincial regulations on the profit of producing eggs on Nov. 19. Yes, chickens, to protest.

Meanwhile, the government has created a committee to help transition 420 employees at a smelter in Belledune that’s set to close at the end of the year back into the workforce, according to Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy is bringing forward a bill in the legislature to make vaccinations in schools mandatory, after a measles outbreak last year at Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis. The bill, if passed, will remove almost all non-medical exemptions for such vaccinations. The interesting thing about this, is that Minister Cardy has invoked the use of the notwithstanding clause to assure the bill is not challenged in court. The notwithstanding clause, or section 33 of the 1982 Constitution Act, states that a bill can be passed which violates section two or sections seven to 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and not be able to be challenged in court. Quebec used section 33 to pass their now infamous Bill 21, a ban on religious symbolism in the public sector.

The current government, led by Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs, has named the deputy executive director of the New Brunswick Law Society, Shirley MacLean, as the province’s next commissioner of official languages. She will serve a seven-year term in this role.

Higgs has also proposed a new plan for the carbon tax considering the recent federal election results. According to a CBC article, “It applies the 4.4-cent-per-litre national carbon price at the pumps but cuts the provincial gas tax by almost the same amount. The net additional cost to drivers is one cent per litre.”

We’ll see if Trudeau’s government approves of the plan.

From the current affairs of New Brunswick politics, one can discern that despite the world literally and figuratively burning and turning, there is quite a bit going on in our little province of New Brunswick. The things happening in our regional political discourse and legislature inherently affect us all in N.B. It is very important to take a moment to step out of the fray of global events to take a moment to turn your eyes from the lofty goings on of the world to these local places, for then you will better understand the immediate world around you.