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Commentary – Dominic Cardy must parlay all that charisma into tangible policy

The following commentary appeared in the Times & Transcript on August 27, 2014:

NORBERT CUNNINGHAM Times & Transcript

Today, a look at New Brunswick’s ‘third’ party, the NDP.

They matter

Even the governing, hair-splitting Tories take the NDP seriously and didn’t try to get them omitted from the televised election debate on the grounds they’ve never had much success.

It looks like a huge long shot, but it’s not out of the question the NDP could win the election or Official Opposition. If they can win in Nova Scotia, Ontario and become Official Opposition in Ottawa, they can win here too.

NDP leader Dominic Cardy represents the best chance the party has ever had here. Whether it translates to votes, and how many, we’ll see. Yet I think it’d be a mistake for either Tories or Liberals to under-estimate the NDP.

Advantages?

If the two traditional parties continue to largely ignore our most crucial problem, combined with an increasingly jaded electorate, they could themselves become one of the NDP’s advantages.

Voters want something new and fresh and Mr. Cardy fits the bill better than any other leader. Brian Gallant is new, but hardly fresh with the same old politics and policies.

Not even much-admired Elizabeth Weir moved the NDP ahead electorally. Mr. Cardy is our first-ever NDP leader to create a genuine ‘buzz’ among the public.

He’s possibly the best speaker of the lot.

He’s dropped the usual facile NDP rhetoric and focused on practical issues and common sense solutions. That’s irritated some of the party’s old guard, but it’s working. Polls, while still showing low support, are among the highest the party’s seen in New Brunswick. Nor has he dropped the party’s basic social conscience. As he’s said, if you really want change, you must first get elected – ideals are fine; realism essential.

Fiscal reality

Mr. Cardy is the only leader to bluntly state an obvious truth: we must first address our woefully bad fiscal situation before anything else. He notes that if we don’t, little else will be possible. It’s common sense and true. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, delusional or both.

Policies

Less certain is whether NDP policies are capable of addressing the fiscal crisis. Mr. Cardy is sending out mixed signals. He say we must address it but has left the ‘how’ vague. At this writing he hasn’t released the party’s full platform, so that may change.

He was only one of two leaders who told Brunswick News that if some schools no longer make economic sense, it’s only logical they be closed; that’s positive recognition that structural problems are costly. But on neither this nor the question of having too many hospitals did Mr. Cardy make a firm commitment to such necessary change. He hedged.

His promise to trim the cabinet to 10 ministers is a great start, but will he carry through to downsize the entire bloated bureaucracy and government? It’s unclear.

More worrisome to me is Mr. Cardy’s plan to reduce taxes for small businesses. I’d suggest it’s already a failed policy and with our enormous debt, we need more revenue, not less. A percentage point rise in the HST and other taxes would be wiser. And perhaps it’s time to put toll booths at all the highway entry points to the province, ensuring fairness within it. The deal to get rid of a badly structured and unfair toll highway deal has been hugely costly. Let’s stem the future losses fairly.

Mr. Cardy promises to put considerable liquor revenues toward paying down debt, but first he’ll need to eliminate deficits. Privatizing sales would increase liquor revenues. Only then would using some to pay down debt make sense.

Dubious

Perhaps most dubious is Mr. Cardy’s promise to restore the old terms of the public service pension plans. He insists this will only cost a few million dollars a year. I don’t know how that’s calculated but it’s way out of whack with what the government says forced it to act, as well as with the experience in provinces across the nation. The plans are proving ruinously expensive without reasonable reform.

That’s not something New Brunswick can afford. If Mr. Cardy has found a magic solution, he needs to share it and let independent experts confirm it’s realistic.

To date, Mr. Cardy and the NDP are at least realistic in knowing they must deal with our fiscal situation first and they know it’ll take hard decisions. That’s better than the delusions of the other parties, especially the Liberals and Tories. But like the Liberals and Tories, the NDP are still far from having a coherent, effective plan to avoid insolvency.

The last word

Here’s Ralph Nader:

“I once said to my father, when I was a boy, ‘Dad we need a third political party.’ He said to me, ‘I’ll settle for a second’.”

News Story – Cardy delivers scathing attack of Liberal spending plan

The following appeared on the Telegraph Journal website on August 27, 2014:

ADAM HURAS      Legislature Bureau

FREDERICTON – New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy says the Liberal pitch to spend $900-million on infrastructure is unacceptable, irresponsible, and a promise this province can’t afford.

Cardy has delivered a scathing attack on Liberal Leader Brian Gallant’s call to open up the province’s cheque book to spend $150 million in each of the next six years on roads and other infrastructure – labelling it little more than a plan to set up New Brunswickers to collect unemployment insurance.

The New Democrat leader’s words follow those of Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward who quipped on Tuesday night that the Liberal plan was both “crazy and scary” – and that Shawn Graham wouldn’t even endorse the jobs math behind the spending.

The Liberal plan is in efforts to create and sustain more than 1,700 jobs a year.

At a first campaign stop in the Fredericton area on Wednesday, Cardy compared the new spending to the infamous Atcon bailouts of the last Liberal government – stating the job payout potentially appears even worse.

“When the last Liberal government spent $70 million to bail out Atcon to protect a few fewer jobs, that didn’t work,” Cardy said. “Today what we see is Mr. Gallant promising to spend 12 times that much money to create 1,700 jobs.

“It doesn’t make any sense. The province cannot afford this.”

Cardy added: “He’s talking about taking over $1,000 from every single New Brunswicker, man, woman, and child, money that we do not have, money that is going on a credit card to create part-time work that will help people get on unemployment insurance.”

The New Democrat leader said the plan essentially sets New Brunswickers up to collect unemployment insurance.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the vision for our province would be so poor, so feeble, that the best that we can hope for from our governments is subsidies for people so they can take part-time work for a few years so they can get on EI,” Cardy said.

“It’s $900-million that we don’t have to be spent on our provinces roads.

“Mr. Gallant’s suggestion this week is one of the most irresponsible things I’ve seen in my time politics.”

Cardy then widened his attack, lumping in the Tory election promise to help top up seasonal workers through a four-year pilot project.

Under that program, seasonal workers in the fisheries industry would see their wages topped up by about $2.00 an hour for up to 14 weeks per year.

“This election, New Brunswickers have a clear choice between a Conservative party and a Liberal party dedicated to using money we don’t have to make it easier for you to get on EI and an NDP that’s talking about a rich, fair, and green province with specific costed promises,” Cardy said. “You can hold us to our word; we’re showing you where the money is coming from.

“Don’t buy the snake oil these guys are selling anymore. We can’t afford it as a province.”

Alward’s attacks on Gallant’s spending plan have been similar.

At his own nomination convention in Woodstock on Tuesday night, Alward questioned Gallant’s plans.

“What other taxes will he raise to pay for his reckless spending announcements?” Alward said. “Yesterday it was to spend $900 million in borrowed funds to create 1,700 short-term jobs. My opponent wants to spend $88,000 per job, per year. That’s both crazy and scary at the same time.

“Even Shawn Graham won’t endorse his math.”

The Liberal $900-million infrastructure plan is a component of the $300 million a year they announced last week to support job creation in the province.

“We have a comprehensive plan to create jobs in the near term, medium term and long term. One of the best ways to do this is through stimulus in the short term, like making strategic investments in our roads and bridges,” Gallant said in making the announcement.

 

NDP would remove politics from road decisions

FREDERICTON – NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says the new NDP would end political interference in deciding which roads are built and repaired. Cardy made the announcement by the Hanwell Road in Fredericton Wednesday.

“If we want the best road system in the country, we need to let the experts develop a long term road strategy,” Cardy said. “People are tired of Liberal and Conservative politicians dealing out road construction contracts. New Brunswick deserves better than this worn-out political game.”

Cardy said improving New Brunswick’s road system is too important to be left to political gamesmanship.

“If we want to attract new business and support our current businesses, we need to offer the highest quality infrastructure. That can only be achieved by engineers setting priorities based on road conditions and projected use, not by MLA’s plotting what contracts for which community will get them re-elected,” Cardy said.

“The Conservatives raised the ministerial quota on road construction to 40 percent. These quotas allow ministers to decide which roads get paved which explains why there are so many beautifully paved roads to former minister’s fishing cabins,” Cardy said. “A new NDP government would eliminate ministerial influence altogether.”

The new NDP has called for ending MLA influence in the hiring and firing of government employees and the allocation of government contracts.

“It’s time to clean up government and limit the influence of MLAs. The new NDP is committed to delivering the change New Brunswick needs because New Brunswick deserves better,” Cardy said.

NDP Would Crack Down on Payday Lenders

MONCTON – New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said an NDP government would introduce legislation to protect New Brunswickers from the predatory practices of payday lenders. Cardy made the announcement at a campaign stop in Moncton Tuesday morning.

It has been industry practice to offer short term loan packages that exceed the usury interest rate of 60 percent set out in the Criminal Code of Canada. A previous investigation in Onatrio found fees and interest charged on a two-week loan – when combined and calculated as an annualized percentage rate – ranged from 390 to 891 per cent.

“These companies target the most financially vulnerable,” Cardy said. “This is unfair, this is illegal and the new NDP will put a stop to it.”

Cardy said the new NDP would follow the lead of Ontario which introduced similar legislation earlier this year. The proposed legislation would put a ceiling on the amount of interest payday loan companies can charge New Brunswick customers.

The proposed law would also establish an inspection and enforcement regime as well as ban controversial lending practices such as issuing concurrent and back-to-back loans.

“The new NDP will offer New Brunswick consumers real protection and these companies are going to have to obey the law,” Cardy said.

More Reckless Ideas from the Tax and Spend Liberals

FREDERICTON – NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is criticizing the Liberal spending announcement of $900 million for being misguided and a blatant attempt to buy votes in this campaign.

“The Liberals have shown once again that they are more interested in playing politics with New Brunswick’s economy,” Cardy said. “Instead of the old style road politics of election time, such as the twinning of Route 11, a new NDP government would actually invest in training workers so that they have the necessary skills to succeed in the private sector.”

Cardy was also critical of the Tories announcement that they would subsidize specific industries in the province with a wage top-up.

“This is not the 1970s,” Cardy said. “New Brunswick deserves better than this outdated and misguided notion that the government needs to buy jobs with roads and subsidies to specific industries. New Brunswick deserves better than the tax and spend Liberals and same old Tories.”

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