Commentary – Jeff Carr

Premier Gallant has once again demonstrated poor judgement.  Just when New Brunswickers thought things couldn’t get any worse, when Seniors and low income earners have to choose between groceries, medication or an increasing power bill, Premier Gallant decides to hire a high paid political organizer paid by the tax payer.  The recent hiring of former Liberal cabinet minister Jack Keir as “Director of Issues Management” for the Saint John Region is nothing more than political campaign maneuvering.  Most political parties have them, however their salaries are paid by the political party not by the tax payer.  A political operative with a salary in excess of 100 grand, plus expenses (which may include a vehicle), in my recollection, has never been done before, is questionable at best and raises many red flags.

While the Premier boasts about taking a pay cut he continues to waste your hard earned tax dollars on political appointments with salaries more than double of what the average New Brunswicker is taking home. Now by no means am I saying that Saint John doesn’t deserve a little boost, after all, I spent many a summer day as a young boy swinging at the playground down by the port on the west side near the Market Place ball diamonds – Saint John is a gem, I want to see it do well.

Ministers in government already have numerous political staff, including Executive, Special, Departmental, and even Regional Assistants.. If Regional political staff and two Saint John region cabinet ministers are already on the payroll, why now a regional issues management director? If the Premier and his cast were doing a fine job, there wouldn’t be a need for issues management.  Is he getting the message that government is doing a poor job in the South? Is Minister Doherty at risk of losing his seat? It appears the Premier thinks so. At a time when we, the public, are paying more tax on everything (including at least 10 new tax increases since this government has taken power) and a new carbon tax coming, the Premier has the audacity to add another highly paid political friend to the government payroll.  We just can’t afford this old-style political muckraking.

Perhaps this decision wasn’t the Premier’s alone.  Mr Keir was a member of the Atcon Cabinet and Minster of Business New Brunswick at the time $70 Million was given away against the advice of the experts in the departments. Perhaps those at the trough are the ones responsible for the hiring, to “help a friend in need”. Maybe Boudreau or Arsenault or any other of the Acton 6 have control over these decisions now. At the time of the Atcon handout, Jack Keir’s own words were, “we want to make sure that we do the due diligence on this, that the business case works”.  Hello, your definition of due diligence is different than that of a large majority of New Brunswickers.  Sadly, he’s now in charge of Issues Management?

And how could we forget Mr Keirs biggest claim to fame, the failed sale of NB Power, an agreement written on the back of a napkin. He was the Minister responsible for that too.  It lost him, Shawn Graham, other liberal MLAs their jobs, not to mention all the good members that left the party in disgust. In my short 45 years, I’ve never seen as much public outcry and protest that lasted as long as it did.  It was one of the worst poorly managed issues in our lifetime.  He couldn’t see the writing on the wall, wouldn’t listen and didn’t consult. Now the Premier has him in charge of Issues Management? I say we can’t afford to take that chance.

To my final point, if this campaign position will be completed to its fullest, the Capital Region’s only representation at the Cabinet table, Deputy Premier Stephen Horsman, must be on full alert. Now, more than ever, he must pay very close attention and defend the needs of those in the Capital Region, I can guarantee that the Official Opposition will be here to remind him of that.