20 February 2017
Ice storm review must be public, external, independent
Fredericton-PC Opposition leader Blaine Higgs supports a new process for external, independent public reviews of government responses to all significant weather events, starting with January’s ice storm.
A growing number of New Brunswickers, including residents affected by the storm, have expressed a lack of faith in the internal review Premier Brian Gallant has proposed and refused to alter, despite repeated requests from the Official Opposition. The Premier’s model gives him full control over any review.
Higgs has offered the Premier opposition support for an all-party external review but says an independent review process like the one in Quebec following the 1998 ice storm has his backing. The Opposition leader said it is important for the public to believe any review will be full, open and honest and will not fall under the improper influence of government or politics.
“I believe the impacted residents and the Opposition have the same concern when it comes to a review led by the Executive Council which answers to the Premier. It’s not an independent office, so it cannot be an independent review.”
There has already been an allegation that the Gallant government used their influence over the Executive Council to interfere in a review. The Auditor General’s initial report into the ATCON affair, released in March of 2015 and backed by expert legal opinion, suggested Minister Victor Boudreau did not have authority to sign over N.B. creditor status to the Bank of Nova Scotia. The Executive Council rejected her finding.
“I asked the Premier in question period what would have been different if the Executive Council had not disagreed with our Auditor General. He did not answer. In that case the Executive Council found itself reviewing an incident that had cost New Brunswickers a lot of money. That was bad enough. In the case of the ice storm we are talking about a review that could cost New Brunswickers their lives if the right decisions are not taken. Further, recommendations should be clearly made through actionable items to assure that we improve our capabilities in the future.”
The Opposition leader said it is unfortunate that the government has adjourned the legislature for a month, meaning Premier Gallant will avoid question period where he could be pressured further to order an independent, external public review.
Media : Bob Fowlie 506-453-4486