Al Hogan up to his old tricks

Leave it to Al Hogan over at the Times & Transcript to provide us with a nuanced and thoughtful account of the Tanker Malley defection. Today he runs a front page story about Tories being asked to sit as independents in which he copies, verbatum, hastily slapped together content from the Premier’s Office about all the gravy the government has heaped on Miramichi since 1999. No context, no nuance, just an almost word for word reprinting of the government defence of its handling of Miramichi. Here’s a clip:

The Regional Development Corp. has infused roughly $18.2 million since 1999. The province has made commitments totalling $7.1 million from the Miramichi economic development fund. The province is also splitting the costs of a new $8-million wastewater treatment facility for the south side of Miramichi and $1.3 million is earmarked for a water and wastewater facility.

Malley’s comments notwithstanding, Miramichi-Bay du Vin received $498,116 in special project funding, the second most in the four local ridings. Since 1999, Malley’s riding received $20,000 from the Development Assistance Program, $268,816 from the Family and Youth Capital Assistance Program, $188,100 in Special Projects and $21,200 from the Community Events Program.

Now the reason why we know that Al and his buddy Daniel McHardie cut and paste verbatum the content that was faxed/emailed to the T&T from the Premier’s Office is that no one else would throw up a $21,200 expenditure unless they were trying to scrape up every possible shred of evidence provided that poor community. Imagine, we [the government] have spent over $30 billion since coming to office and we are proud to report that we gave $21,200 for a community event. That’s 0.0001% of the provincial spending during that time. Thanks a bunch.

Then Al in the ‘We Say’ segment, again shows that this is a complex, two-sided affair.

We Say: No premier can responsibly govern giving in to “do this or else” threats

Mr. Malley was on the government side and unhappy, apparently, because he was bypassed for a cabinet post.

Uh, there is not one shred of evidence for this. Only Lord’s statement with no proof.

If Premier Lord is unconcerned and uncaring about the plight in the Miramichi, why did he travelled all the way to Finland to personally plead the province’s case with the owners of the UPM mill?

The proof is in the pudding, fellas. Not in a trip to Finland to get front page coverage by the T&T.

Premier Lord had to reject Mr. Malley’s demands. And if these demands made with the threat of leaving the party can be proven, then they should be turned over to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner or even the RCMP for investigation of influence peddling or extortion. The whole thing shows why Mr. Malley should not be in the cabinet.

Well, Al, based on your coverage, the demands have already been proven.

Moreover, with a new Tory plan and budget due next month, Liberal leader Shawn Graham will need to think very carefully before bringing down the government. Just because they “can” doesn’t necessarily make it good political sense. If the premier in fact reduces taxes (as promised) and increases spending on the key “five in five” areas, the Liberals would bring down the government at their own peril.

Finally, Al thanks for getting to your real point, you are scared stiff that your buddy, the guy you have propped up with hundreds of positive stories and We Says will lose and lose big. What would that say about the influence of the T&T if Lord was defeated despite all your best efforts?

Eventually New Brunswickers are going to figure out that marginally decreasing tax rates is no substitute for vision. Saying they will increase spending on the ‘key “five in five” areas is a ridiculous assertion during an election year. Spending has increased 36% since 1999 a rate almost as high as Alberta – even though NB’s population is declining while Albert has added 14.5% to its population.

Maybe Al Hogan and Bernard Lord one day will take Politics 101 – together. Maybe they will realize that the best politicians zoom in on the key challenge of the day – like Robichaud and equal opportunity. That challenge in New Brunswick is the economy. And the Premier and party that starts to take this seriously will win my vote and I think the confidence of New Brunswickers.

One last point on Tanker and the Miramichi. I don’t have an easy answer there. The Miramichi is at a tipping point. It could go forward, become a regional trade area (witness the new Wal-Mart and the rumours about East Side Marios going there) and become a strong secondary economy in New Brunswick. Or it could fall backwards. If that mill closes in 2007, and 1,200 high paying jobs leave that region, the community may never recover.

Without being trite, leadership over there on that complex issue is not making one trip to Finland. Increasing power rates, the rising currency and the supply of wood are making that mill (like many others) non-competitive. If the government had started hedging for this in the 1990s and built up a cluster of animation and IT firms around the very good community college there, this may not have been such a big issue. But they didn’t and it is.