The Telegraph Journal has written an excellent editorial imploring the newly elected Liberal government of New Brunswick to keep its campaign promises. The TJ views the keeping of campaign promises as a test of a new government's integrity and a factor in whether a new government earns the trust of the people - and a renewed mandate. During the campaign then Opposition Leader Shawn Graham made a very specific promise. He stated clearly that if elected the Liberal government would train 100 TA's and Resource Teachers per year for the next four years at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training course. These trained personnel are badly needed to assist in the challenges of educating approximately 1000 students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in New Brunswick schools. Many of these students present with serious behavioral, communication and learning challenges. The UNB-CEL course is nationally recognized and is approved by the Autism Society New Brunswick. The campaign training commitment made by Mr. Graham was made with input from ASNB. While the Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has made generic statements about assisting students with disabilities he has yet to confirm the Liberals express written autism training commitment.
Parents of autistic children in New Brunswick have seen government delay and dissembling tactics in the past. In the past such tactics have hurt our children, and compromised their development and our confidence in the integrity of the politicians and civil servants to whom we entrust our children's welfare and development. Hopefully Minister Lamrock or Premier Graham will soon clearly confirm the Liberal government's intent to honor its autism training pledge. Autistic students need these trained personnel. Such training could not begin before April 2007 but preparations are necessary now. Now is the time to confirm the commitment and start preparations for implementing the promised training.
Keep those promises
Political parties campaigning after years in opposition tend to follow a similar pattern. They come on strong during the campaign, offering up a range of promises that go further than what the party in government was prepared to do. Then, once they've been elected, they audit the province's finances, announce there isn't as much money available for new spending as they thought, and blame the previous government for their decision not to follow through on key election promises.
Surely this is one of the most pathetic spectacles in federal or provincial politics - the moment when the incoming government opens the door of the treasury and says, disingeniously, "Oh-oh! There isn't much money here!" It always sounds lame, because it is.
New governments are necessarily lying. There isn't a major party in Canada, federally or provincially, that has not fudged its financial results at one time or another when in government, a fact that is usually discovered after the party in question has left office. And budgets, after all, are just projections. Circumstances change, and with them, the cost of supplying public services. Fuel prices go up. The Canadian dollar rises or falls. What's left in the bank account can be radically different than what was projected months before, without any fudging whatsoever.
What infuriates the taxpaying, voting public is not the way the volume in the public purse can change between governments, but the ease with which new governments excuse themselves from carrying out their election commitments. The practice has become so common, it is predictable - and its predictability feeds public cynicism in the political process.
The only way to beat that cynicism is for a political party to be driven by performance and governed by integrity. That means keeping one's political promises, even if the cost is higher, or the balance in the public treasury lower, than expected.
New Brunswick voters gave the provincial Liberal Party a slim majority in September's election. If Premier Shawn Graham and Finance Minister Victor Boudreau want to inspire the public confidence required to win a more secure majority, they must live up to their election promises.
In recent weeks, senior Liberals have been conspicuous in cautioning New Brunswickers to lower their expectations. They might as well walk around wearing signs that read, "In four years, kick me!"
Wake up, gentlemen. Look at last week's headlines: "Liberals prepared to break promises"; "Government still treating seasonal workers like party favours." These are two of the biggest clichés in provincial politics.
It doesn't matter who is in power, the Liberals or the Conservatives. An incoming premier should be ashamed to renege on political commitments or accept pork-barrel, partisan hiring practices in government, even at the level of casual employment.
New Brunswickers expected better of Shawn Graham, and many still believe he can do better. We certainly do.
Come on, Mr. Premier. Shuck those clichés and prove it's possible to succeed by putting integrity first. That, above all else, is what New Brunswickers voted for."