Tag Archives: Premier Brian Gallant

Polling the pollsters


The urgent news of the day for New Brunswick is in. It’s now time to close the shutters, batten down the hatches, head to bed with a nice cup of steamed hemlock. For, the pollsters have spoken.

Those who moil for meaning in the nether reaches of the online world – the Internet, blogosphere, social media – have tendered their latest profile of public opinion about Canada’s most youthful premier.

Now we know, and now we may sleep, comfortable in the knowledge that half of this province’s grown-ups think Brian Gallant is just swell; the other half isn’t so sure.

Says Corporate Research Associates of Halifax: “The New Brunswick Liberal Party continues to be preferred, with just under one-half of New Brunswick decided voters supporting (45 per cent, down from 55 per cent in November 2015).

“Meanwhile, one-quarter back the PC Party of New Brunswick (27 per cent, compared with 25 per cent), while two in ten residents support the New Democratic Party (18 per cent, up from 12 per cent). Green Party support is stable (eight per cent, compared with seven per cent), while two percent of voters back the People’s Alliance (compared with one per cent).

“The number of residents who are undecided rests at 29 per cent (compared with 25 per cent), while seven per cent refuse to state a preference (compared with nine per cent), and five per cent support none of the parties or do not plan to vote (compared with three per cent).”

Of course, I’m reasonably certain that, should I turn the tables on the polling industry, itself, public responses would track along predictable lines.

Question: How much do you trust polling data?

Answer: About as much as I trust politicians.

Question: How much do you like being bugged by pollsters while eating supper or beating a deadline?

Answer: About as much as I like answering the door on a sweet, sultry Sunday afternoon.

According to writer Nate Cohen in the New York Times in January, “The polling industry has been hit hard by high-profile misfires in recent years. Exactly why the polls err often remains a mystery. Potential sources for error abound: The initial samples could be biased, the likely-voter models may not reflect the actual electorate, or voters could make last-minute decisions that make even an accurate poll wrong on Election Day.”

Mr. Cohen also references a Pew Research report that declares: “Polls have failed to accurately predict winning candidates in several recent elections, including the 2015 race for governor in Kentucky, several 2014 U.S. races for Senate and governor, the 2015 British general election, the 2015 Scottish referendum on independence, and the 2015 referendum in Greece on acceptance of the European Union’s terms for a bailout. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, many surveys underestimated the share of the vote that Barack Obama would receive. Errors in modeling the likely electorate are suspected of contributing to many of these polling failures.”

Or could the problem simply be the intellectual triangle pollsters, politicians and the press have managed to forge over the past few decades? After all, these are the only “audiences” who seem to benefit from periodic public opinion surveys.

We, the great polled, couldn’t care less; except, of course, enough of us are more than willing to offer an opinion when gently pressed to do so.

Is Brian Gallant the greatest thing since sliced bread? Sure. Nope. Doesn’t matter. You’ve answered the question, done your civic duty. Now go to bed as images of real and important matters fail to dance in your heads.

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Speak up about New Brunswick, whomever you are


How delicious is the irony, how coarse and familiar are the political moats and keeps this government – indeed, every provincial regime since New Brunswick joined confederation some 148 years ago – dig and erect to protect their silos of interest.

Just as the Liberal regime of Brian Gallant invites citizens of this jurisdiction to suggest ways and means for improving the business and order of elective representation here, the premier, himself, chooses to take a broad swipe at two men who have done nothing but accept his request.

Are not provincial Ombudsman Charles Murray and Child and Youth Advocate Norman Bosse also citizens? And, in the course of their duties as officers of the Legislative Assembly, are they not, perhaps, better qualified than most to offer sound and cogent advice to the body politic?

What, indeed, disqualifies their opinions – apart from the fact that, as agents of civil administration, their utterances can, and do, embarrass the temporary overlords of the common weal?

A week ago, in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, Messrs. Murray and Bosse issued a stern rebuke of the current and common practice of staying any and all investigations into potential conflicts of interest by elected members of the Assembly who have, for whichever reasons, ceased to sit as functioning MLAs.

In their joint commentary, the two officials point out that “when allegations of misconduct are made against our elected representatives, all New Brunswickers have an interest in the result. If an MLA has been unfairly accused, that Member deserves to be exonerated by a completed process, rather than have their reputation permanently marked by the accusation. Where the Member has erred, they deserve the censure appropriate to their misconduct and all Members can learn from the guidance the investigation provides.”

Moreover, they state, “Requiring investigations to end when a Member resigns or is defeated gives an incentive for trivial complaints and encourages delay and non-co-operation on the part of the investigated – a problem Conflict of Interest Commissioners past and present have noted in their reports.”

In fact, a simple legislative solution exists, to wit:

“A similar loophole for lawyers was closed in the statute governing the province’s Law Society decades ago with very little debate. If we allowed Doctors to end investigations about their conduct by resigning (we don’t), the Legislative Assembly could be expected to react with outrage. Why the double standard?”

Why, indeed?

But rather than embracing this worthy advice, Mr. Gallant decided to shoot from his hip, declaring, in effect, that none of this was Messrs. Murray’s and Bosse’s business. Responding to questions, the premier declared last week that he was “a bit surprised to see the ombudsman and the child and youth advocate speak about this.”

He continued: “I’m not 100 per cent sure exactly why they felt it was their place to make (a) comment. This is the conflict of interest commissioner’s role and we will certainly speak to him to see how we can improve the rules. . .I’m not sure how the child and youth advocate has a role to play when it comes to conflict of interest with politicians.”

Again, though, doesn’t everyone in this province have “a role to play when it comes to conflict of interest with politicians”?

Or should we all just shut up whenever an elected representative, accused of wrongdoing and under investigation, chooses to avoid a public roasting by resigning his post or refusing to re-offer?

More to the point, perhaps, is this: What is the role of this province’s legislative watchdogs, if not to point out when New Brunswick’s various emperors have somehow forgotten to wear their clothes?

Suggesting that a duly appointed ombudsman and child and youth advocate should stick to their knitting betrays a fundamental misapprehension of how a healthy democracy works.

In our system, justice, law and morality should never operate behind moats and keeps and silos, guarded by politicians and their intellectually corpulent operatives. 

All of this smacks of politics-as-usual, back-room smarminess, something that New Brunswick can no longer tolerate (if it ever could).

Bravo, watchdogs!

Keep biting the hands that swipe you.

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