In a world strongly divided along party lines, it seems that one group is capable of uniting our leaders: old blue-collared retirees, specifically ones who used to work in a paper mill in Edmunston, New Brunswick.
Next Tuesday, members of the New Brunswick legislature will have a special one-day session to approve several amendments to the Pension Benefits Act that will allow the retired Fraser Paper plant workers to receive their rightful increase in pension money.
New Brunswick’s Conservative government and the Liberal opposition have both spoken out in support of this one day session, and say that they are working in cooperation with each other to make sure the retirees of Fraser Paper are adequately taken care of. It’s good on them to take time away from BBQs and fishing to make some overtime pay.
This decision to return to the legislature is no doubt a nice gesture that these old paper-mill farts will surely appreciate (a bit more than 1200 people will benefit from this change) but do the pros actually outweigh the cons here?
Being an MLA is a pretty cushy job, but think about the MLAs who have to come home from a Thai brothel or their offshore bank in the Cayman Islands to go to work for one day. There wasn’t a death in the family. They don’t have to bail their kid out of prison. They have to come home from vacation to say yes in a vote on an issue that most of them probably couldn’t care less about.
Also, these MLAs aren’t paying for their flights to Fredericton themselves. If a NB politician is coming home from a hike in the South American wilderness for a one day session in the legislature, he’s billing the taxpayers. All of the MLAs are billing the taxpayers. That’s a lot of money for one vote.
Given this cost, how about we let the MLAs cast their votes online? Not all the time, just for weird summertime situations like this one. If online voting was permitted year-round, the only thing present in the legislature would be the speaker of the house and an airborne tumbleweed. Obviously MLAs need to show up in person, essentially all the time.
Despite the issues with New Brunswick’s decision to return to the legislature for one special day, it will help some retired workers who probably do really need that money. Whether or not the legislature will be allowed to wear bro-tanks and jean shorts in session is yet to be announced.