Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Innovation = Rocket Fuel for New Brunswick's Troubled Economy

New Brunswick's top dog expects innovation to play a key role in getting the province's economy back on track.

When he presented his State of the Province address on Thursday, January 26th at the Fredericton Convention Centre, Premier David Alward said that innovation will serve as a "rocket fuel" for the province's uncertain economy.

Alward said his administration can assist by fostering the right business climate, educating New Brunswick's youth and training workers.

But he admitted to a Fredericton audience that development will not come at the expense of the environment.

The province of New Brunswick is running a spending deficit for the fourth year in a row, and its net debt is expected to reach $10 billion.

Alward expects that a new panel on accountability and responsible government will be announced sometime next week. 

Bradley Greene - Slammers Points Leader

The Woodstock Slammers have ten 20-year-old players on their roster. One of them leads the squad in points.

Bradley Greene can boast 56 points, the highest point total on one of the nation's top-ranked junior A squads.

Bradley Greene

A native of Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Greene achieved his 56th point of the season on Sunday, January 29th, against the Metro Marauders. The Slammers centre scored at 7:23 in period three against the Marauders.

The goal scored by Greene in Sunday's competition is his 31st goal of the 2011-2012 campaign. As a result, he is the top goal scorer in the Maritime Junior Hockey League. Aside from the 31 goals Greene can include on his resume, he has an additional 25 assists, bringing the ultimate total up to 56 points.

Other members of Woodstock's roster who are among the team's point leaders are Connor Tresham with 55 total points, Tim Campbell with 53 points, and Nick Huard, who can boast 52 total points.

Connor Tresham

Tim Campbell

Nick Huard

MHL Standings

The Woodstock Slammers have dominated the top spot in the Meek Division ranks throughout the season, but teams in the Bent Division are still fighting hard to clinch that much-coveted top spot in their division. Five playoff spots in the Bent category have been clinched. The Bridgewater-based CIBC Wood Gundy Lumberjacks are the sole squad in the Bent Division to be eliminated from the playoffs already. 

The Campbellton Tigers are battling the Miramichi Timberwolves for fourth place in the Meek category. 

The fourth and fifth place squads in the Bent division will have to battle in a best-of-three series to determine which squad will face the top team in the division.

The current MHL standings are as follows: 

Roger Meek Division:

1. Woodstock Slammers - 75 total points 
2. Summerside Western Capitals - 45 total points 
3. Dieppe Commandos - 40 total points 
4. Campbellton Tigers - 28 total points 
5. Miramichi Timberwolves - 25 total points 

Maurice Bent Division:

1. Amherst Ramblers - 56 total points 
2. Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners - 55 total points 
3. Metro Marauders - 53 total points 
4. Truro Bearcats - 51 total points 
5. Weeks Crushers - 51 total points 
6. CIBC Wood Gundy Lumberjacks - 29 total points 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Next Slammers home game: Wednesday, February 1st vs. Campbellton Tigers (Military Night)

The Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) will be back in action on Wednesday night, opening the month of February with a home game against the Campbellton Tigers.

The game is scheduled for 7:30 pm at the Carleton Civic Centre in Woodstock.

The Slammers will also take an opportunity on this February 1st competition to salute Canada's armed forces. "General" Aaron Bouma, Woodstock's military expert, will assist in escorting the troops in attendance to centre ice for a ceremonial puck drop.
Aaron Bouma, sporting the camouflage Slammers shirt, is seen here at the ceremonial face off at the last Slammers military appreciation night on November 25, 2011. Bouma will be helping to escort the VIPs in attendance to centre ice on Wednesday night for a ceremonial face off.
Slammers assistant captain Ben Miller seen here in the Slammers' home game against the Campbellton Tigers on January 11th. Miller and the Woodstock Slammers will be back in action Wednesday night to face the Tigers once again.

Slammers spank Marauders

Slammers assistant captain Ben Miller led the Slammers with two goals and two assists in the competition against the Metro Marauders on Sunday, January 29th. Miller's points played a key role in Woodstock's 7-1 dump of the Marauders.

The Woodstock Slammers dumped the Metro Marauders on home ice in MHL action on Sunday, January 29th.

Slammers assistant captain Ben Miller led the Shiretown side with two goals and two assists. Brett MacLean and Jake Logan each had three assists.

After a scoreless first period, Evan Carmody scored four minutes into the second period to give the Slammers a 1-0 lead. Connor Tresham brought the lead up to two goals for the home side with a goal netted at 6:17.

In period three, Nick Huard got the Slammers ahead with yet another goal at 2:48. Woodstock's lead became 4-0 when Bradley Greene scored at 7:23. Zach Shannon also put the rubber between the posts at 10:48.

An illusion that the Marauders would be kept off the scoreboard was proved wrong when Marauders defenseman Rob McEwan scored at 11:29. This brought the score to 5-1.

The Slammers scored twice more. Both goals were netted by Ben Miller at 14:05 and 17:17.

Matt Murphy between the pipes while Philip Fife is all smiles. (Murphy must have made a good save!)

Evan Carmody (careful on the flex!)

 Brandon Leonardo

 Mackenzie Brown

  Netminder Matt Murphy stopped 25 out of 26 shots faced for the win

 Evan Carmody and Tim Rose

 Philip Fife (#18)

 Tim Campbell

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grooming the snowmobile trail in Upper Woodstock

The groomer passed over the snowmobile trail in Upper Woodstock this morning.

A true sign of winter! Looks as if Jack Frost is here to stay for a while yet! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slammers defeat Yarmouth in 5-1 victory

The Woodstock Slammers defeated the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners in a 5-1 victory on home ice on Friday, January 27th.

Connor Tresham led the Slammers with two goals, while Tim Campbell and Ben Miller each had one goal and one assist.

The scoring was opened at 5:51 by Yarmouth forward Jared Hicks. Yarmouth's one goal barely lasted three minutes, as Slammers assistant captain Ben Miller netted a goal at 8:21.

Connor Tresham scored a goal on the power play at 17:04.

The crowd of over 600 was treated by Philip Fife and former Slammer and Woodstock native Matt Tomah with this fight which took place nearly 10 minutes into the game. Top photo: Linesman Adam Springer can be seen behind Fife coming to break the fight up. Bottom Photo: Linesmen Gerald Smith and Adam Springer work to separate Fife and Tomah.

Woodstock native and former Slammer Matt Tomah was involved in a fight at 9:41 in the first period. Both received ten-minute misconducts as a result of the incident. Jake Logan, who was back in the Slammers lineup on Friday night after serving an eight-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl against Summerside on December 16th, received a two-minute minor penalty for boarding at the same time. 

Fife was ejected from the contest at 11:23 in period two as a result of a check from behind. 

Slammers assistant captain Tim Campbell scored the sole second-period goal on a power play at 6:00. 

Tim Campbell (#15) chatting with Nick Huard (#13)

Connor Tresham scored his second goal of the night at 9:59 in the third period. Woodstock's game winner was netted by Evan Carmody at 16:25. 

Matt Murphy of the Slammers refused 30 out of 31 shots faced for the win, while Yarmouth goalkeeper Chase Gaudet saved 30 of 35 shots faced. 

The Slammers will host the Metro Marauders on home ice on Sunday, January 29th, at 3:30 pm. 

Andrew Langan

Nick Huard 

 Connor Tresham 

 Slammers from left: Sam Caldwell (one of the Slammers' recent acquisitions), Evan Carmody and Bradley Greene.

 Matt Murphy

 Close call for the Mariners! Look closely and you will see that the puck was mere inches from the goal line.

 Mackenzie Brown

 Nick Huard of Woodstock taking a check from Yarmouth's Derek Larade.

 From left: Jake Logan, Nick Huard and Ben Miller

 Slammers bench at the end of the second period

 Leaving after the second period

 Matt Murphy and Andrew Schriver

Evan Carmody

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The blogger speaks about New Brunswick's fiscal disaster

It is safe to say that by now, New Brunswickers are well aware of the seemingly unlimited issues our province is facing.

The provincial government's spending deficit is approximately $545 million, and the net debt is nearing $10 billion. New Brunswick is also facing serious demographic issues due to an aging population (New Brunswick has one of the oldest populations in Canada). A large number of the province's youth are also heading for Canada's west in search of better employment opportunities.

On top of all that, the province is facing just as many issues as it would be if the books were in perfect shape. But there is no doubt that New Brunswick is in a state of crisis. The province has never been in a state such as this before, so this should serve as a wake-up call for the government. It is also a turning point in the province's history.

When the fiscal disaster comes up in conversation, many try to point the finger at one former premier and their mistakes. Many blame the Liberal administration of Shawn Graham, who served as premier from 2006 to 2010.

No doubt about it, Shawn Graham and his comrades dug a huge hole for the province, which they only passed on to Conservative leader David Alward upon being ousted from office in September 2010.

Upon being elected in 2006, Shawn Graham set out with good intentions--to make New Brunswick self-sufficient within two to three decades. However, he did the exact opposite. When he left office, 40 per cent of New Brunswick's budget consisted of transfers from the federal government.

The sole premier in New Brunswick's history to last only one term in office will long be remembered for changing his mind on nearly every major decision he was faced with. Those include, but are not limited to, changes in early French immersion, education cutbacks which would lead to layoffs of all school library staff, educational assistants and intervention workers, and a failed attempt to sell NB Power to Quebec.

This should be enough basis to prove that Shawn Graham played a large role in weakening the province's financial outlook. However, this mess has been many years in the making. Former premiers Richard Hatfield (in office from 1970 to 1987), Frank McKenna (1987 to 1997) and Bernard Lord (1999 to 2006) are largely to blame for getting the province on the road to bankruptcy before Shawn Graham gave his two cents worth.

David Alward has taken office at the worst possible time to be Premier of New Brunswick. He has inherited this mess and, as premier, is responsible to clean it up. The Alward government has come to terms with the stark reality, and they realize that the government must live within reason. Without a doubt, budget cuts must be made, but there needs to be a balance between spending reductions and increased revenues. Only cutting spending will not be enough to put a dent in the large fiscal shortcomings the province is facing.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs is seen here speaking at a pre-budget consultation held at NBCC Woodstock on Monday, January 23rd. Higgs has been touring the province in search of suggestions from the public regarding how to get the province back in the black. (Photo taken by Aaron Bouma)
The population of New Brunswick is approximately 751,273 inhabitants (2010 census). A debt and operating deficit of this size for such a small province is unacceptable and unsustainable. It has been allowed to reach current levels due to negligence on the part of previous administrations. I question if they had any idea that their mistakes helped to push the province closer to bankruptcy than we've ever been before.

As a matter of fact, New Brunswick's auditor general, Kim MacPherson, issued a report which couldn't emphasize enough that the government needs to get the fiscal house in order. She warned that New Brunswick could reach "a point where the province will not be able to meet their financial commitments, to put on programs like education and health to the same way that we enjoy them today."

On a personal note, Premier David Alward is a good man and a close friend of mine. I trust that in the face of a huge crisis, he will fight for the province and steer the ship in the right direction. 

Woodstock Slammers back in action tomorrow night

After one week, the Woodstock Slammers will be back in action on home ice tomorrow night.

The Slammers are expected to face the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners on Friday, January 27th, at the Carleton Civic Centre. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 pm.

The Mariners currently are top in the Maurice Bent Division of the MHL with 53 total points, while the Slammers have been the top-ranked squad in the Roger Meek Division throughout the 2011-2012 campaign. The Slammers currently have a total of 71 points. 

Both Woodstock and Yarmouth's squads have clinced a playoff berth. 

Andrew Schriver, left, and Bradley Greene in action against the Dieppe Commandos on Friday, January 20th. In 40 games played with the Slammers, Greene has scored 30 goals and assisted 24, for a total of 54 points. Greene currently is leading the squad in points. Greene, Schriver, and the rest of the Slammers will be back in action tomorrow night against the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners.

Alward to deliver State of the Province address tonight

Woodstock's MLA and New Brunswick's premier is expected to deliver an important speech tonight.

David Alward will deliver the 2012 State of the Province address tonight at the Fredericton Convention Centre at 8:30 pm.

Premier David Alward
There will likely be a large focus on the poor fiscal state the province currently finds itself in when Premier Alward delivers the speech, which will be broadcast on live television.

The speech also will likely focus on what measures the Alward administration is willing to take to shave a ballooning deficit.

New Brunswick is running a spending deficit for the fourth year in a row, and the province's net debt is expected to reach $10 billion.

All government departments have been ordered to trim their spending, however, the province's auditor general, Kim MacPherson, recently informed the government that more drastic cuts need to be made to address the growing financial problem.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has been travelling the province in search of suggestions from the public on how to get back in the black in preparation for the release of his budget in mid-March.

Opposition Liberals have been critical of the Alward administration, claiming that they are not doing enough to grow the economy.

The speech will be broadcast live exclusively on Rogers TV. The pre-show will begin at 8 pm, with the delivery of the speech to begin at 8:30 pm. A live webcast will be available at www.rogerstv.com

NB government has decreased capital budget due to fiscal crisis

The New Brunswick provincial government has frozen spending to begin new projects at $24 million for the 2012-2013 capital budget, an $18 million decrease from $42 million in the 2011-2012 capital budget, according to a Communications New Brunswick press release.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs
New Brunswick's finance minister, Blaine Higgs, says that the decrease in funding for new projects is largely due to the huge fiscal challenges New Brunswick is facing.

"We sought a balance in this capital budget, limiting new spending to address our serious fiscal challenges while investing responsibly in health care and education to help New Brunswickers care for their families," Higgs told Communications New Brunswick. 

The capital budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which was tabled in the provincial legislature on December 13th, contains a plan for spending for the next two years, which means that the government has fulfilled a commitment to unveil a multi-year capital budget plan. 

"This outlook will help with planning and prioritizing our capital needs as our government continues on our three-year plan to return to fiscal balance and to increase transparency and accountability to New Brunswickers," Higgs explained. 

This year's capital budget totals $948 million. More than half of it includes the cost of the Route 1 Gateway project, which was approved in the fall of 2010. Excluding the funding for the Route 1 twinning project, capital spending is estimated to be $404 million. 

Highlights of the capital budget include $404 million for ongoing projects aside from the Route 1 Gateway project, including $24 million to begin new projects. $544 million is being allotted to the Route 1 project. The provincial government plans to spend $438 million and $487 million over the next two years. 

$104 million will be spent on infrastructure in kindergarten to grade eight schools, including $20 million for health and safety improvements. 

$200 million will be spent on other transportation infrastructure, which includes funding for a Caraquet bypass project. 

A number of other strategic investments will be explained in detail upon the release of each department's capital budget estimates. 

Town to get government funding for civic centre, library, theatre project

As the old saying goes, "Be patient, good things come to those who wait."

An announcement made on Monday, January 23rd in the lobby of the Carleton Civic Centre proved that statement true.

It has been a long time coming, but representatives from all three levels of government announced that $8 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments will be provided to the town of Woodstock to help make a long-time dream a reality.

For the past six years, Woodstock town council has been in the process of planning an upgrade of the Carleton Civic Centre. Built in the mid-1990s, the civic centre complex contains an arena, swimming pool, a fitness centre, and community rooms.

This mural in the Carleton Civic Centre lobby greets visitors to the facility. (Town of Woodstock image)

The civic centre component of this project, which will cost a total of nearly $12 million, will consist of an expansion, upgrade and modernization of the recreation complex, along with the construction of a field house. 

Other components of the project include an expansion and upgrade of the L.P. Fisher Library, along with a retrofit and expansion of the Woodstock High School theatre. 

On Monday, January 23rd, Tobique-Mactaquac MP Mike Allen, Woodstock MLA and New Brunswick Premier David Alward, and Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Bernard Valcourt were in Woodstock to make the funding announcement in the lobby of the civic centre. The town will receive the $8 million for the civic centre component provided that the payment schedule is met and that the town spends the entire $8 million on the civic centre. 

From left: Tobique-Mactaquac MP Mike Allen, New Brunswick Premier and Woodstock MLA David Alward, Minister of State for ACOA Bernard Valcourt, Woodstock Mayor Art Slipp, and Rotarian Scott Dunlop, who also serves as chairperson of the project's steering committee. (Photo courtesy of Mike Allen)

The town will contribute $2 million and the Woodstock Rotary Club will fundraise another $2 million to fund the remainder of the project.