Linked Header

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yeomans Blames Deficit on Stock Market

Hindsight is 20/20: that from former finance commissioner Greg Yeomans, who testified at the John Ferguson trial not even the most prudent financial advice could have predicted 2008's stock market crash and subsequent recession.

Yeomans reminded the court that 2008 was one of the worst economic downturns on this planet in 80 years. He said the pension plan experienced a 28.6% investment loss, and that's what created the currently precarious fiscal situation.

He said Saint John isn't alone in its position, hower; last year, Montreal had to put $607 million  into their plan, up from $130 million in 2005, and Regina is similarly strapped. That being said, he  he doesn't believe the city can go bankrupt, because the province would step in under the Municipalities Act.

After Yeoman's testimony, the final witness for pension board lawyer Barry Morrison's took to the stand. City solicitor John Nugent bea trustee of the pension plan in 2003.

Nugent testified integrity is the cornerstone of his professional life, because communications between lawyer and client are sacrosanct. But, said Nugent, that's the code of conduct people should hold themselves to anyway.

Nugent says he wasn't concerned even once he realized the number of disability pensions the board was awarding was significantly higher than the industry standard. He said he didn't worry because he felt confident that all the information had been shared with him, and the board worked to clarify the definition of disability.

The FSL Hamburg Arrives In Saint John

A tanker that picked up three people stranded in waters near Cape Sale Island on Monday night has arrived in Saint John.  The FSL Hamburg has arrived in port this afternoon.

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says law enforcement agencies have yet to determine if a sailboat carrying nine people off the coast of Nova Scotia was involved in human smuggling.   Three people have made refugee claims.
One man pulled from the yacht was pronounced dead in hospital in Yarmouth, N.S.,  where two other men were being treated for their injuries.

Dairytown School Needs Votes In Contest

Sussex Elementary is one of 10 finalists and the only one from this province in the Majesta Trees of Knowledge Competition. 

The winning school will be identified through an online voting process that starts today and runs until May 2nd.
While students can't vote, parents and the greater community can.

Principal Doug Bobbitt is encouraging people to vote daily for the school's applicaton on the Trees of Knowledge website.
If the school wins, they get a $20,000 grant for an outdoor classroom and one lucky voter will win $10,000 dollars just for taking part.

To find the link and vote now, click here

Big Spending Cuts Expected In Federal Budget

The Harper government brings down its budget tomorrow and it's being reported seven billion dollars will be slashed from discretionary spending.

That raises the question of whether spending on infrastructure projects will be scaled back as well.

Saint John M-P Rodney Weston tells CHSJ News that won't happen.  He warns any government that neglects infrastructure will find it will pay for it down the road.

Safe drinking water is the city's top priority and will require big funding help from both the provincial and federal governments.

After examining the 80-billion-dollar discretionary spending envelope, officials found 7.5 per cent in savings or seven billion dollars.

Mayor Finishes Up Gruelling Cross Examination

Mayor Ivan Court clashed with the lawyer for John Ferguson at the former Common Councillor's trial for defamation.

Court admonished Gillis to show him some respect as Mayor and member of Common Council. Gillis was pressing Court on whether he had an obligation to the taxpayer in 2003 to make changes to the city's pension plan.

Court told the jury the city received actuarial advice in 2006 not to make any changes because the plan was in good shape but then the financial collapse happened in 2008. Court also rejects the suggestion of any mismanagement on the part of the Pension Board.

Ferguson's lawyer, Rod Gillis told Court the only people who are losing are the taxpayers but the Mayor disagreed with the suggestion that the pension plans financial woes will drive the city into bankruptcy.

Court admits he was never comfortable with the early retirement buyouts but told the jury Ferguson went down a dangerous road and was reckless.

Fire Call In South End

City fire crews called out around 9:45 last night to a small fire at the corner of Duke and Carmarthen Streets.

John Ferguson Defamation Trial

Armed Robber Sought

City Police releasing a description of the suspect they're looking for in the armed holdup of Sandy's Convenience on Sandy Point Road Sunday afternoon around 5:00.
He's described as white, standing from 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 9 with an average build.

At the time of the holdup, he was wearing a black jacket and beige hoodie with a black ball cap, jeans, black shoes and light coloured gloves.

BOT Wants More Details On Investments From Provincial Budget

The Saint John Board of Trade is giving the provincial budget a cautious thumbs up.

BOT Chair John Warrington says he would give the budget a grade of B.

He tells CHSJ News he gives credit to the government for not raising taxes as it would have been an easy way out but more detail was needed on strategic spending and the 10 million dollars being put into Invest NB.

He adds it's important to know how the province is going to grow our economy at a faster pace.

He says cutting expenses can only take us so far.

Don't Panic If You See Commotion At Lepreau

No need to head for the hills if you see a lot of emergency vehicles and commotion around Point Lepreau on your morning commute.

The generation station is holding a drill to check the reliability of its communications and responses in case of a nuclear emergency. There's no risk to personnel or anyone in the neighborhood.

The provincial and federal governments, NB Power and several other agencies will be testing radio communications and response times.

Court Calls Councillors' Votes "Outrageous"

Mayor Ivan Court is taken aback over penalties and interest costs being added on to a recent pension deficit payment.

Court tells CHSJ News the fact that Councillors Farren and Higgins voted against making the payment as requested indicates they aren't overly concerned with what taxpayers want. 

He says when someone comes to your door asking for your debts, you better pay up, adding that Farren has been "disruptive" over pension issues for the past 4 year.

For his part, Farren said his vote was protest against what he called the "pension fiasco". The Mayor said he hopes the next council will have a different attitude.