In Brief: Good public policy can be as much about following as leading. In this story, AIMS Executive Vice President explains that good government needs to be doing a little of both.

FREDERICTON – The past two days have seen a host of legislation tabled in the provincial legislature.

The new bills have spanned a range of topics: from wiping expiration dates from retail gift cards, to the regulation of midwifery.

Yet despite their differences, many of the bills fit into an overarching pattern: they mirror legislation previously presented by most other provinces in Canada.

In other words, New Brunswick is among the last provinces to deal with each particular issue.

It appears to be the public policy equivalent of bringing up the rear.

Take changes to the graduated licensing program for new drivers, introduced Wednesday by Public Safety Minister John Foran.

They will require new drivers to maintain a zero blood alcohol content until they reach 21, and restrict their driving to between midnight and 5 a.m.

Concluded Foran, the Miramichi Centre MLA: “Anything that we’ve brought forward today”¦ is already being done in other jurisdictions.”

Then came legislation to ban so-called “double breasting-” when a company avoids honouring collective bargaining agreements by setting up a separate, non-unionized company.

According to Justice Minister and Attorney General T.J. Burke, New Brunswick is the last province to ban the practice, after nearly 30 years of wrestling with the issue. “It has taken some time,” he said, “but we did it and we can now join the ranks of the rest of the country.”

A day earlier, Burke tabled legislation to remove expiry dates from gift cards.

Five provinces, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, have already tabled or implemented such provisions.

Wednesday also brought legislation to regulate and fund midwives in the province, starting in 2009.

Most provinces and territories already regulate midwives, who assist women during all stages of pregnancy.

And New Brunswick’s delayed approach to new policy is not confined to the past two days.

Last year, for example, the government approved construction of a single casino in the province.

The decision left Newfoundland and Labrador as the last province to ban casino gambling.

But New Brunswickers need not necessarily panic about their Johnny-come-lately approach to some policy items, says Charles Cirtwill, of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a Halifax-based think-tank.

“I would be worried if New Brunswick was never the leader. If the province is a leader in other things “_ I think that is a nice balance,” he said. “There’s really no reason for all provinces to experiment with an issue. Let a couple provinces experiment and if that works out well everyone should follow suite.”

Cirtwill said there are benefits to copying existing rules and laws: any bugs have been pinpointed and eliminated.

And he noted New Brunswick leads the way on a number of issues. A goal of reducing dependency on federal transfer payments and a close relationship with neighboring Maine are all models to copy, he said.

Still, Cirtwill said the Liberals must deliver ground-breaking alterations on other major issues, considering their promise of transformational and revolutionary change.

Cirtwill expects notable movement on the province’s tax system, following a soon-to-be released discussion paper on tax reform.

The province, he said, has an opportunity to lead the country on tax reform by doing more than tinkering around the edges.