I am not sure that the poll out yesterday was much of a surprise. I talked to a number of fairly placed folks yesterday and the concensus is that the pile of spending announcements, the lucrative spending budget and the Harper factor are weighing in the Conservatives favour. In fact, someone I trust implicitly on these matters speculated that the Tories would likely win the next election barring a major event to shift public opinion.
In this person’s opinion, Bernard Lord’s popularity runs wide but not deep. The flip side is also true. To put it another way, there would be a very small core of NBers that loathe the Premier and a similarily small core that abosolutely adore him. Consider both George Bush and Bill Clinton – both highly polarizing figures in US politics.
This is because, the old sage said, Bernard Lord has spent almost seven years doing everything possible to ‘stay out of trouble’. The Tories believe that the best government is one that is not in the mind of the public at all. Consider his recent pronouncement that New Brunswickers are more preoccupied with hockey and just about everything else other than politics.
This plays to their advantage – big time. If NBers aren’t talking politics. If they are not angry, the incumbent will almost always win. It doesn’t matter that almost all of Lord’s top Cabinet ministers were either turfed last time or have already announced they are not running again. It doesn’t matter that the underlying economic and demographic challenges facing New Brunswick are the most pronounced and serious in our province’s history. To the average NBer, we are humming along. Out-migration is an established fact now for most of us. I have this fact confirmed whenever I go to visit my parents. You can’t blame the Tories for out-migration – or so the story goes.
And for Shawn Graham it doesn’t help that the Times & Transcript has been overtly hostile to him (or ignoring altogether). The T&T has a fairly large share of eyeballs in this province. Saint John is different. There is more angst down there but according to the latest poll – maybe not enough. The north is resigned. Greater Fredericton is a little cranky but voters there know where their bread is buttered. The Tories have given them the highest wage increases in Canada since 1999 and they have dramatically expanded government spending (40% up since 1999) much of which is spent in the capital city.
In conclusion, I think the Tories are on to something. I think this Pollyanna model of saying everything is wonderful, increasing spending every year, fighting hard with the Feds for more Equalization, and most of all keeping a very low profile – works.
The last thing any NB government would want is the public actually talking politics. Actually debating issues. Actually linking the lack of government action to the population decline in 75% of New Brunswick communities.
The closure/downsizing of rural post offices is a harbinger of things to come. Population decline inevitably will lead to a shrinking of public service jobs in rural areas – these are the highest paying jobs in the community don’t forget.
So there’s a tinge of sadness this am in this corner. Not because the Tories lead the Libs or because the NDP is off the map or because Don Mills is a good/bad pollster.
It’s because, once again, New Brunswickers – us- are showing a complete disinterest and malaise when it comes to our future.
25 years ago, politicians were saying that the looming population crisis and economic decline in New Brunswick was the singled biggest threat to national unity.
Now we are smack dab in the middle of it and the politicians are banking on our disinterest.
And they are getting it.