Musings on the latest poll

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.

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0 Responses to Musings on the latest poll

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am one of those NB’ers that would vote for Bernie again because I don’t see Shawn Graham as being any better. If any of these two men stood up and laid out a plan on NB’s future I would listen, but they have not. The closes thing is the 5 in 5.

    I have been really disapointed with Graham’s inability to capitalize on a crippled govt. It really shows he can’t lead.

    As Joe would say, go with the devil you know.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It all depends on what your needs are. It’s clearly not better ‘the devil you know’ when we know from this blog that Lord does NOTHING. Because Graham can’t get media in NB papers isn’t his fault.

    Again, its media that is the problem. People just don’t KNOW there are alternatives. For leadership, just go read the transcripts from the legislature, Graham at least brings out issues and has alternatives-again, its not their fault you don’t know about them. Just go to the liberal website if you are actually interested.

    But if you have a decent paying job and are getting by OK, then why would you care about ‘outmigration’. Why would you care about the working poor or people on welfare?

    It is problematic when the NDP aren’t even on the board, and you’ve got two parties which are closely aligned to the same corporate interests. You’ll only find disagreements in management, or where Irving doesn’t have a stake such as public insurance. But take a look at the boondoggle of Holder overriding a local committee that said no to another Irving quarry, then he overrides it, but unlike every other issue, the liberals don’t say a word. This would be worth considerable play.

    As you say, the majority of people aren’t into politics, they assume the government is bad, and the other guy will be just as bad. That’s a problem in much of the industrialized world today, not just NB.

    But again, trying to evaluate societies based on something like polls is just crazy. We know Harper had the smallest percentage vote of any minority leader, and minorities typically follow up with spending, but that doesn’t mean they win elections. Polls say more about people’s ideology in interpretation than it does about reality.

    For Lord though, I think he’s toast. There is always the ‘time for something new’ crowd of voters. My parents would probably vote liberal, yet they just happen to have a local MLA they like, and that makes a lot of difference.

    However, I’ve been in touch with a lot of grassroots organizations who are targeting areas that tories just barely won last time. With a slim majority I think Lord would have to be pretty dumb to call an election sooner rather than later. His best hope is if the feds send him a nice cheque. For example, an accounting firm from the US is actually stating that New Brunswick is in a deficit position this year.

    That’s a pretty big deal nowadays, and stuff like this comes out during elections-especially with the internet.

    Not to be too negative but I think the new program of ‘5 in 5′ replacing a program called ‘the prosperity plan’ says it all. At this point, NB really can’t do worse with a new leader short of Graham saying ‘ok, we’re kicking out everybody without a 12 month a year full time job’.

  3. David Campbell says:

    Some day, somebody (some anonymous blogger maybe) will provide for me a reasonable explanation for why the NDP doesn’t do better in New Brunswick. I can’t figure that out. Liz Weir was a respected and dominant force in the Leg but that didn’t translate into votes. My colleague in Nova Scotia says the high level of ‘elites’ in Halifax (university profs, etc.) were the catalyst to get the NDP vote going in that province and now they are considered legitimate and most people at least consider them. But I can’t believe there are no ‘elites’ in New Brunswick.
    It’s certainly not the union vote. NB is more unionized than NS.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Number one, the only unions in New Brunswick are primarily public sector ones. They don’t need a party, whens the last time you heard of the NB government going after the teacher lobby like Harris did in Ontario? THAT is typically the catalyst that leads to NDP associations.

    However, I’d disagree with the point about ‘elites’ in Nova Scotia, particularly profs, running the show. Nova Scotia has for a long time had extensive experience with co-operatives of all shapes and sizes. St. FX is literally an activist training ground, and in small provinces, it doesn’t take much. Much of the history is strewn with the bodies of miners, particularly in Cape Breton, and history wasn’t THAT long ago.

    Number two, the NDP get 10% of the vote, which isn’t that bad, when you consider that without proportional representation (hey, where did that idea go?) they have virtually no chance of winning a seat. I suspect that, like federally, a lot of ‘non voters’ are actually NDP supporters, which is why we don’t see proportional representation here.

    Number three, the media in New Brunswick is extremely powerful, especially during elections and gives almost no coverage of the NDP. More importantly, there is simply a very strong ‘anti Union’ bias.

    Number four, unless you are in a public industry, you don’t dare show your face at an NDP meeting. It’s about as career enhancing as going to an ‘anti atlantica’ protest. For those who didn’t know, the main creator of the protest was fired the week before the protest on pretty spurious grounds. I”m not saying you’d be fired for being NDP, but it certainly limits your chances in getting hired, and its tough enough out there.

    Irvings have a lot of media and their companies pay attention. When I worked for Irvings for a short time I was extremely frightened-not by the Irvings, but just by the level of fear of the workers. As it was a short term contract I didn’t care, but it became obvious quickly that I wasn’t going to ‘fit in’. Coincidentally, Charles does have a point that the problem could be managers more than the Irvings themselves. The Irvings want power and money, but the managers want control and credit, which is far worse when Irvings already have power and money.

    I met the Irvings one day and I was amazed that all these high paid old men I worked for were petrified of them and wouldn’t say a word. I told one of them to go to hell and he just laughed and bought me lunch. I might add that a similar thing happened while at NBPower, while hooking up PC’s for senior administrators, co workers said they were shocked at ‘how I talked to them’. They said that it was like I was drinking buddies with them or something. Well, I wouldn’t drink with them (unless they bought), but I’m certainly not going to walk around on eggshells around them.

    I’m not saying that that is epidemic, though it could be, but I’ve heard lots of information that would add to that. You just don’t ‘rock the boat’ when you are in Fredericton. It is a very elitist and small minded town.

    Finally, I personally think that the NDP party in NB was simply co-opted long ago by the other parties. Weir gave the appearance of an entire opposition while only being one person with no voting power, and then she quits and joins the government. I’ve heard many anecdotes that she was extremely dictatorial, and while popular, you could never get her to go anywhere but Saint John.

    And now they get a lesbian who doesn’t speak french…for New Brunswick? Are they insane? Hell, they’d be better off with Charles Leblanc!

    But politics is a very elitist structure in New Brunswick. How many are even a member of a party? The NDP leader was selected by, I don’t know, but the number was extremely low. Nowadays, with Irving and the press, they’d be better to do everything online so that people could be members anonymously.

    Even in Saint John one liberal nominee was elected by I think just over 300 people at a convention. That’s politics at such a low level that it doesn’t even deserve to be called democracy, and of course lots of people don’t call it that.

    Finally, there is the point that its been long established that FPTP, single member plurarity voting structures simply favours two parties. So it’s also in the math, it takes a much higher amount of work to get representation than established parties, so again, the system works against it-to its detriment I’d say.

    You can pick one of the above, or a blend of all of them and I think that goes a far way. Of course its easier to say 90% don’t vote for them, so there you have it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I listen to the legislature stream all the time and can tell you that I have never heard a concrete proposal from Graham on any issue. He’s not a visionairy and that’s what NB needs badly right now! I fall off my chair everytime I hear someone say that Shawn is the second coming of Little Louis. What an insult to Louis’s legacy.

    On the NDP note, I ask myself that same question since everywhere in NB there seems to be a majority NDP ideology in this province (see Lord gas regulation program). So I inquired from a past provincial NDP candidate on why Weir didn’t do better in her runs and the answer was that she was a dictator and never wanted to let anyone else take the limelite. Candidates didn’t want to work for her. This is from inside. I questioned that reasoning, but then gave it merit based on the fact that I can’t name any other worthy provincial NDP personalities.

    One question I have as a young NBer.. Why is it that i feel guilty when I try to make money in a honest way? I beleive the sentiment of jeleousy by people towards individuals making money is what is driving our youth away. We should encourage people to make as much money as they can, not castrate them. If you disagree with that, I ask you this: “Who’s going to pay for your roads, health care and education when there are no gen xers left in NB?”.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think I’ve EVER heard anybody saying anything bad about making money, so I don’t know what that means. Go make money, good luck and god bless and hopefully you’ll make enough to employ some others some day. I don’t know who is giving you a rough time, if you feel guilty, I suspect its HOW you are thinking of making money.

    Personally, I do not have a lot of respect for a certain segment of New Brunswick millionaires-these were the guys who were criminals one day, then had a deal with the provincial government the next to capitalize on newly decriminalized gambling.

    I find it hard to believe that its some vague ‘millionaire bashing’ that drives young people away and not the fact that there are no living wage jobs. If you are hanging around people who are begrudging you making money I suggest you get new friends.

    For Graham, he’s definitely no ‘little louis’ but keep in mind Louis Robichaud was no ‘little louis’, much of the actual history has been rewritten as legend. He made notoriously bad economic decisions, but these have largely been sacrificed for the ‘legend’.

    Back to the liberals, I’d say you are either overdosing or underdosing on the legislature. Obviously there is a lot of talking time. However, keep in mind that the gas regulation was a liberal idea that they’ve been harping on for years now.

    Also, the liberals adopted the legislation for public insurance at their party meeting in January. Now it is official liberal policy that they will bring in public insurance. That is an EXTREMELY gutsy move, something that no other provincial party (with a private system) has advocated. It’s so gutsy that in fact I don’t really believe they’ll do it, but that’s another issue.

    As for the NDP, keep in mind that you can’t get limelight if you aren’t elected, and Weir was the only NDP elected. Notice the dismal showing of the NDP in her riding after she left. But just try naming the party nominees in ridings where the other guy won, chances are good that except for your own riding you can’t name many. Most New Brunswickers, myself included, couldn’t even name all the cabinet ministers let alone party representatives.

    This is one of the reasons politics is so &^^%ed up in Canada. This is why leaders have so much power and there is so much party discipline, because we will in a time of ‘anti politics’. So the difference between being elected can literally be getting a cabinet position where you get some press so people at least know who you are.

    So for all those people who were NDP before, now they have free reign that Elizabeth is gone, but where are they? I doubt very much if they would have elected a lesbian abortion rights non french speaking woman if they could have found anyone better-which makes me a bit skeptical of the Elizabeth bashing.

    In reality though, the vast majority of people on this planet share those NDP traits about justice for workers,etc., because most of the people in the world ARE workers. Yet the political system is stacked against them. Much is true in the states, where very few people think along the lines of the two parties federally, which is why they have the lowest voter turnout in the world, yet have the second most democratic tools available of any nation.

    Yet to get a party moving, all you need is active people. And you can see how hard it is to get people to take part in politics, let alone a political non starter.

  7. David Campbell says:

    One question I have as a young NBer.. Why is it that i feel guilty when I try to make money in a honest way? I beleive the sentiment of jeleousy by people towards individuals making money is what is driving our youth away. We should encourage people to make as much money as they can, not castrate them. If you disagree with that, I ask you this: “Who’s going to pay for your roads, health care and education when there are no gen xers left in NB?”.

    Now, that’s an intelligent comment. I have always thought you judge a society by how it takes care of its poor but you have to have that wedge of taxpayers to pay for social services.

    I am not sure why there seems to be some animosity towards those making money in this province. I once drove with a guy to a meeting in rural New Brunswick a big fat Audi and he parked far away from the office where we were meeting because he didn’t want his client (a rural organization) seeing his car.

    I think probably one answer might be this issue of the public service (broadly speaking). Someone once told me that if your public sector workers are the richest, you have a problem. But, in many ways, that is the case in New Brunswick. I was driving with another colleague through some of the new rich suburbs in Dieppe recently and my passenger, a Dieppe native, was pointing out the massive and beautiful houses. That belongs to a doctor. That one is belongs to a pediatrician. That one belongs to a judge. Do you know such and such functionnaire? That one belongs to him. Obviously, public sector workers don’t own every beautiful house in Dieppe but it seemed like a lot.

    The economics here are real simple. We need more young people (and older people as well) making over $60k per year. If you do a serious analysis of the tax system, you will see that people earning under $25k pay almost no taxes at all in New Brunswick (they pay some but we are discussing the aggregate tax base required to pay for social services). Persons earning between $25k and $60k pay some taxes but after taking off hst rebates, child benefits, other deductions (RRSP, etc.), the net amount of taxes paid is somewhat limited (for NB a few thousand a year). But for those lucky enough to make $60k and up, the total tax bill can be significant. I had a friend who was making, he didn’t say how much but I guessed around $80k to $90k by his calculation, that said he calculated all his taxes paid (income, HST, gas, payroll, property tax, etc.) to be around $35k per year. You see, that guy (he was single) got no HST rebate, no child tax rebate, and was paying the highest marginal rate. Plus he was driving a large SUV (right there paying at least $2k in taxes every year) and owned a nice home ($2.5k in property taxes).

    All I can say is we need more of that.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You just hit the nail on the head David! Why should people be afraid of showing their success. Young successfull professionals want to celebrate their accomplishements not hide them.

    I’m not saying that too much materialism is a good thing, but come on. If I can’t spend it, why make it?

  9. Freddy Beach says:

    Even better if you are spending that money on Pumphouse beer, Mrs. Dunster donuts and other fine NB products. After all local products are usually purchased by local markets.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Anytime I drink beer, it’s Pumphouse! We have great local businesses, the problem is we need many more. I say NB should have a seed program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

    Why not target 100 startups in 300 days?

  11. Freddy Beach says:

    I agree that we have great businesses but we need to encourage more of them and we must support the ones that already exist.

    It is sad when we are in the Maritimes and all I can find at the Superstore or Sobeys in the frozen food section is fish from China. What is wrong with this picture??

    Perhaps programs that encourage NB firms with the red tape dealing with selling in other provinces or countries. Even increased marketing of local companies (maybe on an NB TV station?) could have some impact. If nobody knows about these great companies we can’t support them.