Allow me a little nostalgia

I just read about Ralph Klein’s legacy in Alberta after 14 years as Premier and I got a little personally nostalgic.

I don’t know if I blogged about this before but shortly after Klein got into power in Alberta, somebody from the Alberta Premier’s Office called the New Brunswick Dept. of Economic Development & Tourism and because it was lunch hour in Fredericton there was no one available to take their call so the receptionist put them through to me.

I don’t remember the person’s name but he announced who he represented and said that they wanted Ralph to be like ‘Frank’ and he wanted my advice. What should Ralph do to be able to attract business to Alberta like Frank in New Brunswick. At the time Alberta was in quite an economic pickle and the age old Alberta challenge of building a non-oil & gas economic base had reared its head.

I gave my advice and said Ralph should be front and centre and be the top sales guy for the province. They should target some key sectors and yadda yadda yadda (all the stuff you read here). The gentleman thanked me and we never talked again. However, not much later, oil prices started to rise again. The oil sands started. The rest is history. Alberta under Klein had the most prosperous decade+ in history.

I still hear the occassional warning from folks in Alberta talking about ‘diversification of industry’ but with 70 years of oil & gas left, I don’t think it’s really on the agenda these days.

I have to admit it was neat to have a Premier that was well known for trying to attract business to New Brunswick. I used to travel to Toronto and have the cab driver tell me how much he admired Frank McKenna. Around 2002, I went to Toronto again and had the cab driver ask me whatever happened to Frank. Who was your Premier now?

Then last year the Quebec Minister of Economic Development said in a press conference that he wanted Quebec to be more like Frank McKenna.

It’s hard for a guy like Lord to follow McKenna. The fact that McKenna went on to be more popular post politics doesn’t help.

But I’ve always wondered why Lord didn’t steal that page from McKenna’s book. Didn’t make the economy a key focus. Didn’t ‘hustle’ for business just like Frank.

In my opinion, the good politicians are the ones that can steal the best ideas from other parties while building their own platform. Calling for a ‘made in New Brunswick’ solution to economic development in 1999 was wrong then and wrong now.

In 2006, we have had seven years of Lord. Seven years of unprecedented government spending. And cuts to economic development funding.

That says a lot.

At least to me.

Back to Klein.

I still think Alberta would be wise to use some of that multibillion dollar Heritage fund to support the growth of a few new economy industries – some that are already in a nascent stage in places like Calgary and Edmonton.

But that would make Alberta even stronger ecnomically and more likely to start pulling our IT and other new economy workers.

So, upon reflection, vive le oil.

Let’s hope that our politicians can figure out the importance of growing non-oil industries here.

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0 Responses to Allow me a little nostalgia

  1. Anonymous says:

    That is pretty nostalgic, especially about Frank. His numbers began plummeting virtually from the moment of his first announcement. He was ‘famous’, but mostly because he tripled the size of his PR staff and nationalized its focus.

    That he got more popular is a strange notion, he completely avoided politics to work for the war criminals at the now infamous Carlyle Group, and never even attempted elected office again, choosing patronage over representation. That was also something new to canadian politics, a Premier looking to be more popular elsewhere than with his own constituents. It worked wonders, and Lord has picked up on that, and both are good pals with those other famous war criminals the Bush’s.

    The most important lesson they learned from Frank was how to ‘hype and beg’. Talk about self sufficiency while getting the feds to completely pay for programs, ‘hype’ the rampant poverty and misery of its citizens so that companies can come in and pursue those low wage, no benefit jobs.

    Anybody that thinks information technology industries ‘exist’ because of Frank is just crazy. If that were true then PEI, Manitoba and Nova Scotia wouldn’t have high tech. That’s an industry that arrived everywhere anyway.

    Not only that, but we can talk about taking something that was completely illegal and not only legalizing it, but putting the previous criminals in charge of it and making them multi millionaires. If New Brunswick actually had a functioning legal system he would have been arrested. And that doesn’t even get into health care and other areas of the economy. He made it virtually impossible for New Brunswickers to invest in property in their own province, another fond idea of neo liberalism-make sure the ‘investors’ in your economy aren’t actually FROM your economy, otherwise they might make decisions that actually benefit the society.

    At least Lord changed all those things (or attempted to). Frank was most famous for bringing the ‘smoke and mirrors’ to new levels in politics. I’m certainly not saying he was ‘all bad’, but getting nostalgic for him certainly insn’t on my agenda. And the fact that he’s never run for any office again says it all about his popularity.

  2. David Campbell says:

    It’s official. Lord has cornered the Socialist vote. For a Tory, he’s come a long way, baby.

    Not only that, but we can talk about taking something that was completely illegal and not only legalizing it, but putting the previous criminals in charge of it and making them multi millionaires. If New Brunswick actually had a functioning legal system he would have been arrested. And that doesn’t even get into health care and other areas of the economy. He made it virtually impossible for New Brunswickers to invest in property in their own province, another fond idea of neo liberalism-make sure the ‘investors’ in your economy aren’t actually FROM your economy, otherwise they might make decisions that actually benefit the society.

    At least Lord changed all those things (or attempted to). Frank was most famous for bringing the ‘smoke and mirrors’ to new levels in politics. I’m certainly not saying he was ‘all bad’, but getting nostalgic for him certainly insn’t on my agenda. And the fact that he’s never run for any office again says it all about his popularity.

    Unless you are Ms. Lord herself, I am not sure there are very many folks in the entire province who a) think McKenna was more smoke and mirrors than Lord – Lord wrote the book on smoke and mirrors. He is actually taking credit for stuff done by McKenna; and b) you want Frank to be arrested?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Unlike politicians I do not get marching orders from public opinion polls-what other people think doesn’t interest me much.

    I’m posting this because of the unseemly opinion that what was written has been seen as an endorsement for Bernard Lord. Far from it. Lord took most of the bad pages from McKenna’s book. However, we have to be clear-its a hell of a lot harder to invest in economic development (at first) when the feds slash equilization payments and constituents want balanced budgets.

    Had McKenna attempted what he did with VLT’s right across the border then he WOULD have been arrested, so that’s not figurative speaking.

    Criticizing McKenna certainly isn’t an endorsement for Lord, far, far from it. All that was said was that in the certain specific cases mentioned, Lord ‘attempted’ to fix the cause. Mckenna had multiple opportunities to change the province for the better, he didn’t even look at them. His most famous accomplishment was home based medical care which was so successful he let administrators shut it down for fear of their jobs.

    In ten years I won’t be nostalgic for Lord OR Mckenna.