Lord says goodbye

I have stated on many occasions that I have considerable respect for people that get into public life. I am certainly not one of those people that believes all politicians are crooks and liars. I can say that because I have known a few personally that were committed to public service and only wanted to contribute to their communities.

However, I believe that we need as Premier a visionary. A man/woman that can build and cast widely a vision of New Brunswick that is better than today. One where the economy is growing. One where people move to and not from. One where the government isn’t increasingly dependent on the economic success of other provinces to pay for its government services.

And, simply, we didn’t get that from Premier Lord. There are very few that say Lord had a vision at all. Even Tories I know agree but shrug their shoulders and say that it’s hard to be Premier and they add that “we’ll see if Shawn Graham can do any better”.

I didn’t hear all his remarks but it seems he is insistent to the end that he brought good government to New Brunswick.

At this point, why live in denial? When Frank McKenna left in 1997, he was quite reflective and terse about the province’s inability to get much further ahead during his time in office. But with Lord, we get the same old boilerplate we came to expect over seven years.

Most Tories aren’t dumb. They have to realize that having the shortest serving elected Premier in 50 years is a sign of something. They have to know that the razor thin win in 2003 was saying something. If the next leader of the Tories is a ‘stay the course’ leader (marginal tax cuts, increasing Equalization, pretend depopulation isn’t happening) like Jeannot Volpe, then I think the party is in trouble.

I have said before that I think New Brunswickers (some at least) are ready for straight talk and hard decisions – as long as they are well thought out and well communicated to the public.

I mean think about for just one minute. We are in the longest sustained period of economic growth in Canada’s history (without a recession – negative GDP growth) – something like 13 straight years of growth. Canada added more population in the past decade than at any other time in our history – millions of new citizens. The Federal government’s revenues have swelled by something like 70%.

And all New Brunswick could muster was a small depopulation (it’s going down) and a $700 million increase in Equalization?

It doesn’t take an economist to know that’s a problem – a serious problem.

The government needs to invest hundreds of millions into growth oriented activities. Soon. It needs to strike out a leadership position in several industry sectors and make significant investments to ensure that New Brunswick emerges with a self-sufficient and resilient economy for future generations. We can’t wait for Alberta style riches to emerge from the ground. We can’t just wait for the next Bill Gates to come from Sackville. We need to take the bull by the horns and get it done.

I recommend the Tories turn to the blogosphere and The Sorry Centrist for advice. He’s a true partisan but he is also speaking a lot of truth over in that corner of cyberspace.

If the PC Party of New Brunswick wants to be a relevant party it will have to be about building New Brunswick – not chopping taxes. It will have to be focused on growing industry and attracting population. It will have to be a party about economic development.

Is it even ideologically Tory to cut taxes and beg for more federal transfers? Ideologically, shouldn’t self-sufficiency be a Tory concept?

I guess I spent way too long thinking that Conservativism was about personal responsibility, about self-sufficiency about less government and a strong industrial base.

What the Tories are about these days includes rapidly increasing the size of government (spending up 35% since 1999 dispite a slight decline in population), increasing dependence on Equalization (up by $700m per year) and ignoring any real opportunities to grow the economy.

Maybe that brand of Tory is long gone in New Brunswick.

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7 Responses to Lord says goodbye

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is no such thing as ideology in politics, that’s for writers. You cut taxes because people who pay taxes vote for you, you get more transfers to pay for services because that’s what voters will vote for. So far there’s very little difference in the Liberal party. And of course Lord did WIN, and only had a very slim lead in polls.

    Good old Frank had every seat in the house, a pro business agenda, a sympathetic liberal federal government to bankroll programs, a divided opposition, and the road to prosperity he built went to where? Is it any wonder that taxpayers and government didn’t want to bankroll any more industries? That economic development took a back seat?

    Either way it doesn’t matter, because it looks like the liberals are about to be no different, so you’ll still have lots to write about.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Just heard Lord talking about his legacy on As It Happens. I listen to him and I think he must be talking about a different province. He says we are more confident because of his leadership. Confident in what? Record levels of out-migration? Record levels of Equalization?

    And I have to say that this bragging about having a labour shortage is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard. New Brunswick had the second worst rate of job growth in the county since 1999 and we are still having labour shortages. The labour shortage has nothing to do with Lord’s economic success and everything to do with his economic failure. If the economy had been creating good, high paying private sector jobs, people would have stayed. They moved to Alberta, BC and Ontario because that was the best and sometimes the only option.

    I’ll never figure out how we became so gullible. The politicians brag about a labour shortage as if it was a good thing. Lisa Keenan actually said that Lord would be the best guy to get more Equalization out of Ottawa. And we brag about this?

    Maybe it’s just therapy. You know, like one of those yoga chants. You say it over and over again to make yourself feel good.

  3. David Campbell says:

    The elder statesman of NB politics on Lord’s legacy:

    “He had the charisma, he had the smarts, he had the media savvy and he had the political instincts – those were his strengths,” said Don Deserud, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

    “His main weakness was the fact that he left the public with the impression that he had a very difficult time making decisions. He wasn’t decisive. We saw how that hurt Paul Martin and I think it hurt Bernard Lord as well.”

    http://www.cbc.ca/cp/Atlantic/061213/t121317A.html

  4. David Campbell says:

    At least McKenna was reflective – even a bit cranky about the lack of progress under his watch. Lord continues to spin all the wonders of his leadership. That’s denial. I’m not saying he should crap all over himself but he should at least acknowledge he didn’t have much success stopping population decline.

  5. Anonymous says:

    How often did Frank talk about lack of population growth? I don’t remember too many occasions where Frank was particularly hard on HIMSELF-then or now.

    As for being indecisive, that’s something pundits make up when they haven’t got anything else to comment on-you can’t actually talk about policy because its well known that policy rarely changes from one ‘leader’ to the next. Witness Graham’s backdown from public insurance and his claims he will ‘continue the tory agenda’ of ‘job creation’.

    The liberals went from championing public insurance, to saying ‘well maybe’, to making it a party resolution to touting it during the election and all to come down to what? A 10% decrease in rates that were just increased 14% last march. That’s decisive? Virtually every promise made is now…’well, we’ll see’. Lord is up there with McKenna in comparison (and everything in politics is comparison)

    The reality is just go to Charles blog and you can see what people are talking about. They talk about massive tax cuts to billionaires (which Graham is also continuing), they talk about orimulsion and hiding behind NB Power during screwups. They talk about insurance rates, which coincidentally almost cost Lord the previous election, but commentators don’t seem to grasp that little fact. And this quote comes from somebody with ‘wisdom’? You’d be better off asking a fisherman from Moncton!

    That doesn’t even mention the massive poverty, which unlike Frank’s reign, had full public disclosure at Charles’ website. He may not have had thousands of visitors, but he had a lot and just one visit is enough to make people think twice about the status quo.

  6. David Campbell says:

    I’m not an apologist for Frank McKenna. Google this blog and McKenna and you will see. However, a man/woman of your understanding should be able to differentiate between the results of a Premier who was the leader during the worst recession/federal government spending retrenchment since the Great Depression and one that governed during a time when Canada had longest period of economic and population growth in its history.

    For me that should be obvious. And as for McKenna’s introspection, here’s what he said when he resigned in 1997:

    “dependency has become a narcotic to which Atlantic Canadians have become addicted.”

    Now, contrast that with Lisa Keenan saying that Lord would have been the best guy to get more Equalization.

    Come on.

    If dependency is a narcotic, Lord was addicted. He said, regarding weening off Equalization, that he wanted to be a ‘professional golfer growing up’ but that was just as unrealistic.

  7. Anonymous says:

    First, McKenna usually comes off pretty good in this blog. Notice how McKenna said that quote when he was stepping DOWN.

    However, for understanding we should look at FACTS:

    When Frank was elected the economy was at its highest point of the decade, while it was true that there was a recession, industry was also far more labour intensive.

    More importantly, governments were still deficit spending. As for hypocrisy, imagine a guy like McKenna making that statement after NB Works had been COMPLETELY subsidized by the federal government. So McKenna was far MORE a subsidy pig than Lord.

    The biggest cutbacks in federal aid came in 1995, and cuts like that take a couple years to cycle into the budget. So it was no surprise that Frank was calling it quits, he knew what was coming.

    So it was primarily Lord that had to deal with the effects of cutbacks and the new rigors of balanced budgets, something Frank didn’t manage until six years after being in office.

    So there really is no difference between them, both are politicians, saying one thing while doing another. Unlike McKenna, Lord simply hasn’t said publicly what McKenna did, but I’m sure that will come. With the refinery getting started and Atlantica needing all the press it can get pretty soon ALL the politicians will be singing the ‘tough love’ song-give stuff to big corporations and maybe they’ll put something back.

    Graham already said it, that’s of course because big business WANTS him to. The political arena is now different, thats what makes politicians different. But what is the same is they serve the people who get them elected-media owners and fund donaters.

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