I can say the self-sufficiency plan is likely too ambitious. So can professors at UNB. So can pundits and journalists. But the Leader of the Opposition has to be a lot more politically correct, in my opinion. Here’s an excerpt from the TJ article this morning:
New Brunswick will find it next to impossible to achieve the economic growth Premier Shawn Graham’s self-sufficiency agenda is counting on, argues Opposition leader Jeannot Volpé – who says New Brunswickers intuitively know it.
“That theme of self-sufficiency – a lot of people are starting to laugh about it now,” Volpé said Tuesday.
“I don’t think we can attain this kind of growth in New Brunswick,” said Volpé, who was finance minister for several years under former premier Bernard Lord.
You see, the problem here is that Volpe is suggesting that New Brunswick can’t achieve strong economic growth. That we can’t compete. That we can never be self-sufficient. In fact, he thinks people are even laughing at the idea.
Under Volpe’s tenure as Finance Minister, Canada went through an unprecedented level of economic and population growth. In New Brunswick, all we could manage was a slight population decline and a significant increase in dependence on Equalization (the opposite of self-sufficiency). So, it is only natural for Volpe to be skeptical – even laughing – at this objective.
But politically, the Tories need a leader that can cast a vision for New Brunswick that is growth oriented. That talks to rebuilding our communities. And, yes, to getting the province on a more stable, own source revenue-driven fiscal situation.
Casting a ‘can’t do’ vision for New Brunswick should not be the goal of the Opposition Leader.
He/she can disagree with how the governing party is doing things – in fact that is in reality part of their job – but they must provide an alternative view.
I think New Brunswickers are sick and tired of being the arse end of Canada economically speaking. I think they are tired of watching their friends and neighbours going down the road. I don’t think they are overly militant or passionate about it – after all – most of us that are left are working – but I think New Brunswick’s political parties – if they want to attract voters – need to start seriously addressing these issues.
I think this is key for the next Tory leader.
And I think this is key for Shawn Graham. I predict that if after four years we are no further ahead on self-sufficiency; if our population is still stagnant and if the vast majority of our communities are still shedding population; his government may be in jeopardy.
I think that gone are the days of an automatic 10-15 or even 17 years for a Premier in New Brunswick. Look at 2003. After only one term, former Premier Lord just hang on by the skin of his teeth.
I predict the same fate awaits any Premier these days that talks up a storm (prosperity plans, etc.) but is seen to be doing very little.
So, I am looking forward to the Tory convention and election of a new leader. We need to get beyond the Volpe years.