Bernard Lord’s trial balloon

The was a small thread in the T&T recently that was interesting. First, some (likely the man himself) leaked that former Premier Lord was considering running in the next Federal election. Then, columnist Bill Belliveau wrote a savage rebuke of Lord which was followed up by the Conservative riding president with a Letter to the Editor that was highly offended by Belliveau.

First of all, I keep hearing that Daniel Allain has his eye on that riding. I don’t know Daniel that much but he seems to be a worthy candidate. I am not sure that Lord is as good a candidate as the riding president seems to believe. Certainly Belliveau’s column was cast through a jaded lense but some of his points were valid.

Ironically, I disagree with Belliveau on the tax thing. I believe Lord’s three biggest weaknesses (there were one time deals like Orimulsion and the toll highway which were major boo boos but I am talking about overall issues) were: 1) he was a big time spender and 2) he lacked vision and 3) indecision.

The provincial budget went up by something like 40% under Lord at a time when the population declined. Now, some have discounted this but what it really means is that government spending rose almost three times faster than overall economic spending. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (and with my elementary school level blog I certainly don’t qualify) to see that at the same rate of spending growth coupled with population decline, in 20 years or so it will cost three times to see the doctor in New Brunswick than in Ontario. Further, most of the money needed to pay for this whopping increase in spending will have to come from Equalization and other federal sources because own source revenue is increasing more slowly than the overall budget. Hence, the new Premier’s call for self-sufficiency. I like to call Lord a “tax cut and spend” Tory.

Secondly, I never felt he had a vision for New Brunswick. Sure, he had ‘prosperity plans’ and could talk a big game but in the end, there wasn’t much there. Cut small biz taxes and cross your fingers seemed to be the vision.

Third, just about every impartial observer of politics from journalists to pundits says that Lord just couldn’t make a decision. After the 200 days of Change in 1999, it was all down hill. On forestry, Lepreau, auto insurance and more it was a full fledged paralysis. After Lord’s loss, I talked with a former senior person in the leadership up in Freddy who told me that Lord’s indecision was his biggest flaw.

But, there is a world of difference between being an MP and a Premier. The latter requires leadership, the ability to make hard decisions, the requirement to understand major trends and influences and the ability to gain concensus among caucus. The former requires monthly newsletters and the occassion party line vote.

So, I don’t know if Lord would win. Murphy is deceptively well-liked. Lord might get swept up in a Tory swell but don’t count on it. If you look closely, what has the Tory government done for Moncton lately?

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0 Responses to Bernard Lord’s trial balloon

  1. mikel says:

    Politics is nine tenths speculation they say, but I should remind you of the ‘irving coloured glasses’ that most people seem to wear. SOME things Lord may have been indecisive on, but very little from what I’ve seen.

    Whenever you see ‘scandal’ you at least see something being done-and lots was done (the orimulsion example). Lord was FAR from indecisive in forestry, he was the guy who threw tax credits worth close to half a billion and who essentially gutted what was left of the forestry service. That’s NOT indecisive.

    For energy, we saw essentially deregulation, at least the first significant steps towards it. We saw him turn back forty years of tax law in order to cut an LNG deal with Irving which by anybody’s standards was completely illegal. IT wouldn’t be more blatant than if they had highway speed limit signs that said “Maximum 110 Irving Maximum 140″.

    And again I’d point out that Lord was probably the most representative of modern Premiers. When Charles pounded the pavement talking about the Residential Tenants Act, it took Lord only weeks to have it in the throne speech and less than a year to have the legislation rewritten-all based on the lobbying of one guy (who stopped lobbying and that legislation STILL hasn’t been proclaimed).

    It wasn’t part of his ‘days of change’ to have New Brunswick’s first referendum, and last fall would have seen New Brunswick join the modern world and have another vote in another referendum. Two referenda is,well, two more than anybody else in New Brunswick history-you don’t see more populism than that, at least in NB.

    And that is right off the top of my head, there are probably lots of other examples, but when pundits start saying something then it usually because ‘fact’ by repetition.

    Most of those minuses you cite are plusses in other eyes. The small business tax is another example of decisiveness-it just didn’t work. And if you have a Premier who can cut taxes and get MORE federal money to cover it, well, you just saw what the alternative is on your last tax bill.

    It’s far better to get federal money to cover your tax break than to have no tax break at all. That’s downright brilliant.

    Plus, of course it doesn’t matter what your views are, what matters is the thousands in that particular riding. One thing that was known during Lord’s tenure was his sucking up to Harper, and pork flows downhill. Federally, in many cases, people are voting on what a candidate can bring to the riding, and so that may make it as close to a cakewalk as you can get. Eight times out of ten people vote for the face they know.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That Mikel is good Isn’t he David.Always Seems to eliminate any rebuttal,even if I were qualified.

  3. David Campbell says:

    I get a lot of comments from our friend that I can’t publish. But this one can be.

  4. nbt says:

    If you look closely, what has the Tory government done for Moncton lately?

    That’s the favorite line in NB by so many I meet (I guess it’s in the local DNA). Government should solve all our problems. Eeek.

    Anyway, with regards to Lord, I liked the fact that he cut small business taxes, but it was a small consolation since he didn’t reduce spending, reduce the overall size of government (however, he did slash healthcare infrastructure) and ease up on the wasteful corporate welfare loans.

    In other words, for a conservative government, they weren’t fiscally conservative, they were liberal-lite. And you know what they say about conservatives when they try to be like liberals…they lose.

  5. mikel says:

    Hey, don’t know whats going on but you make it sound like the posts that you can’t put on are from ME.

    I certainly don’t mean to eliminate discussion, just the opposite in fact. I’d even help people do it, just use the scientific method. If you think he was indecisive then simply find some evidence that can be discussed. If somebody thinks he’s indecisive I’d assume there must be lots of examples. In todays media spin world people shouldn’t take anything or anybody at their word, especially with the whole internet there.

    For an example like deregulation it was clear that he WANTED to deregulate, but like ontario people signalled that they were ready to revolt and like most governments they discovered that more people get far richer when deregulation is slowly brought in. That’s not really ‘indecisiveness’, or else Mike Harris was the most indecisive Premier in Canada, something not often said about him.

    For nuclear power it was clear he was trying to unload Lepreau, but simply couldn’t get a good enough deal from the british company that now owns most of ontario’s nuclear stations (and wants us to build more so they can buy them for a song down the road).

    But if anybody has some examples of what I’ve often seen in print about Lord I’d love to see it. There is the point that just because a government strikes a committee that they can’t actually decide themselves, such as with public insurance. You could say that he ‘couldn’t decide whether to go public or not and so formed a committee’. I don’t think that holds up because he did the opposite of what the committee said. Committee’s are useful ways of holding off criticism until hopefully the market solves the initial problem or media forgets about it. If thats indecisive then virtually every politician is that.

    It’s a pretty insignificant blog compared to the usual stuff though,I wouldnt bother but I’m putting off real work and its more of a pet peeve of mine-this discussion of politicians on ‘qualities’ and ‘values’ as opposed to what legislation they actually bring in. To bring up a theme from Charles website, the most important thing about Graham isn’t whether he shakes lots of hands at the farmers market but what legislation and policies he brings in (or doesn’t).

    I’d say that its nice to be complimented, but I suspect that was sarcasm:)

  6. David Campbell says:

    Just for the record, NBT, I am not a “what have you done for me lately” kind of guy. I look at what an administration does over one mandate, two or three. And I look at what an opposition party is proposing.

    I could care less about the politics of carving up. SJ gets this, Moncton gets that. Freddy something else and how do we keep the north happy?

    I would much rather them have a plan and stick to it even if there are local political consequences.

  7. mikel says:

    To be fair, why else would you have a LOCAL representative? If people wanted to get rid of that, then the first thing to do is get rid of the current system of represenatation and adopt Proportional Representation at the provincial level. When somebody goes door to asking for your vote, how ELSE do you account for their success or failure? Obviously you ask ‘what have you done for us?’ Thats ‘in the DNA’ because thats the makeup of the system, people ar SUPPOSED to be asking that.

    Of course it doesn’t matter because local representatives have very little power anyway unless they are in cabinet or are good friends with the Premier. But I assume thats a standing joke about Moncton, once again nobody looks at the facts. Lord got rid of the tolls on the highway, which made trucking companies very happy, they set up Molsons and shovel (relatively) tons of R&D money at the Moncton health region and beausejour research centre.

    There’s a reason why Moncton’s health authority was ranked one of the top 100 places to work in canada, and why property taxes are skyrocketing (property taxes rarely go up for places in decline). He also continued putting money into the cleanup of the railyard. So if you ask what he’s done for Moncton, you’d have to be pretty blind, or else you’d really piss off somebody from Edmunston.

  8. nbt says:

    I would much rather them have a plan and stick to it even if there are local political consequences.

    With that philosophy in mind, you shouldn’t have rated the toll highway a major boo boo since it was a plan he [Lord] stuck to (even if it did have negative consequences in your mind).

    And for the record, I was speaking in terms of the ethos which is embedded in NBers DNA (local tories and liberals). That being, looking to the government for economic solutions rather than backing away and letting the market decide…in our case, just a little bit since we are waist deep in government interference. That is all.

  9. David Campbell says:

    Cripes, NBT, even Elizabeth Weir said the deal to take off the tolls was a bad political decision. A free marketer like you should like private roads. I think efforts to brand Lord as a fiscal Conservative are lunacy. He threatened to sue Ottawa over our Constitutional right to Equalization. He raised government spending by 40% while the population was declining. Lord was a good, old fashioned Red Tory – fiscally as well.

  10. nbt says:

    Cripes, NBT, even Elizabeth Weir said the deal to take off the tolls was a bad political decision. A free marketer like you should like private roads.

    Fair point, but I wasn’t discussing the pros and cons of the policy from my perspective, just your philosophy on sticking to a plan (even if there are political consequences). Which is why I find it odd you are criticizing Lord for the very point you tried to make above. Odd that.

    Anyway, you are quite right, the “toll highway” policy is a bit counter to free market principles, which is why I said above, he [Lord] has a longway to go to be deemed a fiscal conservative.

    However, right or wrong, that doesn’t mean he didn’t follow through or listen to the ppl in that area who wanted the tolls taken down. And who can blame them since the Liberals of the day were already cleaning them out via high taxes and excessive/wasteful spending. In other words, it’s the philosophy of it, not the economics of it. PPl don’t like to be dictated to. Something the current government never learned since they look to consultants rather than the ppl for the final say. a very top down appraoch.

  11. mikel says:

    To voice the view not expressed here, politicians aren’t ANYTHING ideologically. They are what the business community wants them to be-call it the Irving Party, or whatever. For the tolls, it was clear that it was simply trucking companies that wanted it off, so that they didn’t have to pay for it.

    But that is simply lunacy to say that NB doesn’t leave anything to the private sector, it leaves practically EVERYTHING to the private sector. Just go look at legislation, there is virtually none that has to do with industry. Major polluters are welcomed with open arms and when they break the laws the province accepts them at their word when they say ‘we’ll try better’. Although in the last case the Irvings didn’t even say that, they simply told the government why they broke emission laws and said they were ‘working on it’.

    NBT talks like the ‘market’ is his religion because he never says exactly what it is that the government is doing that is taking markets away from ‘the’ market. The private market is more than welcome to New Brunswick, they can move in anytime, in fact the government will even pay lots of their costs and of course taxes are low and there is still a willing labour market.

    The government even makes sure there are lousy labour laws so there are few unions in the private marketplace, they pass almost no legislation on it.

    It’s the market that is the problem. The private company that does bussing gets the province to pass laws so that no competition will ever be possible. Hell, the private market are the ones giving statements to help ensure no more competition comes to NB. You think the government wants that?

    But heaven forbid the idealists even state that the market is the central problem, even though thats perfectly clear with just five seconds thought.

  12. Phil says:

    I recently stumbled across your blog on referral from a friend. I appreciate your thoughtful approach while not shrinking from voicing an opinion.

    I found what you said about MP newsletters and party-line votes interesting. Have you read Brian Murphy’s Liberal quarterly? He is so uber-partisan it’s as if all his constituents were Murphy liberals. In fact, only about 30% of the riding’s electors supported him. He has done absolutely nothing to benefit his riding.

    On the other hand, the Tory government has done a lot for Moncton. With the recent top up to the Track & Field Stadium, the Harper government has invested about $50 million in the riding in the last two years. Before NBT comes after me too hard, much of this was for needed infrastructure like Dieppe Blvd., East/West Corridor, Fundy Gateway and $2.6 million for public transit.

    There was also about $150,000 for homeless initiatives, $480,000 for youth at risk, and the Kay Community Center reno. That is exclusive of the $18.1 million of ACOA assitance to small business and entrpreneurs in Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe.

    I agree with NBT in principle that there is too much government spending, but no election is about to be won in the near future by slashing programs. One has only to witness the Liberal outcry over Status of Women. Murphy still tells women that the Tories “cut” women’s funding when in fact they got rid of bureaucratic waste and raised the women’s program budget to 50% more than they ever had!

    His partisan rants are so filled with inaccuracies that federal ministers have to correct the record constantly in the Times & Transcript. It’s one thing to cheer on your team, but people of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview need to take a real hard look at what Brian Murphy has said, and has not done before offering him further support.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :-)