Once again, the Times & Transcript is leading the charge to promote Premier Lord as the rightful head of the federal Conservative Party. And, once again, I marvel at their rationale.
Let me just say that I think Premier Lord could be the right candidate for the federal Conservatives. He may just possibly be able to win some seats in Quebec and if he can survive the Ottawa media (this is key as he gets a free pass in New Brunswick), he just might be able to pull off a Conservative win. In addition, I think he may be more successful in Ottawa where government has become more about doling out surpluses than solving real problems.
But T&T Editor Hogan waxes long and eloquent about Premier Lord’s record in New Brunswick. And as much as I like the Premier, I can’t see where Hogan comes up with this stuff. Unless things radically change, the Premier will be the first in the history of New Brunswick to leave the province with less population than when he arrived. This might be politically salvageable if he could point to the tremendous efforts he made to rectify this (i.e. remember Frank McKenna? His formal record on the economy was not overly impressive but everyone appreciated his hustle). But he has cut economic development spending, he did not renegotiate a regional economic development agreement (RDA) with the Feds, New Brunswick is one of the only provinces without a formal strategy for immigration. People are still leaving northern New Brunswick at a fairly fast pace. Even Greater Moncton, which has been doing well, owes the majority of its success in the past five years (retail, construction, services growth) to the work done in the early to mid 1990s (20+ new call centres).
Hogan talks about the Premier’s ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ and his ability to be a conciliator, etc. I am not sure about these traits (I’d take Al’s word on this but as the Premier’s chief propagandist I am not sure he is unbiased), but I think the measure of any politician is his/her ability to tackle the top challenges of his/her day.
And in New Brunswick, the top challenge is decidedly economic. Health care is a national issue. Alberta, which has the second strongest economy in North America has health care challenges. Child care is a national issue. The cities agenda is a national issue. But economic development, building up new industries to replace our declining ones, is localized to New Brunswick (and Atlantic Canada).
So, in my book, for a Premier to show his/her mettle, they should at least try to tackle this beast and I, frankly, don’t think the Premier has given this much effort at all.
Instead of asking for money for Lepreau, he should be asking for help to bring a Bombardier or a Bell Helicopter or a Ford or a Toyota or any one of the dozens of mega economic development projects that have been funded by the feds – all in Ontario and Quebec – in the past year alone.