Avoid the sensationalism trap

One of the most annoying thing about politics in 21st Century New Brunswick, is that we have substituted sensationalism for good, long term policy and thinking.

This started with the famous and now vanishing Prosperity Plan which made outrageous goals and offered no real plan to get there. I don’t want to rehash all that but one quick example is research & development. The PP said NB would rise to the the Top Three in Canada among the provinces for R&D spending per capita. At the time we were 10th. Coincidentally, we are still 10th. You can say anything you want. And people might believe your sincerity. But ultimately you have to deliver.

Now we have the Five in Five which serves up equally disingenuous claims meant to convince people the government has a plan and is aggressively working towards it.

So, today in the Telegraph Journal, we have a glimpse into Shawn Graham’s soul. The headline doesn’t inspire much confidence: “From Worst to First”. As I have said many times, we need to go from worst to slightly better, and then maybe up to average and then slightly above average and so on.

However, I have to admit the language of Shawn’s plan sounds interesting. Here are some highlights (I can’t provide the link – it’s behind a password):

The fact is, I would love to see our province self-sufficient by 2025, that we’re able to stand on our own two feet.”

The Opposition leader said strength in the three platform areas would enable him to approach the federal government for substantial investment to help the province end the “cycle of dependence” that exists today.

“I don’t want to stand up as the Premier of New Brunswick and ask for a bigger welfare cheque. I want to stand up and say: ‘We want investment today that’s going to position our province toward self-sufficiency and here’s how we’re going to do it. It’s going to tie in to the three pillars.”

A Liberal government would move the province from “worst to first” in education, Graham pledged. At the post-secondary level, he promised significant investment for community college infrastructure and proposed three-year degree programs in the universities. An accelerated degree-granting program would allow students to graduate earlier with less debt load and begin families sooner. The latter would have a positive impact on New Brunswick, helping enhance a declining population base, Graham said.

To spark reform in education, as well as in the other policy areas, Graham resolved to “retool” the civil service. He said if elected, he has an individual whom he would not name waiting on the sidelines whose job it would be to recruit “the best and the brightest minds around the world.”The Liberals will pay “top dollar” to recruit about a dozen leaders who will take key positions in the civil service and guide the agenda. “The fact is, we had the second slowest growth rate last year in gross domestic product. We’re trailing the pack and I think the Research In Motion file showed we’re not in the game,” Graham said, referring to the loss of the RIM call centre to Nova Scotia. “We have to make job creation a priority again. On the economic development side, I want to restore the can-do attitude of our province.”

Investment in the economy will build the case for the province before the federal government to convince it to assist New Brunswick in becoming self-sufficient.”Every New Brunswicker wants to stand on his own two feet. To say that we’re relying on a hand-out from Ontario and Alberta is degrading to our population.”

My two cent’s worth:

I like the language of self-sufficiency. I have to believe that for aware New Brunswickers having the our Premier lead the charge for more Equalization is quite disheartening. Tying federal support to long term economic development goals is something worthy of an Alec Bruce column.

The Liberals will pay “top dollar” to recruit about a dozen leaders who will take key positions in the civil service and guide the agenda. I think this is a great idea and I will argue this point to the bitter end. I recently met the head of the Atl. Health Sciences Centre in Saint John – she is sharp as a tack and a transplant from Montreal. The Liberals should build a top team from within the province and without. In Lord’s first term in office, there was some commentary that he had surrounded himself with cronies in top positions and that was hurting his ability to get things done. I remember a T&T columnist one time asked Lord about it. I stick with the people that got me elected, Lord apparently said. In one of my favourite movies, Broadcast News, there’s a slimy politician that says something to the effect of “If I get elected I’ll put him in charge of parking tickets!”. And I couldn’t agree more. If you have to ‘reward’ your cronies with government jobs – don’t give them senior positions of influence. You’ll end up where we are today. Kudos on this idea.

Create a more positive attitude in New Brunswick – that’s a theme we mostly support in this blog. It’s easier said than done. Mentioning RIM by name is strategic and should resonate with the younger generation.

Worst to first in education. My only caution here is that without a parallel track for economic development, increasing educational outcomes only accelerates out-migration.

As for Lord’s response:

Premier Bernard Lord says there’s something familiar about the major planks in the provincial Liberal party platform. “I think Shawn Graham is only repeating things that I’ve said before,” said Lord Tuesday. “In many ways, as someone said today, it’s Shawny come lately.”

Lord is for self-sufficiency? Is there one New Brunswicker that would believe this? How can you be the poster boy for Equalization increases and be for self-sufficiency?

As for Al Hogan’s response?

Tee hee hee.

Al publishes a 50 word clip about the Liberal’s energy plan and saying that “circumstances may force him [Lord] to call a vote this fall”. No commentary. No We Say. No mention of any of the key elements of the Liberal agenda.

I’ll tell you this. Al Hogan has soured me on Premier Lord more than any policy initiative or action by government.

The BS meter goes off everytime I read that rag and anything about provincial politics. If the T&T, unfortunately the paper I read everyday to get caught up on local news, came even slightly close to a) actually reporting the news (as they avoided today) and b) offering any kind of balanced insight, I might actually have a better attitude about things. But, like many folks my generation, I don’t like being snow jobbed. If Al Hogan thinks he is supporting the Premier with this silly reporting style, I think in the long term he will actually kill him. The newspaper should be a place of debate. A place where ideas are debated on the editorial page not blindly validated for political reasons. A place where governments are poked and pushed not summarily supported.

Last point, Al. If Lord calls an election it won’t because of ‘circumstances’. It will be a cold, rational, political decision based on his current status in the polls. Glossing over Lord’s previous stance on ‘fixed election dates’ is wearing thin, at least for me.