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.