Alec Bruce and I apparently share the same opinion of our New Brunswick’s New Premier (TM).

Only the indefatigably optimistic Shawn Graham could interpret a comment like “we never say never” as definitive proof that his genial negotiating style is winning friends and influencing people among the recalcitrant ranks of the federal Tories.

He is talking about the Petitcodiac River restoration project and the fact that the Feds are already hedging on their part of the funding of this restoration.

It does seem like Shawn Graham has essentially become the Anti-Bernard Lord in his approach. Either that is inbred or his advisors see that as a better way to build longer term connection with the electorate.

Lord had little interest in working with Maritime Premiers (he had a better rapport with Manitoba’s Premier) – Graham has been all over that file. Lord wasn’t overly interested in shaking hands and kissing babies. Graham loves this. Lord didn’t spend a lot of time directly interacting with the minions in actual New Brunswick communities. Graham loves to drive around, smile and mouth the priorities of each communities as the priorities of his government. Lord was outspoken in his criticism of the Liberal Prime Minister. Graham is in a love fest with the Conservative Prime Minister.

But exploiting Lord’s perceived weaknesses is not necessarily a good approach. You can say you are committed to the Petitcodiac but unless something gets done, you will breed the kind of resentment that Lord attracted. The same with Saint John. The same with Miramichi. Fredericton. And all other cities in New Brunswick that are feeling like the government is on their side.

Eventually, the government has to make hard decisions. Decisions that are unpopular. Decisions that burn through political capital.

One hopes that overall, voters will judge your government as successful. But there is no way that ‘indefatigable optimism’ is a substitute for leadership and results. It is a good precursor to leadership and results but it is not leadership and results.

So, my advice to Graham is to keep up the big smiles, the endearment with New Brunswickers. Golly gee. But eventually, he will be judged on whether he can break the cycle of declining population, increasing dependence on Equalization, rural decline, dealing with serious challenges in the forestry sector, etc.

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0 Responses to

  1. nbt says:

    You’re right, David. Graham will make a very good local premier since New Brunswickers endear their leviathan style socialist, however, my sense is he will broker very few business deals outside his own political Liberal establishment due to his lack of executive experience and wordly knowledge. Furthermore, his policies are not convincing enough amongst the ungullible. (which is probably another reason why he will make a good local premier)

    As for Bernard Lord, I’ve attended a few barbecues in the past that he hosted down in Shediac; and to my surprise, he was better received amongst the cottaging, educated elite from Quebec (who happened upon the scene for a couple of free hotdogs and a pop)than he was the locals. Not to mention, they loved his political professionalism in Ottawa and Bay Street. Saw it firsthand.

  2. David Campbell says:

    NBT, “leviathan-style socialist” I am looking at my bookshelf at my copy of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan as I write. Methinks Graham probably doesn’t fit the image of a pure socialist.

    As for Lord, I have no doubt that he had charisma and at least some intellect. Remember, George Bush said “I like that guy”. I was told that he was a ‘hit’ in France as well. Mulroney liked him and at one point he wowed the crowd in Calgary (until he started demanding more Equalization saying it was his ‘constitutional right’ – that sullied his image in Alberta real quick).

    My point was that he didn’t really like schmoozing with the common man. And in New Brunswick, where the Premier is more like the Mayor of a mid sized city, part of getting elected and staying elected is pressing as much flesh as you can, not looking bored when the camera turns your way and projecting that you actually like being Premier. IMO, he didn’t do much of that – particularly since he nearly lost in 2003.

    I have said it before that I think the story of Bernard Lord is one of opportunity lost. I think he could have been a good Premier. Could have turned things around. Could have reduced – not increased – our dependency on Equalization. Could have continued the economic renaissance started under McKenna. But he didn’t.

  3. nbt says:

    IMO, he didn’t do much of that – particularly since he nearly lost in 2003.

    Again, my point. Of the people left in New Brunswick, many of them believe strongly in government because it is involved heavily in their daily lives — both at work and at home. Just ask yourself that question, how much of your check comes from taxpayers money?

    Anyway, I just think that the society and policies you inadvertently built up on this blog are the very same policies that have left our economy in a conundrum for years. That being state interventionism. Its underlying theme is riddled throughout the self-sufficiency document. A document you endorsed.

    Now I know you don’t consider yourself a socialist (and I know you’re far from it), however, your policies mirror Mr. Savoie’s quite closely in that the state is the means by which economic policies should be resolved.

    A philosophy that has been entrenched here since the tax and spend days beginning in the late 60s. I guess that’s why I wasn’t surprised to see the article in the paper today about the tories and I wasn’t surprised to see people back in 2003 buy into the hysteria of auto insurance rates. The latter needed to know that the state would bail them out.

    In other words, I think our parties and our citizens put way too much faith in government rather than the market. Which is why the TJ had to travel all the way to Calgary and interact with the Manning Centre in order to be enlightened about true conservative policy. Sad indeed.

    For the record, “Leviathan socialist” was a little harsh. I should have just said Leviathan.

    Btw, here’s a decent article on what happens when you don’t allow auto insurance rates to adjust themselves via the market.

  4. David Campbell says:

    NBT you will agree that my philosophical and practical position on this stuff is clear from the 1,400+ posts to this blog. When Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Australia and Timbuktu stop providing ‘incentives’ to grow industry, then I will stop advocating it for New Brunswick. As a consultant to the economic development biz, I do not have the luxury of “wouldn’t it be nice” hypotheses.

    However, I would ask you to differentiate my position from those who advocate bailouts, ongoing corporate subsidies, large scale seasonal employment wage subsidies, and other types of subsidies that I think overtime drag down the economic performance of an economy. I do, however; think that there is a role for government to play to assist in the growth of key industry sectors through a variety of mechanisms such as R&D support, training and even targeted tax breaks where there is a demonstrable positive effect. Lord/Volpe cut small business taxes to the bone and the rate of small business creation was the second worse in Canada.

    My philosophy is simple. Governments spend a pile of money. In all countries. In Canada and the United States, the government sector represents upwards of 30% of the entire economy (it’s actually higher in the U.S. than in Canada but that’s for another blog).

    I’m just saying that I find it fantastic that some people believe the government should provide health care, education, roads, police, infrastructure, prisons, public pensions, funding for the arts, etc. etc. etc. but to actually spend time and effort on the actual economy on which all of that is predicated is somehow socialism.

    I submit to you that a good economic development model where communities and governments work proactively with industry to ensure a positive environment for long term, sustainable growth is the best antidote to socialism.

    But that’s open to debate, for sure.

  5. nbt says:

    Lord/Volpe cut small business taxes to the bone and the rate of small business creation was the second worse in Canada.

    If you can’t read that statement above and figure out why that is? then you have no idea of the impact of hurtful statist policies and what it does to the overall psyche of a province and its economy. Yes, even small business.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That’s often a response when the facts don’t fit the case, that it is the ‘effect on the psyche’ that done did it dagnabbit!

    However, once again the people are quite smart and don’t need a lot of education or reading Hobbes or other dead guys to ‘see through a brick wall in time’.

    And I doubt many are reading this far, however, it might be interesting to take a look back at those stages of ‘heavy government intervention’, namely the fifties to the seventies, and realize that economic growth was consistently in the double digits, not the measly 3-5% that is touted as being so wonderful nowadays.

    Again, just go check out the blog on salaries. Its pretty tough to argue against reality. Get a government job, get good pay. Get a private sector job, get lousy pay (although obviously big corporations can pay more than small businesses, oops, I mean THE GOVERNMENT gives them the money to pay them more -and ask those people in Bathurst and Fredericton how well that worked out for them).

    Again, go ask a Norwegian how much s/he despises that evil government intervention that forces employers to give a mandatory one month vacation, grants full year maternity to EVERY woman, allows no cubicles (all offices have to have exterior windows) and has a hold on the oil wealth that will provide for them long into retirement. As always, it all depends on how much a society is reflected by those who govern them.

    That’s REALITY, and of course if NBT were actually correct then the NDP wouldn’t have trouble getting more than 5% of the popular vote, so I don’t know WHERE that comes from. If anything, people ‘seem’ content with their oligarchy, meaning letting Irving and McCain and a small number of companies pretty much call the shots.

    However, when you have a choice between two guys whose policies are virtually identical and who can only be differentiated by personal characteristics, then its tough to claim to know ANYTHING about what voters think.