Floating your own trial balloon

I don’t blame the media but when you read about “sources” indicate that person x or person y is considering a run at the Tory leadership, it is likely the actual person him or herself. This is now standard fare in New Brunswick. You are your own deep throat.

Phone rings. A deep gravelly voice on the other end says “I hear that Bernard Lord is considering a second run at the Tory Leadership” cough cough. “Is that you Bernard?” is the reply. A hasty hang up.

Yes. We read again today that Bernard Lord himself is considering another kick at the can. Maybe after seven years of dithering and a 38% rise in government spending (over double the rate of the economy as a whole), he has learned a few things.

One thing is for sure. If Bernie runs again, there will lots of fodder for discussion on this blog. As you may have noticed, I am far more critical of dithering and inaction than I am of action that may not achieve the desired result. Better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, the old saying goes.

It was frustrating for me to sit back and watch the early 2000s unfold. Across Canada, the country was achieving record levels of population growth. Own source government revenues were up across the board. The economy was, for the most part, very strong.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, stagnant population actually slipped into population decline as we ran up a 15 year streak of net-out migration. Our economy underperformed the national economy five of the seven years Bernard was in power. And, most annoyingly, almost all of the ‘big’ leadership issues of the day (economic development, post-secondary education, French Immersion, forestry management/development, energy, etc.) were left to simmer on the backburner – some were studied to death. Some were given ‘strategies’ and ‘targets’ that were ridiculous (like worst to third in Canada for education test scores and worst to third in Canada for R&D spending) others were just ignored.

This left the opposition chomping at the bit and they came in guns ablazin’. Post-secondary, bang. Energy, bang. French Immersion, bang. Health, bang. We will wait and see if a) any/all of it actually happens and b) what the political fall out could be.

I now hear Tories telling people not to worry. They will reverse French Immersion, put the brakes on post-secondary reform, find a new health model. And forget about uranium mining (a dark horse problem for the Liberals).

But cajoling various aggrieved special interest groups is not leadership. The Tories exploited similar wounds in 1999 (remember Toll Busters?). It may get you into power by cobbling together a room full of angry men and women but it won’t lead you to good government.

So, I think whomever emerges as the Tory leader needs to forget the temptation to ride the Toll Busters wave and craft his/her own vision for how to move New Brunswick forward. Seriously. The silliness that we have witnessed has been staggering.