An economic development consultant colleague from outside New Brunswick asked me the other day about the Finn report – he had read about it in the paper while in the province. He asked me what the big deal was.
35% is the big deal. 35% of New Brunswickers live in LSDs and actually, if I have my math right, the majority of New Brunswickers live in communities whose leadership do not like Finn. One of the larger urbans’ mayors doesn’t like the idea at all.
So you have a proposition where a large percentage of the population is likely against the Finn report and could easily be mobilized against it (i.e. tell them their taxes will go up) and the rest of the population that is ambivalent about the idea.
That’s why this type of change is so stubbornly difficult. JG Finn is in the paper again today saying that he thinks the stars may be aligning for the Alward government to make this happen.
Maybe but where does it fit in the priority list between a billion dollar deficit, stagnant/aging population, the upcoming loss of transfer payments, energy, etc.?
Political capital is an interesting concept. Politicians can burn through it quickly – but in the longer term can see a payback on the investment. A guy like Finn would say this is the case here – that eventually people will widely see the benefits. I personally think most of what he is proposing makes good sense but I don’t see it as some kind of panacea and when many of these communities continue to see population decline, they would point to amalgamation as not successful and the political capital would be wasted.
But there is that little issue of ‘legacy’. At some time in the future, when you search Wikipedia for NB Premiers you will see a large entry for LJR, a good sized one for Frank McKenna and, likely either very little or a footnote on both Lord and Graham. Many Alward would like his name on a few buildings some day. He won’t get it following in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors (although in fairness, they are both young and may not be done casting their names in bronze).