Someone asked me this week to name my top 10 most influential New Brunswickers since I started my career in the early 90s. A few of the obvious came to mind but really I think it depends on what you mean by ‘great’. If you mean in terms of GDP contribution (business leadership) you would have to put names like:
Robert Irving (from almost no employment in the Moncton region when he landed here to some 1,800 employees today in manufacturing, transportation, IT, etc.)* – nearly one out of every 10 net new private sector jobs over that timeframe;
Gerry Pond (the father of the IT industry in New Brunswick with at least two dozen IT firms that were either funded by him or that had leadership who worked for him in the past);
Wes Armour – who built a company with 2,000+ employees based in Moncton;
Allison McCain – you could argue the company was built into a global player before I started my career in the early 1990s but the GDP contribution from frozen foods (French fries, etc.) in New Brunswick doubled from the mid 1990s to the mid 2010s and further, he has solidified the company’s commitment to New Brunswick investing in startups and innovation here.
If you mean in terms of political contribution, this will always have a partisan lens to it but it would have to include include Frank McKenna, possibly Dominic LeBlanc, Doug Young, etc. At the local level there have been institutions such as Elsie Wayne in Saint John or Brad Woodside in Fredericton.
How about contribution to arts and culture? Then we need to consider folks like Susan Chalmers-Gauvin – founder of Atlantic Ballet or Measha Brueggergosman. David Adams Richards has been among the most important NB writers in the past 30 years.
Then there are those I would consider highly influential in a multi-faceted capacity of which Frank McKenna would be top of the list. Others on that list would have to include:
Aldea Landry – her influence cuts across multiple areas including provincial Cabinet Minister/Deputy PM, entrepreneur, chair of APEC, Bank of Canada board member, Chair of Vitalite Health Network, board member on more than a dozen national and international companies and Chancellor of the Université Sainte-Anne of Nova-Scotia. She has also mentored dozens of young women and been a champion of women in leadership across New Brunswick and Canada.
Francis McGuire – My first boss in the good old days, he was successful as a provincial Deputy Minister, investor in startups, CEO of a multinational firm based here, and now head of ACOA. There would be few in the business community that do not know the name of Francis McGuire.
Then there are the academics and thinkers – the folks who lead the way in the conversations about modernizing New Brunswick – such as Dr. John McLaughlin at UNB.
How about public sector leadership? We don’t spend a lot of time talking up the contribution of Deputy Ministers or other public sector leaders but there have to be some that really stood out in the past 30 years. I am familiar with Don Dennison and what he did as DM but also after (such as helping to startup the Business Council). I always liked Bill Levesque but that is because of his maverick style.
The truth is that at the end of the day, this kind of discussion is better had at the local level. I talk above of the influence of Robert Irving in the Moncton region but people like Jean Claude Savoie had a similar influence in western Restigouche (or Normand Caissie in Kent County). If you mention the name Larry Nelson in Moncton or Bud Bird in Fredericton in those two cities you will get back a laundry list of things they have done. I was always impressed by Bill MacMackin in Saint John. He owns a business in area but I’ve been around nearly 30 years and he seems to keep popping up in just about everything meant to foster growth in the region.
I’d be interested to know who would be on your list of top 10 most influential New Brunswickers since 1990.
*Robert and Jim are co-CEOs of the company. I put Robert here because he is physically located in the Moncton region.