Premier Lord: Master Tactician?

I don’t consider myself much of a political analyst but it never seemed to me that Premier Lord was much of a political tactician. In fact, it seemed to me that the day to day politics of being Premier pretty much seemed to annoy him.

Consider the Orimulsion scandal. An $800 million dollar boondoggle and he shrugged his shoulders and said it was an innocent mistake (rough translation). I would have thought that he should have expressed ‘outrage’ as do ‘all New Brunswickers’ and ‘heads will roll’ or ‘we will get to the bottom of this’.

Or how about auto insurance. The response there was so tepid that he nearly lost after a first term – which would have been the first time this had happened since Confederation.

Or consider hospital closures in the North. Sheesh. That was anything but tactical.

And the list goes on. How about his suspected, alleged, rumoured, hinted run for the Federal Tories? That should have skyrocketed his image in New Brunswick as a potential national leader but instead he was positioned as detached from the needs of New Brunswickers.

But in the past year or so, something has changed. Maybe it was his inner circle shakeup after the election. I dunno but something ain’t right in suburbia.

Premier Lord has orchestrated a number of political masterstrokes in the past 12 months that I believe would propel him to a massive majority if an election was held right now (or in 3 months – consider my comment below about Nackawic).

Consider the Lepreau nuclear power station. If the Premier had just announced its refurbishment last year with no fanfare (same deal on the table as now) he would have got a little bounce but not much. But after 12-18 months of prophesying of the coming Armageddon (remember the 6% hike in rates if we refurbish Lepreau – just 4 months ago?), the folks in Saint John were so jittery that when he announced the refurbishment (which was going to happen all along) every resident of Saint John rose to their feet in praise. In Saint John right now, Premier Lord would sweep every seat. No one cares that Saint John’s economy has been tanking for 15 years – the last 18 months have been good (Irving LNG, Lepreau) and NB voters have short memories.

Or consider the ‘medical school’ for Moncton. This will cost the province almost nothing compared to the overall cost of the health care budget and in fact will most likely lead to cost savings but the positioning on it has been outstanding. You would think that a $100 million medical school was being built at U de M instead of a few new classrooms. And he has hinted a similar set up is coming for Saint John or Fredericton.

Call the election now, keep them on the edge of their seats!

Also consider the pulp mill in Nackawic. Never mind that the Province wouldn’t give financial incentives to Bowater and that is why the plant closed to begin with. If the Premier can convince the Indians to take over the plant (less staff, lower wages), he will look like a hero to all of the Saint John River Valley. Every one will gloss over the fact that the ultimate financial package for the Indian company will end up being around the same as the one they wouldn’t give to Bowater.

The list goes on. He passed on hundreds of millions in Federal childcare dollars because he wanted to ‘stand up’ for the stay at home moms in New Brunswick. That’s a political winner. Never mind that almost all the other provinces signed such a deal and have millions in new funding in their coffers.

Now they are talking up immigration which should shore up voters in Moncton and to a lesser extent in Fredericton.

So, the only area that is not basking in the Lordship’s glow right now is the North – and they have mostly written that area off anyway.

So, to recap. Five years of indecision, inaction, the worst job creation record in Atlantic Canada, the lowest level of foreign business investment, the second lowest rate of immigration, population decline for the first time since the Great Depression, the alienation of the Federal government, Orimulsion, etc. etc. etc. and 12 months of savvy moves and he is now in the driver’s seat again.

What I want to know is who’s the political operative behind the master? Who is making all these home run decisions?

All the Premier needs now is an ‘Al Hogan’ at the TJ, Gleaner and Acadie Nouvelle. He could stay in power as long as Hatfield.

The Lord help us all.