Harry S. Truman

As you may know, I am on a 2.5 week vacation in Brazil. It’s more like an in-law visit, quasi-vacation type of thing. Anyway, I was resolved to get some serious reading in on this vacation as there is limited English TV and I have committed to myself to avoid the Canadian media for this little period.

For some strange reason, I have taken to reading political biographies in the past few years. I have read bios of Lyndon Johnson, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Kruschev, Pierre Trudeau, to name a few.

Now I just finished a massive 950 page biography of Harry S. Truman, the US president that is best known for using the Atomic bomb.

I don’t have much to say about this biography other than it is a great read. Fascinating. HST presided over the strongest economic expansion in US history, intiated the Marshall Plan which led to the economic renewal of Europe, instituted the ‘Truman Doctrine’ in response to the Soviet Union and enacted a host of social and labour friendly legislation (he was the first President to push for a ‘medicare’ program – in the late 1940s. He was also a pioneer on civil rights.

But what strikes me about HST was his determination. I admit that these biographies are written for the most part to romanticize the President (i.e. spend a lot more time on the good than the bad) but I still come away from this book wondering why this type of leadership doesn’t seem to emerge in New Brunswick. I realize that NB is an order of magnitude smaller than the US of A but I still think there is room for real leadership in this province.

Why I made the connection between Truman and New Brunswick is that late in his life, Truman went to England and met with the Prime Minister and our old friend Lord Beaverbrook. The most powerful man in the world goes to England and the two people that spend time with him are the PM and a benefactor of New Brunswick.

I will most likely try and dig up a biography of Beaverbrook as I know nothing about him except that his name is plastered all around the province.

Our own Premier Lord, it has been reported, was mentioned favourably by the current US President Bush. The story goes that GW pointed at Lord and said something about his dad liking that guy.

Beaverbrook and Truman. Lord and Bush.

New Brunswick’s population is in decline for the first time since Confederation. While the vast majority of North America builds a 21st century economy, New Brunswick has seen almost no new economy industry development in the past six years. We are still heavily dependent on old economy industries that are in visible decline. While the strongest economies enact policies and effort to grow ‘own source’ revenue, New Brunswick spends its time and energy negotiating more lucrative Equalization and Transfer revenues.

I think we had an opportunity in the late 1990s to fundamentally change things in New Brunswick. To build new industries. To create new jobs. To attract talent to the province.

But we didn’t and here we are.

And that brush with Bush did nothing for New Brunswick as it would seem Beaverbrook’s position of power also did little.