Alec Bruce and I apparently share the same opinion of our New Brunswick’s New Premier (TM).

Only the indefatigably optimistic Shawn Graham could interpret a comment like “we never say never” as definitive proof that his genial negotiating style is winning friends and influencing people among the recalcitrant ranks of the federal Tories.

He is talking about the Petitcodiac River restoration project and the fact that the Feds are already hedging on their part of the funding of this restoration.

It does seem like Shawn Graham has essentially become the Anti-Bernard Lord in his approach. Either that is inbred or his advisors see that as a better way to build longer term connection with the electorate.

Lord had little interest in working with Maritime Premiers (he had a better rapport with Manitoba’s Premier) – Graham has been all over that file. Lord wasn’t overly interested in shaking hands and kissing babies. Graham loves this. Lord didn’t spend a lot of time directly interacting with the minions in actual New Brunswick communities. Graham loves to drive around, smile and mouth the priorities of each communities as the priorities of his government. Lord was outspoken in his criticism of the Liberal Prime Minister. Graham is in a love fest with the Conservative Prime Minister.

But exploiting Lord’s perceived weaknesses is not necessarily a good approach. You can say you are committed to the Petitcodiac but unless something gets done, you will breed the kind of resentment that Lord attracted. The same with Saint John. The same with Miramichi. Fredericton. And all other cities in New Brunswick that are feeling like the government is on their side.

Eventually, the government has to make hard decisions. Decisions that are unpopular. Decisions that burn through political capital.

One hopes that overall, voters will judge your government as successful. But there is no way that ‘indefatigable optimism’ is a substitute for leadership and results. It is a good precursor to leadership and results but it is not leadership and results.

So, my advice to Graham is to keep up the big smiles, the endearment with New Brunswickers. Golly gee. But eventually, he will be judged on whether he can break the cycle of declining population, increasing dependence on Equalization, rural decline, dealing with serious challenges in the forestry sector, etc.