Puttin’ on the Writz: Twisted Sister edition

Hugh John Flemming served as NB premier from 1952-1960. LJR served from 1960 to 1970. Richard Hatfield served from 1970 to 1987 and Frank McKenna served from 1987-1997 – but he won three times – he left because of a promise to stay as Premier only 10 years (after Hatfield’s 17).

In my opinion, something changed after McKenna. I realize that former Premiers got the boot from angry constituents but there was always the sense that once in power in New Brunswick you could expect at least two terms. This tradition goes back 100 years for elected Premiers.

But Bernard Lord almost lost in 2003 after one term. This despite an economy that was doing comparatively well and a fairly solid fiscal situation due to a variety of factors including the turning up of the transfers tap from Ottawa. Lord did lose in 2006 after a half-hearted three year second term. Shawn Graham lost by a fairly large margin after only one term. The polls are suggested that David Alward might be the next one-term Premier.

Thinking back to the polls in 1999, I would suggest this is not a certainty but the general trend points to what I have come to call the Twisted Sister attitude in New Brunswick these days. The one-hit wonder from the 1980s sang “we’re not going’ to take it” and I feel that New Brunswickers have taken that song on as an anthem.

The politicians have yet to catch up. The Alward government ended up making a number of pretty big changes but their ‘review’ of government took nearly two years. The Liberals government has talked about an 18 month review if they get in.

I would suggest in a Twisted Sister world, governments would be wiser to “hit the ground running” rather than position themselves as embarking on a slow, thoughtful process. They will wake up from this process and it will be the next election cycle and they will be on the run.

The other issue in a Twisted Sister world is that NBers have little tolerance for change. We saw that with the proposed NB Power sale and we are seeing that with natural gas development. In an alternate universe people would be thrilled to find out about the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas under our feet that could provide jobs and tax/royalty revenues for a couple of generations. Instead, many of them are “not going to take it” and will fight that opportunity tooth and nail.

In the Twisted Sister world, the successful politician will be able to convince her/his constituents that New Brunswick needs big ambitious efforts to get its economy back on track. This includes a bold new immigration focus, urban development and, yes, natural resources development. Everyone seems to be lined up against these things but it is the job of a politician to convince constituents to see the bigger picture.

Also in the Twister Sister world, the successful politician needs clear eyed focus. If fixing NB’s economy was easy it would be done by now. It will be hard and governments need the wisdom to understand their role – what they can and should not do – to foster more private sector investment.