An open letter to Brian Gallant, the new leader of Eastern Canada’s la-la land (AKA New Brunswick)

Surf, baby, surf!

Surf, baby, surf!

Dear Mr. Premier,

Allow me to congratulate you on your recent victory at the polls, you poor bastard.

Why anyone would subject himself to the slings and arrows of the New Brunswick electorate, only your political forebears and God Almighty knows.

But here you are, taking names and numbers, dropping the small-business tax rate by 50 basis points on your first day in office, promising a $900-million-dollar infrastructure build over six years (two years longer than your current mandate), and vowing to steer this ship of state around the shoals and sandbars that have sunk previous governments, both Grit and Tory, for nearly a generation.

Good for you.

Here’s the excellent news: You are young, educated, smart, and perfectly bilingual.

Here’s the less excellent news: You are young, educated, smart, and perfectly bilingual. Naturally, people will expect you to hand them the world on personalized pewter platters.

A few things going in your favour include a radically curtailed cabinet, the semblance of a ‘right-sized’ public bureaucracy, and cuts in everything except front-line services in health care and social programs. There’s also your avowed commitment to educational attainment in New Brunswick, an ambition that, heretofore, has continued to disappoint educators in this province. All of which should leave the impression in the minds of all but the most vested interests and partisan individuals that you are serious about the commonweal.     

The many things going against you include a $400-million deficit and $12-billion debt that, for all the world, looks like a permanent feature of the fiscal landscape; a moribund economy (apart from some recent, positive signs from the mining and forestry sectors) that’s still far too reliant on seasonal and part-time positions in rural areas; a mismatch between highly skilled jobs and training in urban areas; and a steady flow of talent (what economists like to call ‘human capital’) to points west, notably Alberta.

Then, of course, there are the lobbyists.

There is, for example, the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, whose executive director Cecile Cassista told the CBC this week, “Right now, we have about 57 agencies and basically getting money from the government, which really doesn’t actually meet the needs of the workers that are doing the work.”

There’s the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whose director of provincial affairs Denis Robichaud also told the CBC, “We see positive measures, I think, in the Liberal program on (taxation). . .But the new Liberal government also plans to return business property tax rates to the levels in place in 2012 so that worries some of our members also.”

And this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.

Still, you correctly assess the dimension of your challenge when you say, as you did recently in an interview with the Telegraph-Journal, “The whole point of why I embarked on this adventure was to try to make a difference. Now, I really do feel I have the capability and the responsibility to make a difference. . .We have some rocky roads ahead of us as a province to get over these challenges. But we will take it very seriously, and we will make the right decisions so we can get over that hump and make sure we have better says as a province.”

Mr. Premier, I will leave you with two thoughts.

The first is: be bold right away. Make all your dramatic, radical moves within your first year. Your job is no longer to win friends and influence people. That one terminated on election day. Your job is to slay the beast and save the girl (metaphorically speaking about New Brunswick as a damsel in distress may not, however, serve your interests as you are the province’s minister responsible for women’s equality).

That brings me to my second point: keep your sense of humour. You’re going to need it. Remember what Groucho Marx once said (“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies”), or Ambrose Bierce (“a vote. . .is the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country”)

Good luck, you poor bastard.

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