What a marvelous time to be the youngest premier in Canada, representing the oldest population in the nation. Could anything in Brian Gallant’s professional experience be less desirable than the thankless job he now faithfully executes?
The 32-year-old’s to-do list would give Hercules a panic attack.
First, there’s the little problem of a $12-billion long-term public debt, and a $500-million annual deficit that just won’t go away no matter what tweaks he executes to civil-service spending.
Second, there’s a litany of campaign promises that inveigh against any reasonable tool to manage the province’s fiscal crisis.
There will be no new revenue streams in the foreseeable future – not from onshore natural gas development, not from a putative pipeline from Alberta into Saint John, not from the high-tech or natural resources sectors, not from manufacturing, not even from community economic entrepreneurship. Nada. Zip. End of story. Period.
Third, the cost of health care in New Brunswick is rising alarmingly, given the tax base that remains to help pay for emergency rooms, walk-in clinics, family physicians, fully equipped hospitals.
This province “boasts” the highest per-capita spending on “interventional” medicine (as opposed to the preventative type) in the country. We are, as a populace, fatter, drunker, and more likely to cough our lungs out than any other region of Canada.
Fourth, we continue to endure the steady outmigration of our “best and brightest” to other parts of the nation, the continent and the world. And, even when other parts of the nation (Alberta), the continent (the Midwestern shale patch) and the world (the European Union) fail to retain promise, our ex-pats routinely choose places other than home in which to roost (Brazil, Venezuela).
And then, of course, there are the awful employment numbers, reported far and wide around this tiny province.
According to a piece by John Chilibeck in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, published last Saturday, “New Brunswick’s bleak jobless situation became even gloomier in June, with the unemployment rate shooting up into double digits again, to 10.8 per cent. . .Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey (reported that) employment in the province fell for the second consecutive month, down 3,500 in June.”
All of which must leave the impression, even in the minds of the most circumspect among us, that we are circling the drain. And that gives us the equipoise to blame the current office holders for their mismanagement, misalignment and even malfeasance.
Still, how much blame for what ails us can we properly assign to a new government, less than a year into its mandate, or even its one-term predecessor (party politics, notwithstanding)?
A friend of mine cornered me at a local grocery check-out recently and demanded to know why I haven’t been holding this young premier’s feet to the fire. “He’s obviously way over his head,” he declared as we surveyed the price of beef from Alberta. “So, what’s up with you? Have you gone soft, or something?”
To which I replied: “I was the first out of the gate telling the government to raise the HST by one percentage point. I was one of the first to tell this government to monetize shale gas, responsibly.”
My friend replied: “Well, I’m not for raising the HST, and as for shale gas, I’m for it as long it doesn’t affect me in any way possible.”
In other words, everything is better than the status quo, except for the status quo.
What a marvelous time, indeed, to be the youngest premier in Canada, representing the most calcified attitudes in the nation: The perfect picture-panic province.