Following the yellow-brick road

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Brian Gallant represents the best qualities a provincial premier as this time in Canada requires – and, also, the worst.

The good news is that New Brunswick’s head honcho is young, energetic, smart, genuinely interested in the welfare of the people he represents and, most importantly, unafraid of pollsters, opposition critics, and various members of the voting public who might shake his hand and spit bitterly on the sidewalk as he moves on to press somebody else’s flesh.

The bad news is that New Brunswick’s head honcho is young, energetic, smart, genuinely interested in the welfare of the people he represents and unafraid of pollsters, opposition critics, and various members of the voting public who might shake his hand and. . .well, you get the point.

Of course, few told Mr. Gallant how to respond to the prevarications and predations of public life as he was growing up in southeastern New Brunswick. (He is the scion of working men and women who sometimes found quotidian existence so difficult, so monetarily unrewarding, that they moved more times than the pre-teen Mr. Gallant had put in years on Planet Earth).

Still, no one had to tell the future premier anything; he figured it out all by himself. The solution, he reckoned through high school, university and law school, was to cut down every extreme and find a safe landing pad in the middle of the road, where traffic passes easily both to the right and the left. As long as you don’t step off the yellow line, you won’t get run over; you will survive.

These qualities of mind and character have served him extraordinarily well as the premiers and territorial leaders of Canada prepare gathered with the feds in Ottawa on Monday to articulate a national position on climate-change policy. This pow-wow on, inarguably, the most global of all global issues, will demonstrate how, for the first time in seven years, regional leaders and national ones come to meet each other’s minds, all at once over coffee and rubber chicken, over. . .well, anything. . .but especially global warming. And Mr. Gallant had an important role to play in the proceedings. Clearly, this 33-year-old premier was animated.

“It’s important for all of us to work together – we’re going to send a strong message to the international community,” he said earlier this week, at the denouement of his appearance in the federal court of public opinion.

That message, we might hope, is about cutting carbon emissions, reducing greenhouse gases, building a self-sufficient energy future, and generally saving the planet from corporatist rapacity.

But, no; for Mr. Gallant, there remains a middle road in all of this. Here, in this place (where we once used to be; and some of us still are), it is entirely possible to imagine a pipeline full of Alberta bitumen sluicing into New Brunswick for refining and processing, even while we reject the clean-energy potentialities of wind, tidal and situated solar.

A pipeline, apparently, will keep our kids at home, educate them and make them remarkable citizens.

A wind turbine, on the other hand, will simply give them headaches and justify their complaints about how tough life is, living in Mum and Dad’s basement, watching Game of Thrones on Netflix.

Playing both sides against the middle is a tough calling. What Mr. Gallant must finally realize is that he, like any decent man or woman in a position of real power, must chart the lonely, hardscrabble course away from the yellow line, and into the brutal, responsible lanes of real leadership.

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