Just to be Frank

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The work of an ex-premier of New Brunswick invariably fades into history and, if he’s lucky, decorously memorable. In the case of Frank McKenna, who also happens to be a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and current Deputy Chairman of TD Bank, that’s unlikely if only because his work, and his mouth, has never stopped.

He’s been nearly 20 years out of provincial office and the man is still making pronouncements and consequent headlines concerning the here and now of the picture-perfect province that cradled his upbringing. Though he lives and works in Toronto – and has for several years – New Brunswick, it seems, remains Mr. McKenna’s passionate hobby.

Not too long ago, he had this to say about shale gas development in the province: “The way I look at it, the real win comes when we take our indigenous shale gas in the province and hook it into the Canaport liquified natural gas (LNG) facility in Saint John. We have in situ now, calculated by Corridor Resources Inc., 67 trillion cubic feet of gas. That’s bigger than western Canada. It’s a huge deposit! If 10 per cent is exploitable, that’s enough to create a revenue source for New Brunswick for decades to come. All in, it would result in about $15-20 billion in investment and 150,000 person years of work. And for governments, it would result in between $7-9 billion worth of royalties and taxes.”

As for the proposed Energy East Pipeline, he opined, “What we need to understand is that just by the roll of the dice, we have landed in exactly the best position on the board at this moment in time. We have a Canaport facility with massive storage and with a jetty, getting right into deep water. We have a port that’s ice free and has the capacity to accommodate the biggest vessels in the world. The West Coast can’t do that.”

That was in 2013, and what a dog-day’s difference two years can make. Still, even if shale gas is as dry an economic well as any in this province and the chances of receiving Alberta bitumen for refining are dwindling faster than the price of a barrel of oil, I have to hand it to Mr. McKenna: He refuses to shut up about issues that are pertinent to this neck of the East Coast woods and personally important to him.

Lately, print, broadcast and social media have vilified him over an Op-Ed he scribbled for the Globe and Mail. In it, he somewhat immodestly suggested that immigrants to Canada should spend some quality time in Atlantic Canada as a condition of their tenure in this country.

In his recent Op-Ed, he declared, “The government’s decision to direct certain immigrants to certain parts of Canada allows us to dust off an old idea, that concept of a social contract, which is urgently needed, particularly in Atlantic Canada. It is not a coincidence that Atlantic Canada is especially enthusiastic about receiving Syrian immigrants. . . We need a new program dedicated to the needs of Atlantic Canada. . .We do not have to reinvent the wheel. As far back as 2002, the immigration minister, Denis Coderre, (proposed) the idea of a ‘social contract’ whereby immigrants would be required to live in a community specified by the government for a period of at least three years, as part of the conditions for citizenship.”

Thus, Mr. McKenna floats another trial balloon on behalf of New Brunswick. And why not? At least he’s working, and not just his mouth.

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