New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant seems to have no problem functioning as the province’s “Minister of Everything”.
After all, he’s not only the youngest provincial leader in the country (at age 33), he’s President of the Executive Council, Chair of the New Brunswick Jobs Board, Minister responsible for Innovation, Minister responsible for Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister responsible for Women’s Equality, Minister Responsible for Rural Affairs, and Minister responsible for the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons.
Now, he purports to become the go-to guy for a new and vast job creation and economic growth fund in a province that can barely find clean socks to darn before it dons decades-old Birkenstocks with which to impress international bondholders.
No matter. Though he remains the second-handsomest man in New Brunswick (the first honour apparently belongs to one Jason Betts, 39, of Moncton, who has advanced to the final round of First Choice Hair Cutters’ campaign to locate the nation’s one and only Adonis), he persists as its most ambitious and implacable.
Indeed, he’s committing one billion bucks over the next few years on an “education and the new economy” fund.
Sheesh, boy, where have you been hiding all these years? Or, perhaps, the better question is: Where has the money to pay for all of this in a province that lurches from a $13-billion long-term debt to roughly $500-million in annual deficit financing been, well, hiding?
Mr. Gallant now takes a page from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policy playbook. As federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau described his recent budget for the country, “Our plan will recapture the hope and optimism for the future that existed in previous generations, and put it to work for the next. Real change is about revitalizing the economy in the years and decades to come.”
What, then, does Mr. Gallant offer? At a press conference in Fredericton last week he said, “I will be working with ministers in the departments responsible for the different programs and initiatives of the fund to ensure that the parts are co-ordinated, complementary and realize maximum benefits.”
Furthermore, he stated, “This fund will support and coordinate new and existing programs in areas of jobs and education. . .For the 2016-17 fiscal year, our government will invest at least $261 million to support students, entrepreneurs, businesses, scientists, and New Brunswickers as they look to build an innovative economy here in New Brunswick.”
The question, though, is: How?
How will this new fund offer any more opportunities to the people of this province than any other promised and variously delivered by previous governments? How will it depart from its predecessors? How will it improve on, say, the “opportunity” agendas of the old Lord and Graham governments? How, specifically, will it build the “new economy” it promises? No news on this, yet.
The problem with a provincial premier who has his finger in every pot of his administration is that the details of his overarching agenda conveniently get forgotten, shelved or otherwise ignored by those who must, ostensibly, execute them. After all, why take the risk of running afoul of the king, even though you might hold the keys to the castle?
Mr. Gallant is evidently smart, educated, ambitious, and implacable. He’s young, energetic and well intentioned. He’s also an acolyte of the current federal program to breath new life into the national economy by spending liberally.
Fair enough. But to be successful, he must delegate his responsibilities to those under his command – those whom he has appointed to decide which chickens are delivered to which pots.