It’s October 13, 1987 and Frank McKenna’s Liberals take all 58 seats during the provincial election. Premier Hatfield is soundly defeated after 17 years in power. This feat was accomplished only one other time in Canadian history, during the PEI 1935 election.
You would think with no opposition nipping at his heels the newly elected McKenna would have it made in the shade, show up late and go home early…. right? Such was not the case. McKenna had a vision, a vision to make New Brunswick a more self-sufficient province.
As luck or fate would have it my company, Fundy Computer Serviced Ltd. now 12 years old had it’s own ideas as to the path to New Brunswick’s self-sufficiency. We believed that Information Technology would or should play an important role in redefining New Brunswick’s future. It would seem that the McKenna administration agreed because before long we had the New Brunswick Information Highway Secretariat and soon after the formation of the NBITA (the New Brunswick Information Technology Alliance) a private sector organization funded equally by ACOA and the NB government.
We were on a roll, we were the talk of Canada. Telcos from all over the USA were making weekly trips to get a peek at the future, NBTel’s latest digital technology called ” Vibe” while McKenna was off to Toronto selling New Brunswick as the place to pitch your business tent.
Since I was on the NBITA Board of Directors I spent a lot of time in Fredericton meeting with senior government bureaucrats. During one conversation I remember one senior staff member telling me, we didn’t always agree with Frank McKenna, but we respected him. He was the first one at work in the morning and the last one to leave at night and he expected members of his team and staff to follow his example. I was told you didn’t work “for” Frank McKenna you worked “with” him as part of team NB.
He raised the bar and he made New Brunswickers feel proud.
Ten years to the day Frank McKenna left provincial politics, a promise he made to his family. Since then we have experienced what I refer to as flip-flop politics: first Bernard Lord, then Shawn Graham, then David Alward and now Brian Gallant. With each new Liberal or Conservative administration the promises, patronage and petty politics as New Brunswick slides deeper and deeper in provincial debt. We are on the verge of becoming a financial basket case.
The Conservatives are now beginning the process of choosing a new leader. Here is the latest list: Mike Allen, Monica L. Barkley, Blaine M. Higgs, Brian MacDonald, Mel K. Norton Jean Dubé and Jake Stewart.
The Conservatives will need someone, not unlike Frank McKenna. Not a politician but a visionary pragmatic problem solver. Someone who will be the first to work in the morning and the last to leave at night and expect the team to follow. Some one who is prepared to put the province and people before partisan politics. Someone who will raise the performance bar, someone who is not a career politician but who is on a mission.
At the end of his term as Premier I had an opportunity to ask Frank McKenna if he would consider seeking the leadership of the federal Liberals. I suggested with his national popularity he could possibly become the Prime Minster of Canada. He told me there was a big difference between being the Premier of New Brunswick and being the Prime Minister of Canada.
Perhaps some of those who would be king should ponder Frank McKenna’s sage advise.
Let’s be Frank……. it would be interesting to know who former Premier McKenna would choose as a Conservative leader to lead New Brunswick to a brighter future.
What do you think?