Two years from today, September 24, 2018, we as New Brunswickers will be choosing our next government. I’m assuming Premier Brian Gallant will be asking for another term, and I’d like to give him some advice: Stop issuing press releases and start telling stories.
The more I read about the plans the Gallant government have created for this province, the more I’m impressed by the vision behind them. The Premier is showing he is a leader willing to do things differently. He’s trying to change the way this province thinks about the present and the future. He’s not just trying to balance numbers and react to population shifts; he’s trying to disrupt the status quo and shift our collective focus. But he needs to take that approach soon with his communications, or he’s never going to get his message across to voters.
Take a look at the 10-year plan for education. It could be a complete game changer. Our schools could lead the nation in raising resilient, engaged citizens ready to tackle the economic challenges of living in a rural province. The plan could inspire generations. But it was delivered in a dry, unimaginative press conference that make the 22 pages it’s written on look like a high school report that deserves a failing grade for not actually conveying any message. Things weren’t much better with the expansion of the Integrated Service Delivery program or the announcement of the Tuition Access Bursary, though both programs show a consistent vision for changing how we as a province approach learning and education, as well as how we can start to chip away at the increasing rate at which people leave New Brunswick.
It’s not just the education portfolio. Dr. Herb Emery (Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics at the University of New Brunswick) wrote earlier this week about the potential of the province’s economic growth plan. He talks of a government that is being aggressive, taking action on short-term, low-risk opportunities with great potential. He shares a story of how a similar approach to investing in the potato industry in 1956 led to the creation of the McCain corporation. He sets forth a vision for success that the press releases and speaking points from the government don’t convey.
The same goes for the Premier himself. I’ve lived in New Brunswick the whole time Brian Gallant has been campaigning and in power and I could never get a sense of him as a person. If you asked me to describe him, I’d say he was young, a lawyer, and a tennis pro. Not someone I was relating to at all. I’ve learned more about his personality and background in the past week than the past few years.
He grew up in poverty. He was a kid people picked on and laughed at. He started a small business to pay his way through university. These are all experiences that are reflected in the programs he is bringing forward – but he’s leaving it up to us to connect the dots and see the big picture, and that’s just not happening.
Yes, he shares these facts. But he needs to tell people a story. His government needs to craft an overall vision of what all these pieces can create and share this story again, and again, and again. Because if they don’t, no one is going to listen. The downfall of Brian Gallant’s government is not going to be cutting a ferry or creating a portfolio for Celtic Affairs or even the dual school bus fiasco. It’s going to be his government’s inability to tell stories and share their vision.
She Said appears Saturday in the Times & Transcript.