Premier Brian Gallant posted a quick little video from home on Christmas Day, wishing everyone a joyeuses fêtes. Nothing fancy, nothing scripted. No shirt and tie. And it’s one of his most popular posts of the year on Facebook. It’s exactly what he needs to do more of in 2017.
The Premier said it himself, in a year-end interview with the Telegraph Journal. He and his government need to improve communication with New Brunswickers. I said the same thing in September: “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.”
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling in the New Year.
January 9 is Take the Stairs Day. The Premier is known for his healthy lifestyle; why not encourage other New Brusnwickers to embrace the same with a little montage of him and some political colleagues running all the stairs at the Legistlature.
January 14 is Dress Up Your Pet Day. Set his canine buddy Blaze up with his own Instagram account and dress him up as famous New Brunswickers throughout the years, ending with a little ‘who wore it better’ competition with his owner.
January 23 is National Pie Day, Let’s see the Premier whip up his favourite recipe at home, or visit a culinary class at NBCC for some help.
Yes, these are silly ideas that have nothing to do with the nitty gritty of running a province. But being a leader isn’t always about being serious. It’s about inspiring people to follow you. And while politics should be more than just a game of trying to spin a message so people react positively to your ideas, there is a serious need for the Premier to engage with the people of this province. These light-hearted exchanges could create a much-needed bridge to more substantial discussions around policies and the future of our province.
I encourage the Premier to not only use social media to share more of his personality, but also to discuss more of his policy and decision-making process. Don’t just broadcast – connect. Host Facebook live chats and answer questions from the public. Tackle the issues head on. People are craving a change in the way business gets done, in this province and across the country. Embrace that and do everything possible to open up the process and bring us along for the ride.
Look at the response Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold receives each time she posts an update about council. Dozens of supporters commend her for sharing these details, applauding her transparency. And yet, she could do so much more to tackle the contentious decisions made at council and bring city residents into the process. Her update following the meeting in which the budget that included pay raises for council was approved makes no mention of the topic. This was a very public conversation, thanks to emails obtained by the Times & Transcript, with many facets important to tax payers in Moncton. Mayor Arnold could have done much to dispel the ‘business as usual/crooked politician’ archetype by discussing her decision-making process.
I’d suggest that Premier Gallant could win over many New Brunswickers by honestly discussing similarly contentious issues facing the province. He’s still going to have lots of people disagreeing with his government’s decisions, but he’ll gain respect for taking the time to talk.
She Said appears Saturdays in the Times & Transcript.