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Brian Gallant, Mike Babcock, pain, and true leadership

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For weeks, even months, the Gallant government has been floating trial balloons, conditioning us for some tough measures in tomorrow’s budget. 

Like Mike Babcock said when he took over as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, determined to bring them back to respectability – this is a process and there will be pain.

Gallant has promised pain as well, but I have more faith in Babcock than I do in the Premier that the pain that is administered will get the job done.

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In Babcock’s case – the plan is unfolding and while there is more pain to come there is a real vision and the team is heading in the right direction. With Gallant’s plan – his recent comments that education and health care are off the table when it comes to cuts, suggests he lacks both the vision and the courage to institute the pain needed to get us out from under the crippling debt that is keeping us down.

The Premier said there would be no cuts to either of those big budget departments because New Brunswickers made it clear they don’t want those departments touched.

That’s not leadership, that’s an absence of leadership.

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While it is questionable that he ever actually said it, a quote attributed to Henry Ford comes to mind – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The parallel is that while the feedback was not to cut in these areas, that’s not to say cutting in those areas isn’t the right thing to do.  There’s a difference between consulting with the electorate, and having the electorate dictate policy.

We have too many schools and too many hospitals for our population, and too much duplication.  Accepting this as unchangeable because people don’t want to lose anything is a far cry from the leadership our situation demands.

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Rather than simply saying we won’t touch it because people don’t want us to, true leadership would include a clear vision of how our health care can be transformed to better meet our needs. First develop that vision, then share it and inspire New Brunswickers to buy into it, and then make it happen. That’s leadership. Saying we won’t touch it because people don’t want us to, not so much.

I may be surprised. According to many who have expertise in this area, better health delivery can be accomplished within the current budget, but it would require cuts in one place to free up money for enhancements in another.  Tomorrow’s budget may lay out a blueprint for such reforms but since there has been no such vision shared, it’s unlikely.

So instead there will be an HST hike, hopefully with provisions that mitigate the affect on low-income folks because it will hurt them most. There will also probably be road tolls, and certainly cuts to the civil service.  And who knows what else?

But that will not get us to where we need to be.

We’ll see tomorrow and again, I may be proved wrong, but my hunch is that Premier Gallant will prove he’s no Mike Babcock.

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