On Monday, the Self-Sufficiency Task Force will release its final report. As I have said many times on this blog and in the comments sections of other blogs, I have high hopes for this report.
Say what you will about Shawn Graham, but he has always been a man who has had big dreams, reached high and consistently punched above his weight (he had no chance to win the 2002 Liberal leadership [but won it with 75% of the vote], was sure to lose seats in the 2003 election [but actually quadrupled his total], was never going to survive as leader to the next election [but never faced a serious leadership challenge] and couldn't knock Bernard Lord off in 2006 [but did]).
In appointing this commission he has shown that he stands with leaders like Louis Robichaud, Richard Hatfield and Frank McKenna who are not afraid to think outside of the box and dream big about New Brunswick's future. Bernard Lord was not a member of this group of leaders. It was Lord who compared the idea of self-sufficiency to the liklihood of him becoming a part of the PGA tour. While Louis Robichaud re-invented the province, Richard Hatfield brought together our fractured biculturalism and Frank McKenna made New Brunswick a leader in IT and job growth, Bernard Lord balanced his budgets - from time to time - by living off of a booming Canadian economy and the largest increases in federal transfers to the provinces since the 1950s. In fact, in some years, Lord's "record health care spending increases" were less than the amount of money the feds were giving us earmarked for health. Lord was content to undo the good works of Frank McKenna by moving us more towards reliance on Ottawa and sucking on the federal teet. If Stephen Harper ever listened to Bernard Lord it is no wonder he thought Atlantic Canadians had a defeatist attitude.
When Shawn Graham launched this Self-Sufficiency Task Force he invoked the memories of the Byrne Commission which turned New Brunswick upside down with controversial reforms that today everyone recognizes as good and necessary. This is why I have high hopes.
I hope that I - and you - will be impressed with the recommendations on Monday. And I also hope that we will all be equally impressed with Shawn Graham as I hope he will implement all of the good ideas whether they are popular or not. That is the true sign of a good leader: doing what is right even if it is unpopular.