Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Up-and-comers: Lisa Merrithew

Lisa Merrtihew is a largely unknown quantity to New Brunswickers. Those that do know her will primarily know her as either Gerry Merrithew's daughter or Peter MacKay's (ex)girlfriend.

A Google search revealed only 856 results, of the top 10, five were about her relationship with Peter MacKay, three referred to her recent appointment and role as a Senior VP with PR giant Fleishman-Hillard, one was an earlier post I wrote about her potential as a leadership candidate and one was her Wikipedia article.

Though 856 results may seem low, her likely leadership opponents do about the same, though with more relevant hits (I doubt the facination with her relationship with Peter MacKay is something she would want to consume 50% of the ink used to write about her).

Here are the results of some of her possible competition: Trevor Holder (865), Margaret-Ann Blaney (795), Brad Green (761), Jody Carr (654), Madeliene Dubé (280).

However, many Tories I have spoken too are blown away with excitement when they hear of her as a possible leadership candidate, especially when compared to the other candidates.

Of those I mention above, she is the only one who is fluently bilingual. She also has a background in public relations, giving her lots of training to be effective in developing a message that ressonates with people.

In early 2006, she joined Bernard Lord's office to take over the messaging and strategy of his premiership. Though she didn't manage to prevent Lord from losing, she allowed him to carry the day in the messaging surrounding the procedural battle in the legislature, despite the fact that procedural experts like Robert Marleau and C.E.S. Franks will tell you that the Liberals were in the right. At the same time, for the first time in three years, the Tories took the lead in opinion polls and went on to win the popular vote on election day.

This cannot all be attributed to Merrithew, obviously, but there was a marked change in attitude from the premier and his government that coincided with her arrival and led to an improved public standing.

Whether or not she would be a candidate however is no sure thing. In March, she accepted a job in Toronto that I expect pays very, very well. Would an uncertain leadership race that, if successful, would be followed by an uncertain future as party leader attract her?

If she were to win, how would she enter the legislature? The only remaining Saint John area seats are those of Trevor Holder (who I doubt would want to step aside) and Margaret-Ann Blaney. Neither seat would be a sure bet to win and the occupant would have to be willing to step aside permanently as her father's old domain of Saint John East has become a left wing bastion which the Tories have only won once in the past 25 years and then with only 36% of the vote in a three-way race in the huge sweep of 1999. The Tories placed third in their attempt to retain it in 2003.

The Tories better start lobbying hard; as I look at the possibilities she seems to be the only one that could even make the 2010 election a competion, otherwise it would be a Liberal recoronation. Quite a rise from being mostly notable until 2006, and still today according to Google, as MacKay's pre-Belinda belle.


Anonymous said...

The best thing for the Liberals would be Lisa Merrithew becoming leader of the PCs.

So Lisa, what experience do you bring to the table to represent New Brunswickers as their Premier?
I am a professional spin-doctor.

At least she's a pro. NBers will no longer have to be spin-doctered by elected amateurs.


nbpolitico said...

Perhaps not the best job description but everything is relative. Which of the other rumoured candidates is better? Which can communicate with French NBers which now are the majority in almost half the Tory seats? Which can reestablish the tradtional Tory base in Saint John? Which can get a message across without bumbling through it and sounding to be either arrogant, a moron or both?

She served as deputy chief of staff to the Premier of New Brunswick. She works with the heads of major corporations everyday in her PR job. That is at least as impressive as what the competitors offer.

But, besides the tangental point I made that she is the best leadership possibility, the main thrust is that she is a fast ladder climber. Two years ago, she was known only as Peter MacKay's flame and had a mid-level job at a small NB company, now she is the senior VP of a major Canadian and International firm and being talked about as a possible premier.

duepreparations said...

Believe me I would very happy to see a smart, successful woman lead a relevant political party in this province; BUT before we all get excited - what are her ideas?

You've convinced me she has the skills to present a message, but we need fresh, challenging ideas. The last thing we need is a "new face" to sell the same old crap coming from the back room boys who got us where we are today.

sc said...

You've convinced me she has the skills to present a message, but we need fresh, challenging ideas. The last thing we need is a "new face" to sell the same old crap coming from the back room boys who got us where we are today.

The above poster has a point. But let me tell you, it's not going to happen with Merrithew. Her style of politics originates from an old political relic which died a swift death three years ago with the merger federally (that being, centrist mushy "red toryism").

Which is the same reason why Bernard Lord could never position himself as a serious alternative (ideas and policy wise) to the efficient Liberal machine. He didn't developed a following (a base) based on true conservative principles. And let me tell you, there is a lot of wiggle room for that ethos in a province where rural conservatism, IMO, trumps urban socialism. (even a majority of people in our cities have very strong conservative values) Although, historically that constituency has never been tapped into by conservatives. Think: Hatfield and Lord red toryism.

In the new era of conservatism, those who are successful, will be the ones who seriously tap into issues such as less government, democratic reform, freedom of religion and speech, low taxes, less government waste, pro-family issues and the environment.

And with the Liberals sticking to the old "central government" approach as well as continuing with corporate welfare and government knows best attitude, the Tories would be smart in positioning themselves as the opposite to that philosophy. The "champion" of grassroots democracy.

Although, they would have to elect a leader that has been outside the establishment and has no ties to the old way of Bernard Lord and Hatfield toryism.

Sorry, but I don't see Merrithew as that person.

Spinks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spinks said...

Better than the other Lisa some Tories are excited about.

nbpolitico said...

Lol true story.

Though another one I've often wondered about is Lisa Hrabluk. Even worse.

Kit said...

I think this was a good post as I do not know much about this person.
But is this not symbolic of the problem for the PCs? The stable is pretty weak and consequently they are almost forced to look outside for fresh talent. The question is who? This Ms. Merrithew sounds as good as anyone else I've heard.

Rob said...

What the NB Tories need is a fundamental change. What the PC Party today represents is the shattered husk of the Bernard Lord coalition, which itself was the shattered husk of the Richard Hatfield coalition. Unfortunately for New Brunswickers, nobody has had a decent new idea since Louis and Richard were running the place. It's a lot like how many todays federal Liberals are the remnants of Trudeaumania.

As long as the PCNB party continues to fight the battles of yesterday, and run this province like it's 1985, NBers will retain mediocre government. New Brunswick needs shock therapy of bold new ideas, not the pablum of ideas we are fed today by both parties. There is nothing innovative about TV commercials telling you to get fit, nor is anything innovative about quasi-witty songs about Shawn Graham's new suit.

Until someone is willing to take a risk, and propose substantiative change to this province, we will remain in the economic and social doldrums. Unfortunately, the Tories know they can just sit back for 7 or 8 years, and eventually the public will vote them back in, new ideas or not.

I could care less what high falutin' firm Lisa Merrithew works for, who her father was, or who's in her Rolodex; what does she believe in? How will she change this province? Until I know, why should I believe she is an up-and-comer, other than the fact that the Backroom Boys have found their new frontwoman.

le politico said...

Is Ms. Merriman well known in NB?

Sounds like it might be a good idea, because if nothing else you would get consistent messaging from her leadership.

And for a party that seems a tad lost in space, that couldn't be bad. And being TV friendly doesn't hurt.

Get her on the phone..

nbpolitico said...

Kit - I couldn't agree more. It is what I call "Bob Rae syndrome". In 1990 in Ontario, Rae won an election by accident. He started out with a deficit in the polls and no one, including his own people, thought they had a chance to win. They went on to win the most seats realistically possible for them, with a weak slate of candidates who never expected to win and, if they did, being an MPP would be the best job they'd ever get. The result was a weak government that, even under the best circumstances, wouldn't have done very well.

Bernard Lord experienced that in 1999 and the misfortune for the Tories is they haven't been able to shake that core. In 2003, they added one new voice to the body of inadaquates and in 2006, they added four more. But of 23, 18 remain from the class of 1999, which was largely a weak coalition of the die hard Tories that could be convinced to spend five weeks fight a losing battle. Eight years later, this is what you've got.

The Tories need to get a strong leader, get a strong platformr and then open up the nomination process so some strong local candidates can displace some of these morons and bring some brains back to the Tory "braintrust".

Until someone is willing to take a risk, and propose substantiative change to this province, we will remain in the economic and social doldrums.

Uhhh, perhaps you should look at the idea of building a nuclear power plant, reorienting our economy and redrawing the entire education system in New Brunswick. These seem to be substantive changes.

Rob said...

"Uhhh, perhaps you should look at the idea of building a nuclear power plant, reorienting our economy and redrawing the entire education system in New Brunswick. These seem to be substantive changes."

These are all Hatfield, McKenna, and Robichaud ideas. Really, its nothing new. Even the energy hub concept was referred to by the Globe and Mail as "the Irving Oil plan to transform Saint John into an energy hub...".

Want substantive change? Sweden has introduced a hybrid private/public healthcare system that has completely eliminated wait times, and increased quality of care for all patients. Sweden is also planning on phasing out oil COMPLETELY within 15 years, through increased building standards, alternative fuel research, and massive investment in energy efficiency.

We can also look at Estonia which has gone from Soviet backwater to e-government pioneer within 15 years. They have also moved to an Internet based voting system, and have almost eliminated paper from their civil service.

These are innovative ideas which can change a people's entire view of government. Nuclear power plants, education reform, and government involvement in the economy are remnants of the 1970s. They may be great ideas, but they are hardly new. That's why I believe we are still fighting the battles of the late 20th century, because our government still lives in that era.

We may be planning for 2026, but we're doing it with tools from 1986.

nbpolitico said...

While the Estonian reference you make has some merit, the others don't really make sense for New Brunswick.

If we move to a hybrid health model, we'll lose our federal health transfers and go bankrupt.

If we eliminate oil, thousands will lose jobs in Saint John and the biggest employer in the province will move elsewhere.

Nuclear power was brought in by Hatfield, yes, but when it was still fashionable and to produce power for New Brunswickers. Graham proposes to build the next generation of reactors and export it to enrichen the province.

Louis Robichaud's vision ensured good education systems for several generations. I assume you don't propose we continue to operate on a 1960s model, so we are reinventing it for the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the earlier comments. Ms. Merrithew brings little to the table. She may be a political party's wet dream, but at the end of the day she offers no more promise than anyone else in effectively leading our province. I would vote for her only on the merit of her ideas and vision for the province ... right now, she's all image and no substance.