As you begin your second full year — summers don’t count in Nova Scotia — as premier of all you survey, allow me to offer some gratuitous, unsolicited and unlikely to be appreciated advice. (But given your government’s precipitous free fall from electoral grace, you need all the advice you can get.)
First, stop trying to be a better, wiser Tory-Liberal premier.
Your most significant accomplishments to date — bringing some painful but common-sensical sense to our have-not province’s precarious finances and the jury’s-still-out decision to invest heavily in the Daewoo “megaproject” vision of industrial development — would look good on the resumés of Stephen McNeil or Jamie Baillie.
No shame in that. But where are the Tommy Douglas dreams?
My insider friends assure me much is happening in the wonkish workshops and visioning exercises’ world of the public service and all will be revealed in the fullness of time.
The time is now. Your government needs to lay out its vision for health care, education, economic development, environmental sustainability — not as precious polished policy stones, but as works in progress.
You need to undertake the kind of provincewide, what-do-you-think-of-what-we’re-thinking exercise Finance Minister Graham Steele employed so successfully in the lead-up to last spring’s budget.
Speaking of ministers, my second piece of advice — you’re not going to like this — is to bring Howard Epstein in from the backbench cold. Epstein remains your government’s best least-well-used asset. Whatever real or apparent sin kept him out of your first cabinet, his good-soldier silence since has surely been penance enough.
Given his intellect and background, the importance of environmental sustainability to our future and your government’s own spotty track record — can you say mercury emissions? — make him environment minister.
My third and final suggestion is for you to be you again — or at least that avuncular, street smart, populist you who carried your party to victory in the last election.
Too often since you’ve appeared defensive, brittle, entitled to your entitlements.
You need to get out more … perhaps as the host of that new, where-we’re-going road show I suggested. Or at least spend some time down at your local pub or legion.
Time to listen again.
Before it’s too late.