Frank McKenna knew what he wanted

Published on February 13, 2016

Agriculture is still the leading economic sector on Prince Edward Island and was once a major contributor to the political ranks of the province.

Times, they are a changing.  Now there are no active farmers sitting in the legislature, only one retired farmer left holding the fort, but, there are two active and one retired fishermen.

There was a time, not too long ago when the place was over-run with school teachers and lawyers. Now Islanders seemed to have an affinity for retired cops. There are three MLAs with a record of policing in their background. Who would have ever thought that a squad car would offer a ride to success in politics.

One of the results of having so few farmers in the political arena is a major change in when the legislature meets to do its business. Up until the later part of the last century the legislature would sit during the dark days of winter and would close as soon the land was dry enough to plow.

In the 1970s and 80s the legislature was called into session in early February and only if the there was a very heavy agenda would it sit beyond April.

Now the legislature doesn’t even begin until April and it is still sitting well into May. Which when you stop and think about it, isn’t very helpful for the two MLAs who still fish lobsters.

One wonders, if a quarter of the government members were fishing lobsters would the legislative schedule be the same? Or would they accommodate the fishermen, just like they once did for the farmer MLAs.

But enough of that, the Legislature returns on April 5. And it is worth noting that this will be a new session. This is not a resumption of the last session, which opened last spring. It only sat for 21 days before adjourning for the summer, resuming for another 12 days in November.

The end of the session left a number of bills stranded, unpassed. There will be a new Throne Speech to open the Second Session of the 65th General Assembly  which will set a new government agenda. But, its an agenda only dealing with the up-coming year. Mr. MacLauchlan also announced he will be introducing a new session, with a new Throne Speech, every year.

Now, we know we live in an era of rapid change, but, this gives a whole new meaning to the cliche ‘the problem with politics is the short-term horizons politicians are forced to work with’. A cliche most people understand to mean that with the shortness of the four-year election cycle it was impossible for governments to do meaningful long-term program planning and implementation.  

There are Islanders who thought that with this new Throne Speech they would get an indication of what the Premier hopes to accomplish in his first mandate. By analyzing the Throne Speech some people hoped to gain insight into just why Wade MacLauchlan was attracted to the job. Now with a Throne Speech planned for every year, they’re not so sure.

A number of Islanders believe that he didn’t run just to get another pension, or because he wanted ‘Premier’ on his gravestone. While he never promised anyone a rose garden, or ever really indicated what he intends to do with the job, the assumption is he wanted to be premier to make a mark, to make a difference. To date Wade MacLauchlan hasn't shown if that’s his intention.

One of the most successful Maritime premiers in recent times was New Brunswick’s Frank McKenna. One reason for his success was from the first day Frank McKenna walked into the office he knew what he wanted to do as premier. He wanted to restore New Brunswicker’s faith in themselves, to be proud of their province and he wanted to create jobs.

In his 10 years in office, he did that and more.

Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: