Francis X McKenna Regional Hospital?

Posted on November 5, 2007
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            The Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre and the Hugh John Flemming Bridge at Hartland commemorate the late premier’s service to New Brunswick. There is a Senator Richard Hatfield memorial fund at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

            There is a monument to Louis J. Robichaud in his home town of Ste. Antoine.

            It is past time the Government of New Brunswick named something after Frank McKenna.

            It is 20 years since Frank became premier of New Brunswick. It’s 10 years since he left the office in 1997.

            He was one of the very first North American leaders to reverse decades of deficit financing and mushrooming debt. If he hadn’t started when he did, New Brunswick would have one of the worst victims of the continental recession that occurred as he took power.

            He also carried on the record of Louis J. Robichaud and Richard Hatfield in promoting bilingualism and biculturalism by emphasizing things we could accomplish together that we could not separately. He came in at a time when the divisive Confederation of Regions party was in the ascendancy after the collapse of the Progressive Conservatives.

            His energy, farm-boy work ethic, athletic competitiveness and boundless enthusiasm helped him establish contact with established and developing continental business leaders and bring a piece of their action to New Brunswick.

            He recognized that NB Tel was an unsurpassed telephone company at the time and used that to attract information technology business.

            He showed North American business that New Brunswickers could perform in the big leagues.

            More importantly, he showed New Brunswickers we could perform in the big leagues.

            He certainly took care of the Miramichi region he represented. The Town Centre, The Rodd Miramichi River Inn, and the greatly expanded Miramichi campus of the New Brunswick Community College and the City of Miramichi itself are a few of the developments hard to imagine without his influence.

            The Miramichi Regional Hospital is the biggest and most cohesive development he brought to the region. Without it, Miramichi would have devolved into a shrinking collection of rural communities peripheral to Bathurst, Moncton and Fredericton.

            I had always expected that the Miramichi regional hospital would eventually be named after him. When Frank’s successor, Camille Theriault, so soon fell to Bernard Lord, I didn’t expect it to happen during a Conservative regime.

            When the Liberals regained power in New Brunswick, I expected it to happen quite quickly. I’m frankly astonished that nothing has happened yet.

            When I heard about the big party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Frank’s 58 to 0 election in 1987, I felt certain Premier Shawn Graham would make an announcement there. I was very disappointed when he did not.

            Although we tend to think of the hospital as brand new and leading edge technology, it is, in fact, 14 years old now. Someone once told me a hospital becomes obsolete in 25 years. I suppose that means without constant renewal which has to happen faster and faster now.

            Perhaps there is some other, even more lasting structure or landmark that could and should be named after Frank.

            Whatever it is, it should be at least as significant a fixture of the New Brunswick scene as the hospital.

            Let’s all remind our MLA’s, cabinet minister’s and premiers that it is past time we properly recognize one of our most memorable premiers.

                                    DAC          

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