Premier of New Brunswick, 1999-2006
Bernard Lord was born on September 27, 1965, in Roberval
. He was raised bilingual
in the equally bilingual province of New Brunswick
, just east of his birth province. He went on to earn a bachelors degree in social science
and a bachelor of laws
degree from the Université de Moncton
, where his political career began in earnest.
Lord supported the provincial New Democratic Party as a university student, but eventually changed his affiliation to the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick. He also served as the university's student association president.
He is married and has two children. His brother, Roger Lord, is an internationally successful concert pianist.
Lord first ran for public office in May of 1995, when he made an unsuccessful bid for Dieppe
town council. He then ran for the provincial legislature later that year in the same general jurisdiction, and lost by a 3-1 margin.
He was not an elected MLA when he ran for the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick leadership in 1997, but he beat out a number of other candidates all the same. His win was attributed to the fact that he was bilingual -- the other candidates could only speak one or the other of the province (and country)'s two official languages. He was also young and had a great deal of support in Moncton, the city where he was raised. Moncton is not the province's capital city, but is one of its largest.
Lord was elected to the New Brunswick legislature in a 1998 byelection, at which point he took his seat as Leader of the Opposition.
The Tories won 44 of 55 seats in the 1999 New Brunswick provincial election, making Lord the youngest premier in Canadian history (he was 33). His election campaign had focused on "200 Days of Change," and a list of 20 things he set out to accomplish in his first 200 days in power.
He would practically become a household name in 2002 after delivering a monumental speech to that year's federal Progressive Conservative convention. In it, he spoke of the need for change on Canada's political landscape and for a reduction in the cynicism that had become widespread among the Canadian electorate. Comparisons to Barack Obama were everywhere. It seemed a given that Lord would take a run for the federal leadership after the retirement of then-leader (and former prime minister) Joe Clark. Lord insisted that he wouldn't, and he didn't.
Despite all the hype, the 2003 New Brunswick provincial election left Lord's goverment hanging by a thread. He was dogged by issues pertaining to auto insurance throughout the entire campaign, as his detractors felt that he hadn't done enough to combat rising prices. His Tories won only one more seat than the opposition parties (which were generally just the Liberal Party of New Brunswick and one NDP MLA).
Later that year, when the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party of Canada merged to form the Conservative Party of Canada, Lord was aggressively courted to run for the new party's leadership. He was even enthusiastically endorsed by the PC youth associations in Atlantic Canada, and PC leader Peter MacKay emphatically stated that he wouldn't even think about running for the leadership if Lord ran.
Lord didn't run.
He cited his young family as the reason why, also pointing out that leaving provincial politics would transform his shaky majority government into a minority. He instead chose to endorse Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper, who eventually won the leadership and would go on to become prime minister of Canada in February, 2006.
The party's small majority would continue with relatively few problems until early 2006, when a PC MLA named Michael Malley chose to quit the party and sit instead as an independent. He claimed to have been upset about having been left out of a recent cabinet shuffle, whereas Lord countered by saying that Malley had made a number of "unreasonable demands" for staying in the party. Though it temporarily reduced his party to minority status, Lord didn't give into Malley's demands. Malley would later rejoin the party.
The Liberals had also come within striking distance of Lord's Tories when the legislature's sole NDP MLA, Elizabeth Weir, retired from politics in 2005. The Liberals won the resulting byelection, putting them one seat behind the government.
Due to the fragile situation the numbers caused, Lord and opposition leader Shawn Graham agreed on an unofficially set election date of October 2007, and agreed to co-operate on legislation until then. Peter Mesheau, a member of the Tory caucus, announced that he would be resigning as an MLA to work in the private sector in the summer of 2006. Rather than be reduced to minority status yet again, Lord called an election for September 18, 2006.
The 2006 New Brunswick provincial election was reasonably close, but the Liberals' momentum proved to be too much for Lord, whose party had been in power for seven years. Although the PCs received more of the popular vote than the Liberals did, the Liberals won more seats, which is the main unit of measurement in the first past the post electoral system.
Lord's concession speech was both gracious and emotional; he became visibly emotional while thanking his wife and children, and told his gathered supporters that once his kids realized that he wasn't going to be premier anymore, they started dancing around the room and "They said, 'Daddy, we're going to spend more time with you now.'"
He left the Premier's Office on October 3, 2006, when Graham and his cabinet were sworn in. There was much speculation about his political future, with pundits suggesting that he might be appointed Ambassador to France, run for a seat in a reformed Senate (the Canadian Senate currently operates by appointment, but the Conservative government plans to change this), run for the federal Conservative Party or simply return to the private sector. He made no statement on his future for months, only hinting that he would make an announcement eventually.
On December 13, 2006, Bernard Lord announced that he would step down as PC leader, Leader of the Opposition and MLA for his riding of Moncton East effective January 31, 2007. This gave the party sufficient time to at least plan a leadership convention and for his potential successors to start plotting. It also allowed for a transition period. David Alward won the party leadership in the fall of 2008.
At the press conference at which he announced his retirement from provincial politics, Lord told reporters that he plans to re-enter the private sector. There is, at this point, much speculation as to whether or not this will actually be the case, as a federal election is looming and it is believed that he could bring a great deal of popularity to the Conservative Party in both Eastern Canada and in his birth province of Quebec.
After his retirement from provincial politics, it was announced that Lord had taken a position as a senior adviser at Canadian law firm McCarthy-Tetrault. In late 2007 he was appointed to head a commission into the country's bilingualism by prime minister Stephen Harper. He delivered a report on his findings that January. He left McCarthy-Tetrault in 2008 and became head of the Canadian
Wireless Telecommunications Association. He co-chaired the federal Conservative party's 2008 election campaign, which saw them win a second (but larger) minority government.
Bernard Lord has a sense of humour, and takes jokes about his last name
with a smile. He even played himself on an episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce
that was filmed in Fredericton
, strolling onto the stage after the actor playing then-prime minister Jean Chretien
exclaimed "Good Lord!" When the characters inquired about his presence, Lord beamed and said "You called?" While I don't remember all the particulars of the skit, I do remember that it ended with Lord asking "Prime Minister, can you please not use the words majority
and one seat
in the same sentence?"
Because he is no longer premier of New Brunswick, Lord no longer has the prenomial "The Honourable."