Graham, Shawn

Degree conferred: Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)

Orator: Mason, Gordon

to be Doctor of Laws

It is a tradition at the University of New Brunswick to honour the premier of the province. It is our pleasure today to recognize New Brunswick’s 31st premier, the Honorable Shawn Graham.

A native of Kent County, N.B., Shawn Graham grew up in a political family. His father Alan served the longest consecutive term of anyone in the history of the New Brunswick Legislature, and was Minister of Natural Resources and Energy in the cabinet of Premier Frank McKenna.

In high school, the future premier was a middle distance runner who was a member of the New Brunswick track term at the Canada Summer Games in Saint John in 1985. He continued to compete while studying at UNB and was a member of the 1990-91 Atlantic University Athletic Association championship teams in cross-country and wrestling. He also received an Athletic Achievement Award.

After graduating from UNB with a bachelor of physical education degree in 1991, he went on to earn a bachelor of education at St. Thomas University, and attended l’Université Canadienne en France for a year of immersion studies. He worked as a substitute teacher before joining the civil service as manager of industrial development in the Department of Natural Resources, and was executive assistant to his father for five years.

In the election of 1998 he won the riding of Kent from which his father had retired and has been re-elected three times since then. He was elected leader of the provincial Liberal party in 2002 becoming, at 34, the youngest leader in its history. Building from a base of only 7 of the 55 seats in the Legislature, he added 20 in the election the following year leaving the Conservatives with just a one-seat majority. In 2006 he became the fifth successive person to be elected Premier of New Brunswick while under the age of 40.

Within a year of his election he became chair of the Council of the Federation, the organization of Canadian Premiers and Territorial Leaders. At the present time, in addition to his duties as Premier, he is the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister responsible for the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons, and the Minister responsible for the Office of Self-sufficiency. He is also the current chair of the Conference of North-Eastern Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.

His colleagues describe Premier Graham’s leadership style as collegial, and remark on his ability to see the potential in others and draw out their best. His energy is legendary – at official dinners he is seldom in his seat. He is passionate about this province and very disturbed about the out-migration of young people. His program of self-sufficiency is a deeply felt attempt to rectify the situation and he understands, as a runner, that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

A sports enthusiast and conservationist, Premier Graham has been active in both Ducks Unlimited and the Fredericton Atlantic Salmon Federation Committee. His leisure time is often spent keeping in touch with the grassroots, perhaps lunch with a long-time store owner, or a visit to The Cellar here on campus.

The premiership of this small province has been a challenge to all who have held the office. Today, we honour Shawn Graham – a UNB alumnus – for accepting this challenge.

From: Honoris Causa, UA Case 70

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