Seeking economic growth? It’s complicated

In my new role I am partially tasked with helping government figure out its role in helping to foster a sustained level of economic growth in the years ahead.  This is key to fiscal stability as a province not to mention as a way to ensure jobs for young people, vibrant communities, investment in infrastructure, etc.

But it is more complicated today than ever before.   The labour market under the age of 44 has been declining for years.   Competition for business investment is tougher than ever.   Attitudes towards development – along with our aging demographics – are changing.

These are interesting times.

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A sort of homecoming: Thoughts on my new role

 

Way back in 1992 I returned to New Brunswick from a six-year educational odyssey in the United States. I started looking for a job but had a really hard time.  I carpet bombed just about every organization in the province with resumes ( I sent out over 300 and still have 60+ rejection letters stored away some place as a reminder).  I also called the HR departments of several of the larger firms (NBTel, NB Power, etc.) and one person actually told me they had 100 resumes for every position and would prefer to hire folks who graduated from a New Brunswick university.  After about six months of nothing I started to contemplate a move to Alberta.

I got a call from Mike MacBride at something called the Department of Economic Development and Tourism about a two month temporary job doing ‘spreadsheets’.  I eagerly took the job as I was well qualified after spending two years teaching Lotus 1-2-3(remember Lotus 1-2-3?) to undergraduates.

The job turned out to be pretty important.  I was supposed to develop comparative cost templates that showed New Brunswick’s cost advantages over places like Toronto, Vancouver and Boston.  These would be used to help the sales team pitch the province to national and international firms.

I wasn’t about to let that job get away.  I worked like a dog – 12 hour days – weekends – and ended up parlaying a two month gig into nearly four years and that launched my career.  I made myself indispensable.  I turned the ‘spreadsheet’ analysis into full business case documents that were customized to individual prospective clients.  I spent dozens of hours in the UNB library combing through Statistics Canada and other data sources picking out cherries to be used in our pitch. No one had ever done that before.

In the end, with our partner NBTel, we pitched dozens of national and international firms and each one of them got a customized business case document making the financial case for expanding in New Brunswick.  A VP at UPS told me he slept with my proposal under his pillow.

I’ll never forget those years.  The audacity of that small team of sales people to think they could convince IBM, Xerox, Air Canada, UPS, FedEx, ExxonMobil, RBC and many more to put national back offices and contact centres in little New Brunswick. I couldn’t believe it when I started in the job.  Why would any big firm in their right mind put a large national operation in New Brunswick?

But if you look at the model closely, it actually made sense.  The demand for these back offices and contact centres was rapidly expanding.  Everyone needed 1-800 numbers and technology was enabling consolidated back offices.  There were stories of insurance firms in New York shipping airplanes full of paperwork to Ireland each day to inputted into computers and processed.    Premier Frank McKenna would get a meeting with the CEO (who would turn him down?) and all he would ask for is that the CEO let his team prepared one of these detailed business case documents for his firm.  This document would then conveniently show a 15%-20% cost advantage or more from consolidating in New Brunswick and in many cases this tipped the decision to expand in New Brunswick.

That model – a clearly defined and compelling value proposition – is the template even today for successful economic development.  What do we have here that will compel entrepreneurs and multinationals to invest here?   If we have opportunities (1990s it was aquaculture opportunities, early 2000s it was a high quality, bilingual workforce, what is it today?) we can sell them to local and external investors.

I say this because my new role as Chief Economist for PNB under the Jobs Board is a homecoming of sorts.  I always appreciated public service but never really saw a space that made sense for my skills and interests.  But all my writing and cajoling hasn’t really made much impact on the economic development system in New Brunswick.  It in large part hasn’t changed much in 20 years.

If we don’t find a way to get the province’s economy back to at least a moderate level of economic growth no amount of fiscal austerity will be enough to bring balance to the province’s books.   We risk becoming essentially one big retirement home and this recent talk of converting hospitals to nursing homes is one of many signs this is currently in progress.  The labour force in New Brunswick under the age of 45 in this province peaked at 251,000 way back in 2000 and has been declining since (now 210,000).  This is a huge risk and I get a collective shrug when talking about it.

Shawn Graham’s Self-Sufficiency Agenda called for a 100,000 increase in  the population by 2026 to try and rebalance our demographics.  This was a very good idea.  Unfortunately, since the Self-Sufficiency Agenda was launched our population has mostly stagnated and the population under the age of 45 has dropped 38,000.  Again, collective shrug.  The sense of urgency we all felt back in the mid of the last decade has given way to that collective shrug.

So, in the Nikolay Chernyshevsky fashion (yes, Lenin stole the phrase from Chernyshevsky ) – what is to be done?  Obviously we don’t have the economic and social problems of late 19th century Russia.  New Brunswick is a modern economy with strong infrastructure, good government and a relatively well educated population.  We have small but solid urban centres that feature short commutes, relatively low housing costs, friendly neighbourhoods and low crime.   They should be magnets for investment and entrepreneurship.

Anyway, for me the question was a simple but profound one.  Do I give up an excellent consulting practice, a great relationship with Donald Savoie’s institute at UdeM, my column at the TJ to see if I can help craft and move forward a new growth agenda for PNB?  I answered yes to that question.  I am 47 years old.  I want a bit more from life than just making money.  Maybe, just maybe, we collectively can move things forward.  Maybe, just maybe in 10 years from now we won’t be lamented a failed “Prosperity Plan” or a failed “self-sufficiency agenda”

Maybe we will be celebrating living in a province with its mojo back. A place that is attracting young professionals and families from around the world.  A place that is incubating hundreds of ambitious entrepreneurs and attracting capital from far and wide.

Maybe. If I can play some tiny role in that vision.  It’s worth a try.

PS – the most difficult thing was giving up my column in the TJ.  I feel like an addict suffering withdrawal.  It will be painful.

 

 

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By popular demand: My Economic Development Magnum Opus

Well, not really by popular demand but I was asked by someone to choose 4-5 of the top themes that I think are important if we are to move New Brunswick’s economy ahead.

  • We must move from a financial program-centric to an opportunities approach to economic development: big opportunities (open government, smart grid), small opportunities (immigrant farmers in Carleton County) or highly targeted opportunities (Amazon, Walmart regional warehouses in Moncton).  Now the model is 80% business financing programs/20% opportunities – we need to flip that to 20/80.
  • We need to implement an ROTI model (return on taxpayer investment) – all investments in economic development should be able to demonstrate a return on the taxpayers’ investment.
  • We need to turbocharge the workforce – Less worry on short term interprovincial migration and more concern for long term impact on business investment decisions arising from a tight labour market.
  • We need to target high growth potential entrepreneurs (HGPEs) not just our current small business fetish – we need to create the environment for these HGPEs – not just small business owners/lifestyle businesses.  We want to be an environment where it is easy for small businesses to enter and exit the business playing field – we want to encourage lots of local competition and dynamic local markets.  But our growth strategies need to be focused on those entrepreneurs that want to use NB as a base to build a global business.
  • We need to focus on attracting investment – particularly investment that fosters product or services export growth.    This can be greenfield (i.e. attracting an Amazon fulfilment centre) or investment into HGPEs.  We spend way too much of our effort trying to squeeze more investment out of the local business community.  Between PNB, ACOA, CBDCs, local agencies, NRC, NBIF, etc. we have somewhere in the range of 300-350 people working in economic development in New Brunswick – not a single one located out in the actual world where the trade, investment and immigrant opportunities actually exist.
  • We need to break New Brunswick’s culture of apathy.  We have gotten used to being at or near the bottom among the 10 provinces across most economic and demographic metrics.  New Brunswickers need to believe their province can change, can address its big challenges and can become a younger, multicultural, growing and dynamic place that is developing growth industries – including natural resources – in a responsible and sustainable way.  Do we want to be one big retirement village heavily reliant on the federal government to pay the freight or do we want to be a dynamic place that is growing and increasingly self-sufficient?  If New Brunswickers tacitly choose the former it will make it almost impossible to turn things around in any kind of sustained way.
  • We need to fully engage local government and local community and business leaders in our economic development efforts.
  • We need a more intelligent partnership with the federal government that is based on its strengths – global trade and investment infrastructure, immigration policy, etc. not on increasing transfer payments.  It is imperative the federal government share our vision for a growing and dynamic New Brunswick and see itself in that vision.  If Ontario’s economy looked like New Brunswick’s does now – five years of virtually no real GDP growth, declining employment, shrinking labour market- it would be an international crisis.  The OECD would weigh in on “what is wrong with Canada’s economic engine”.  When it is New Brunswick, we all shrug and say “that’s just New Brunswick”.
  • We need to be able to develop our natural resources in a sustainable and responsible fashion.  In the past 10-15 years Saskatchewan has used hydraulic fracturing to develop its oil resources and significantly expanded its other mining operations including uranium.  In New Brunswick we have viscerally reacted to any talk of using hydraulic fracturing and after a few little red signs started appearing in windows and on bumper stickers uranium mining never even got off the drawing board.
  • We need an urban growth agenda.  If you go back to the 1950s until today, rural population growth in New Brunswick was fairly similar to the rest of the country (modest increase).  It was urban growth where we lagged substantially.  Across Canada, the urban population grew by more than 18 million over that period and it grew only modestly in New Brunswick.  An urban growth agenda should not be pitted as an “either-or” with rural New Brunswick.  We need to have strategy to develop opportunities where they are – urban or rural.
  • We need to focus on innovation – across the spectrum.  A small province should be able to make decisions faster and be more nimble that the larger, unwieldy jurisdictions.  Now it seems like the opposite.  It seems to take longer here than in larger places.  Meghan Trainor is bringing booty back.  I want to bring back the “living lab” vision for New Brunswick.
  • When messaging we need to target our audiences.  Almost all stories in the national media relating to New Brunswick are negative. Business leaders, immigrants and other key groups see these stories.  We need to change the national narrative.  New Brunswick is a place of unlimited opportunity.  Its urban centres have substantial room to grow.  It has considerable natural resources.  It is the new frontier – ready for a sustained era of economic and population growth.  At the same time, we have to share with our internal stakeholders the real state of the union – the urgency – to break the culture of apathy described above.
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The New Brunswick labour market time bomb

Believe it or not I continue to have a hard time convincing some influential people that we have a serious and growing labour shortage problem.  They will say what about the 10 percent unemployment rate?  What about the fact we are still losing people to other provinces through interprovincial migration?  How about the crippling youth unemployment rate?

The youth unemployment is a concern to be sure but even that needs to be put into perspective. The unemployment rate is highest among the 15-19 age cohort and those young people are either in school and/or living at home.  Further, as shown below the absolute number of unemployed young people aged 15-19 continues to fall.  It was an estimated 4,700 in 2010 and now it is 4,300.  That is across the province.  If we had that data by region there would likely be under a 1,000 unemployed in the entire Greater Moncton region, for example.  Not the labour market apocalypse that some might tell you.

Even among the 20-24 age group, the unemployment rate (14.5% in 2014) is still below what it was throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.  In 2003, it was 14.9%.  And again, on an absolute basis it is in decline.  In 2003, there were 5,500 persons aged 20-24 that were unemployed and in 2014 it was 5,000 across the province.  Again, I have to reiterate that a large share of those are likely in some form of post-secondary education too.  My concern is that this number (and the correlating outward migration) is a red herring causing dangerous policy moves.

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If we step back from the short term challenge (and the new one relating to returning migrant workers from Alberta) and look at the ‘big picture’ we see a fundamental shift in the labour market.  If you look at the following chart and overlaid a real GDP growth chart you would see GDP growth starts to collapse right about the same time as the lines cross in this chart.  Yes there was considerable government stimulus funding that gave GDP a little shot in the arm and yes we still had the hangover from a few of the major investment projects but strip that out and there seems to be a correlation between the tightening labour market and GDP stagnation.

In the early 1970s there were in the 140,000+ range of people aged 10-19.  The bulk of these people would be heading into the labour market over the coming 10 years.  At the same time there were only 50,000+ aged 55-64 and presumably mostly leaving the labour market over the coming ten years.  Even in the late 1980s there was a surplus of more than 55,000 using this measure.  The lines crossed in 2007 and by 2014 there only 700 people aged 10-19 for every 1000 people aged 55-64.  In other words, without inward migration we don’t have enough people even to replace existing jobs.  Now, of course, labour markets are organic and adjust in many ways.  Some people may retire late.  Some employers may not replace workers as they retire.  Some young people will continue to leave.  But the underlying trend is a ticking time bomb holding back GDP growth and stagnating the tax base on which government extracts the money it needs to pay for public services.

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I think this and the calcifying attitudes towards economic development are the two biggest challenges facing New Brunswick – even more than the public finances.

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A closer look at labour market availability and economic growth

It must be frustrating to be working for the provincial government and trying to convince the federal government of the need for a step change in the number of immigrants to New Brunswick. They are haggling over “a few hundred more” of Canada’s 280,000 (or whatever the number is) when we really need is thousands more.

Take a look at the following chart.  The size of the labour market in New Brunswick expanded steadily in the post WW2 period even though a lot of NBers moved way.  The chart shows the growth in the labour market after the effects of any outward migration.  Between 1976 and 1984, the labour market expanded by more than 39,000 people (either working or looking for work).  Between 1984 and 1994, it expanded by 42,600 and the next decade saw a 44,900 person rise.  In the last 10 years the total labour market – employed and looking for work – grew by only 4,000.  Even this is showing a rosier picture than it should.  Between 2009 and 2014 the size of the labour market declined by 3,900.

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If you look at the younger labour market, it has been in steep decline.  Between 1994 and 2014, the total number of people aged 25-44 in the labour market declined to the point that the gains between 1984 and 1994 were wiped out.   In other words, in 1984 there were 154,100 people aged 25-44 in the NB workforce. In 2014 there were 154,600.

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And just about everyone is focused on the short term mobility and unemployment data in New Brunswick.  We are missing the forest for the trees.  The expanding labour market in New Brunswick for decades drove at least a moderate employment and GDP growth rate.  Sure there was a surplus and those folks moved away to other provinces and beyond but net of that there were still tens of thousands more coming into the workforce  boosting export-oriented industries and local, consumer spending-based industries.

In my opinion, the provincial and federal government should look to foster labour market expansion by similar levels as past decades.  This would rebalance our demographic situation and allow for employment expansion, GDP growth and the boosting of tax revenues.

Sure we will continue to see some outward migration to other provinces but you could bake that into your planning.

I’m not suggesting this will be easy but unless we start talking about the forest, our focus on the trees will keep us locked in a long term period of economic stagnation.

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PS: Michael Horgan, don’t forget the other reason

I see the province has retained Michael Horgan, who helped design the federal government’s budget deficit reduction strategy in the early 1990s, to assist in helping the NB government slay what they are now calling a $400 million ‘structural’ deficit.

Not to sound too Paul Krugman-esque but Horgan, Boudreau and Melanson need to remember it wasn’t all cuts that beat back the Canadian government’s deficit.  The Canadian economy grew, on average, four times faster from 1994 to 2000 than it did between 1989 and 1993.  Four times.  Federal government revenue growth went from negative in 1993 and 1994 to robust growth from 1995 to 2001.

For me it is still an open question if you can cut a $400 million structural deficit without at least a moderate level of GDP growth.  They are already talking about raising the HST, possibly tolls, etc. to increase revenue but that just takes money out of the private economy and doesn’t do anything to boost growth (some may say it will reduce growth).

Nova Scotia raised its HST by two points and is still running a fairly significant deficit. Average annual NS government revenue grew by only 1.21 percent between 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 according to RBC Economics – the worst growth rate among the ten provinces (but only slightly worse than NB’s 1.33 percent). Now, it is true there is a lot more going on in the NS economy – such as the decline in offshore royalties – but the general point that an HST rise didn’t fix the structural deficit  is still valid.

Actions have consequences.  IMO, New Brunswick needs a growth agenda more than it needs a provincial fiscal austerity agenda.  We need a step change in GDP growth complemented by prudent fiscal management.

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Should government decide which industries win or lose?

 

I had a good conversation with a policy guy before Christmas who advocates in favour of the feds tightening TFW and immigration to New Brunswick.  In his view, in conjunction with tightening EI access, this will force more seasonal workers into year round work and bring down the overall unemployment rate.

My counter-narrative is that the changes will lead to less business investment and eventual downsizing and/or closure of a number of export-oriented businesses that rely on production wage levels under $16/hour.

His response was “good riddance”.  We have spent too much time propping up low wage industries in New Brunswick.

I really struggle with this issue.  Should the government be clamping down on firm efforts to bring in workers from outside New Brunswick if it hurts their ability to survive in the province?  Politicians always talk about not picking winners and losers but are they not doing the same thing with immigration policy?

Over 50% of all workers in the Toronto manufacturing sector are first generation immigrants.  In New Brunswick it is less than 4%.  If firms cannot recruit locally, why not let them bring in foreign workers?

The policy guy told me that manufacturers will have to up their wage rates to attract NBers to work in the jobs and that “is a very good thing”.  Again, fine for the petri dish but wrong in the real world.  A guy who owns a manufacturing facility in New Brunswick and one in Ontario recently told me it is easier to recruit workers in Ontario than NB – at the exact same wage level and so they are ramping up Ontario.  The kicker?  The Ontario workers are mostly new immigrants.

We live in a world where borders matter less and less for trade, capital and knowledge flows.  If we decide to tighten up even more on the inward labour flow – how does that benefit New Brunswick?  We certainly are not tightening up on the outward labour flow…..

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I’ll take ‘labour market distortions’ if it means saving our communities

If you want another reason why individual provinces need more flexibility around who they can bring in as temporary foreign workers (or immigrants) take a look at this Calgary Herald letter to the editor penned by Alexis Conrad, director general, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Employment and Social Development Canada.

Conrad says the TFW program has led to a drag on wage growth in Alberta’s food services sector. This type of labour market ‘distortions’ is why the government had to make the changes to the program.

This proves my point to a tee.  In Alberta they are worried about low wage growth in the fast food sector. In New Brunswick I am worried about the very economic viability of many communities around the province.  If you design a program to address the former and it results in harming the latter – how’s that for good policy?

Now I know that all the think tanks are saying that if the government restricts TFWs in rural New Brunswick thousands of lazy, EI offenders will come out of the woodwork and rush into these manufacturing and processing jobs with gusto.  Or, like their counterparts in Alberta, the firms involved well jack up wages to attract them in.

It looks like many of them will downsize and may eventually close their NB operations – a fate that is unlikely in Lethbridge’s McDonald’s restaurant.

There is a lot of strange thinking around this file.  The only real solution, IMO, is to allow the provinces to determine what industries and workers are ‘strategic’ and allow them to bring in workers in support of their growth.  If the feds want to crack down on the burger flippers, fine.  But when they start to implement policies that hurt our export sectors such as manufacturing and tourism – that’s a problem.  I will remind the feds that immigrant workers are critical for manufacturing in places like Toronto, Vancouver and even Winnipeg – and I would wager the majority are earning below the median wage in these communities.  If you don’t want manufacturing workers coming to NB via the TFWP, then let them come in via PNP or some other stream.

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Is equalization a disincentive to growth?

AIMS and Fraser think so.

“Equalization makes it easier for political actors to turn their backs on national resource development even though it is a potential source of jobs, revenue and economic growth,” said Ben Eisen, director of research at the Atlantic institute. “Economic incentives to move forward are weakened by the fact that when you do so, a large chunk of the money is clawed back through reduced equalization payments. So that is one of the ways equalization creates a disincentive to pro-growth economic policies in recipient provinces.”

If you search this blog for the word ‘equalization’ you will find dozens of blogs dealing with the subject of equalization and I am not, in general, disagreeing with AIMS and Fraser on this.

But I think there is a lot more going on here than just equalization.  Saskatchewan was an equalization receiving province in the early to mid 1990s (remember that?) and that didn’t stop it from implementing the largest resources development expansion in the country – oil, potash, uranium, etc. Much of this expansion, by the way, was initiated under an NDP government.  Saskatchewan is now the leading fracking jurisdiction in Canada.

I haven’t read the full AIMS report so they may have already pointed this out but to hang the reluctance to pursue natural gas development on equalization would be too simplistic.

There is also the issue of age.  The median age in the area is now pushing 45 years compared to the early 20s in the 1970s.  Public interest in development of any kind looks different when you have a young population looking for careers and opportunities compared to when the majority are either retired or so to be.

The lobbying efforts – public opinion – are stronger now than even a decade ago.  It doesn’t seem to matter that virtually all of the anti-shale gas propaganda is coming out of the US and doesn’t reflect the Canadian experience.  It’s powerful stuff.  Take another look at Gasland – the slickly produced movie or search for ‘fracking’ on Amazon.ca – you will see multiple books on why fracking is going to destroy our world as we know it.

And I would say New Brunswickers – even more so than Nova Scotians – have a greater suspicion of big, evil corporations – particularly from the USA.  The protests I have seen focused on this fact – “they come here – destroy the land, leave us nothing and take all the economic benefits away – leaving us with nothing but an environmental mess to clean up”.

The question is how to get New Brunswickers to take a look at this issue afresh.  To study the experience in Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada. To think about practical development issues.  To study the set of rules which are among the most stringent in North America.

I don’t think the equalization argument will work.  It feeds long term stereotypes about lazy, entitled Maritimers sitting around sucking the hind teat.

If Maritimers could be convinced that natural gas development will not destroy the environment or despoil the water and will bring economic benefits they might come around to the idea.  If they are convinced the industry can be properly managed and that gas wells at the end of their lives will be properly sealed and brought back to the land’s original state they may be convinced. If they can be assured their quality of life will not be significantly impacted (negatively) beyond the normal impacts of natural resources development (i.e trucks on the roads,   etc.), they may come around.  If they can be convinced we need the gas – and if we don’t develop it New Brunswick homes and firms will face big increases in costs – they might come around.

As John Herron used to say, “You can’t address an environmental question with an economic response”.  This axiom will hold, IMO, until people’s basic living standards come into question – which in a country such as Canada is not likely at least in the next 20 year time frame.

 

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The myth of corporate welfare in New Brunswick?

From a recent column in the Telegraph-Journal.
Kevin Lacey, protector of the sacred taxpayer, recently intoned in a Telegraph-Journal commentary that instead of setting up a new model for economic development, the New Brunswick government should “chart a new path” without “government-led regional development schemes”.

Lacey, the Atlantic Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, uses just about every opportunity to rail against the widespread use of government subsidies to business, or corporate welfare, in New Brunswick.

He will be happy to see the latest data from Statistics Canada on provincial government subsidization of private industry. The statistics agency released provisional data for 2008 to 2012 on the amount of money that was provided to private enterprises by provincial governments across the country.

Guess which province had the lowest amount of business subsidization in the country in 2012? I’ll give you a hint. It’s known for maple syrup, rolling hills and untapped shale gas resources.

In fact, New Brunswick had the second lowest rate of business subsidization as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) of any province across Canada over the five-year period except Ontario. In an average year, the New Brunswick government transferred $72 million as “subsidies to private enterprises” or $2.75 per $1,000 worth of real GDP.

Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan had the highest rates of subsidization with over $15 worth of subsidies for every $1,000 worth of GDP. Even that bastion of private enterprise, Alberta, doled out nearly twice as much business subsidies as a percentage of GDP compared to New Brunswick.

The astute reader will remark that the bulk of subsidies in western Canada go to the agriculture sector. This is true but agriculture is a ‘sector’ just like any other. It has profit-seeking private enterprises that face a variety of competitive and technical challenges. Just like most other industries.

But even removing subsidies to the agriculture sector, New Brunswick doles less money than all other provinces except Alberta.

A decade ago, I looked at this issue and found the same trend. New Brunswick just doesn’t dole out as much money to industry as we are told.

So how come the corporate welfare reputation continues to stick?

Firstly, there are a few high profile cases that continue to surface in the media. Opponents of government-led economic development will reach back into ancient history and dust of Bricklin or point to the more recent Atcon as egregious examples of corporate welfare.
Second, while the total amount of money doled out by government is relatively small, the total number of firms receiving government support is much higher than the national average.

A 2009 study published by Industry Canada found that 13.6 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Atlantic Canada received funding from government lending agencies compared to seven per cent among SMEs across the country.

This would seem to indicate New Brunswick gives out less money overall but spreads it around in smaller chunks to to a broader base of smaller and medium-sized firms.

Unlike Kevin Lacey, for me the issue is not ideological. It is more pragmatic. Under what circumstances should the government be a bank for industry and how do we determine if this is a good use of taxpayer dollars?

This is why I fully endorse the government’s move to an ‘opportunities-based’ approach to economic development. New Brunswick has specific assets, infrastructure and competitive strengths that should be catalysts for private sector investment and new entrepreneurial activity.

There is a role for government, working with community and business leaders, to determine what these opportunities are and how we can best exploit them to strengthen the economic foundation under communities across the province.

This doesn’t necessarily require a lot of ‘corporate welfare’ but it does require identifying and bolstering the value proposition for investment into those opportunities. If there is a good case for investment, private industry will come.

There is a public interest in economic development. I reject the idea that government should just stand back and hope for the best.

But effective and accountable economic development has been elusive in New Brunswick.

Let’s hope this time things really will be different.

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