A word about mandates

I have recieved several emails about this issue of who has the mandate for economic development.

I say all levels of government – particularly local government – have a mandate for economic development.

Remember one of my central theses. I believe that economic development is a ‘public service’ just as valid as health care, education and garbage removal.

But I continue to hear things like “that’s not our mandate”, “we don’t have budgets for this”, or my personal favourite “municipalities in New Brunswick are not allowed by legislation to provide incentives”.

What if the national government didn’t think economic development was part of its mandate? What if it shaped tax policy, spending programs, fiscal policy, etc. without regard to impact on the economy? That would be crazy, you would say. The federal government must ensure that the Canadian economy generates the tax revenues required to pay for the social programs that we require.

Why isn’t that logic extended to the provincial and local levels? I would argue that municipal governments are the best level to quarterback economic development because the buck stops there. The provincial governments claim to have a mandate that is broader than any single municipality. The federal government claims to have a mandate that is broader than any single province. The only level of government that is singularly interested in a local community is its municipal government.

That’s not to say that provincial and federal government shouldn’t support local economic development. In fact, quite the opposite. But the local municipality must chart a course for its community. It must take control. It must take this issue of economic development seriously.

This is commonplace in the United States but for some odd reason, by their action, local municipalities in at least New Brunswick have shown a limited interest in economic development.

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0 Responses to A word about mandates

  1. vivenewbrunswick says:

    I happen to agree with Dewey: “government is the shadow cast over society by big business” It all comes down to politics. Canada was a colony, and its governments were set up to guard the landowners property.

    The US had a revolution, and set up a different system. Government at the municipal level in the states HAS to be more attentive to it’s people because almost all functionaries are elected, and also because the vast majority of counties have citizens initiative. Which means people are VERY involved in what their government is doing.

    In Canada we have none of that. Ask a person on the street what issues are being discussed at municipal council. Apart from some ‘hot topics’ people will have no idea. And why would they? They play no part in choosing what their government will do.

    In the states you see TONS more power at the municipal level, because like you say (and americans agree) that is the level which affects people most directly. In Canada municipalities are not even recognized in the charter. THe province could make St.John part of Moncton if it wanted to.

    So what you get in every town is its processes controlled by a small number of business people. It is control by a special interest group.

    You would think that would be good, but it’s not. The mention has been made before about the chamber of commerce. Many of these people OWN businesses, and apartments,etc. In other words they are people with money. So to them they don’t want, or necessarily desire economic growth.

    Municipalities COULD be more proactive, but choose not to, just like provincial governments often choose for the exact same reason. However, when you have a more vibrant government-meaning one that includes more interest groups, or just more people, then government must respond.

    That being said though, there is the other side of the coin, meaning that those with power and money play by a different set of rules. So when Irving comes to the city of St.John for a tax break on an LNG plant, well, that’s an ‘investment’.