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.