Fine tune the messaging

A weekend article in the Telegraph Journal called “Lord to sell new N.B. in Alberta” spent more ink on Lord’s federal ambitions than on ‘selling NB’ out west.

However, the Premier was quoted as saying:

“The objective is to reinforce the new social and economic reality in Atlantic Canada, that there have been changes. We’re going to talk about the new things going on in the Atlantic provinces, give them another perspective of the dynamism, enthusiasm and confidence that exist in the Atlantic provinces.”They’ll highlight investments in education, a qualified workforce, balanced budgets and tax cuts and investments in infrastructure.

Now, having spent time out west and having government officials in Red Deer tell me that ‘we do things differently out here’ as a veiled reference to our perceived lack of work ethic, I would suggest that the Premier tweak his messaging. For example, if the Premier talks about (as he says) NB’s investments in education, balanced budgets and infrastructure investments the Albertans will think “paid for by us”. If the Premier talks aobut a ‘qualified workforce’ the Albertans will think “how can we get the few qualified workers from NB out here to work in Fort McMurray?”.

If the Premier talks about ‘dynamism’, ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘confidence’, the Albertans will go to the Stats Canada web site and see a declining population, strong out-migration and low levels of business investment and say to themselves “what have they got to be dynamic about?”.

So, if I were one of the Premier’s handlers (okay, let’s just pretend a bit here), I would say the speech should contain these points:

1. NB realizes the billions in subsidies you are throwing at us and we are thankful.

2. Unfortunately, all that money has not translated into new economic opportunities – we are still at the tail end of Canada’s economy for almost every measure.

3. So, we are proposing a new strategy. We want to carve off 10% of all moneys thrown at us through Equalization and put it directly into economic development. Yes, we know that will be hundreds of millions but we think this is the only way to ever reduce our dependancy on Alberta – which, ultimatley, will be a win-win for both provinces.

4. So, I am here to ask your support to help us grow our economy and reach some level of self sufficiency (after all isn’t that the ‘Tory’ line?). As we investment this new money into economic development, don’t gripe at us. As we start to see our economy grow – and yes, maybe even rival Alberta – don’t complain and demand your money back. You see, we heard former Ontario Premier Mike Harris when he said in the Ontario legislature that Nova Scotia keeping its offshore royalties was “a little like the welfare bum who wins the lottery and then wants to keep his welfare cheque”. We know that this opinion is widely held in Alberta as well. But if we can aggressively attack our economic problems, if we can become a magnet for foreign investment, if we can lead all of Canada for employment growth and new investments, we will generate the taxes needed to pay our way in Confederation and reduce our dependancy on you and you will get to keep more of your own money.

5. So, in conclusion, I am not here to serve up a load of crap about “the dynamism, enthusiasm and confidence that exist in the Atlantic provinces”. We are hurting. Our economies are reaching a tipping point where the combination of population decline, increasing cost of government services and the frustration in Ontario about the ‘fiscal imbalance’ could threaten our way of life in Atlantic Canada. We need a fundamental change in direction. And we need your help.

What do you think? Should I be a speech writer for the Premier?

Hee. Hee. Hee.

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0 Responses to Fine tune the messaging

  1. Anonymous says:

    The problem I see with the begging and sucking up routine is that the issues are primarily economic, not political. Albertans have money, how do you get them to invest in NB? You make it SOUND like it’s a great place to invest. Unfortunately, in a global economy that’s tough to sell.

    These are people making investment decisions, they aren’t going to sit and listen to crap about how we’re going to change the way we’re spending ‘your money’. That’s like buying booze with the money your parents gave you for textbooks and then saying ‘this time will be different.’ First, of course, you can’t take money out of the Canada Health and Social Transfer and put it on economic development, that’s something that Ottawa decides. Mind you, just because you SAY that to them, doesn’t mean it has to be true.

    However, I suspect the best way to get investment in a province is to tout it up as good as possible and tell people they will make money there. The problem is when an Albertan says “well, what kind of investments you got?”

    That’s a problem, because currently, in energy, Alberta is known for two things, oil and wind power. And New Brunswick is going nuclear and has already said it’s doing it on it’s own.

    New Brunswick farmland is already owned by a small number of farms, most tied to Cavendish and McCains-no investment there.

    Manufacturing and services may have SOME opportunities, but Irving is always a scary presence for a potential competitor, particularly in growth industries that want to expand onto the Atlantic coast. Unfortunately theres also a cultural bias, as most alberta investment tends to go southward and westward.

    So my take would be to find the manufacturers and service providers and talk to THEM, but as you say, it may be just him getting his name out there. Although canadians typically don’t like losers, and it’ s not looking good for him-but maybe he’ll pull a McKenna and bail before then.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Don’t take me too literally. My point is that this posturing by Lord et al doesn’t hold water when you look at the facts. Much of your analysis is well reasoned (with the exception of your Irving position)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see why, although that’s true, the article was sort of tongue in cheek. But for Irving let’s look at examples which he’s in. First, say newspapers. Several small weeklies were for sale awhile back, and there is much information available from the senate hearings on how Irving competes with other newspapers. First, they will start their own weeklies, but ONLY in towns where there is already one, I can’t even think of a NEW one that they started in a place that didn’t have one. They then offer discounts to local retailers that others can’t match. This is just tip of the iceberg, like I said, go read the transcripts from the Senate hearings.

    So what company is going to buy such a paper? There is typically a small profit margin to begin with, so why bother. Again, we have to realize nobody is going to set up shop in NB to sell to NB’ers-there’s no market. There’s hardly any people, and a lot of poverty. Somebody like Humpty Dumpty or Lays, isn’t going to go there, because Irving is flooding the market with their own chips.

    Irving has the ear of the government, that is plain to even the numbest investor simply by looking at St. John. So if you are a competitor you’d have to be crazy to set up in a province which is virtually run by the family and enjoys political patronage and economic advantages. Soon they’ll be providing their own power, so will have even more advantages.

    Note that I didn’t say that NO companies will come to NB, I said that competitors to Irving won’t. The company is gigantic, if I were a small to medium business I’d be avoiding any place where they have such clout like it were the plague. Bigger companies might well enjoy such alliances, and it’s too bad Irving hasn’t used it’s power and clout to bring more investment to the province-they have the budget to do it, far more than the province. Cynically though, one can understand when one giant player avoids inviting others in.

    For gas stations years ago Irving was spreading into Ontario and Exxon simply told them that if they were going to start competing nationally, they were going to up their presence in the maritimes so Irving backed down. Likewise, there is tons of investment available all along the new trans canada, there could be stores, restaurants, tons of stuff, just like along the 400 north in Ontario. However, notice that there are only Irving stations placed strategic distances apart. So for competitors, trying to get a foot in simply is not feasible.