Where’s the R&D

If you read this blog regularly, you will know how skeptical I am about this whole ‘innovation’ or ‘R&D’ kick. To hear some talk, you would think that New Brunswick is a hotbed of innovation – the Premier for example.

So, let’s rewind to the Prosperity Plan. In it, the government correctly stated that New Brunswick is dead last in Canada for R&D spending per capita, as a percentage of GDP or any other way you want to slice it. So, they ambitiously stated that the objective was to get New Brunswick to be in the top three provinces in Canada for R&D.

As you know from previous blogs, we are still last as of the latest data. I have pointed out how ridiculous this objective is before. A quick, back of the napkin analysis indicates we would have to spend at least $100 million more on R&D every year to get into the top three. So what does Premier Lord do? He announces a $25 million R&D fund to be spent over an indefinite number of years (I think they have spent maybe $10 million so far).

Now, I see a new report from Industry Canada that states that R&D spending in the ICT (information and communications technologies) sector across Atlantic Canada is actually down by 3.3% per year (average) since 1997.

This is what frustrates me to no end. We talk and talk about prosperity, innovation, dynamism, the new attitude, ambition, etc. and they we spend less on R&D, less on economic development, less on strategic infrastructure and more on health care, more on Employment Insurance and other non-growth oriented expenditures.

There will be no economic renaissance in Atlantic Canada until we start to take it seriously. Period. The Governor of Pennsylvania is all over the place. A man on a mission. Cripes, he even sent me an email asking me to move my business to his state (I don’t actually have much of a business but they must not be great at targeting potential leads). He has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure and incentives. He has personally quarterbacked the attraction of numerous large projects. His mission is clear and well articulated. To revive the state of Pennsylvania as a major economic engine in the United States.

People say I am too focused on growth. Who cares?, they say. Actually, I don’t give two hoots about growth for growth’s sake. Take Vermont. It isn’t growing much but there is widespread contentment. No, it’s not about ‘growth’. It’s about having an economic base that generates the tax revenues required to pay for public services. That sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. New Brunswick has not generated the tax revenues required to pay for public services for decades – and under the current administration, things are just getting worse.

So, in simple economic terms, we have two options: 1) radically reduce expenditures (by close to a billion dollars per year) and have a third world level of government services or 2) grow the tax base massively to pay for our public services.

As I have mentioned many times before, our increasing reliance on the benevolence of the Ontario and Albertan taxpayer is going to end up biting us on the arse.

But, hey, maybe if we are lucky, Premier Lord will become Prime Minister and dole out even more federal pogie to New Brunswick…..

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