Don’t ask me for predictions

I write on these pages using stats, charts and graphs. I pretend to know a thing or two about economic development. But last night I got more confirmation that you shouldn’t ask my predictions when it comes to politics. I said a few weeks ago that with Premier Lord miraculously saving the Lepreau plant, Saint Johners would be eternally grateful. It seems not.

So I was wrong in my prediction – but my only consolation is that the Tories seem to have been wrong as well. They must have expected to win after removing Lizzie Weir with a plumb patronage appointment. They must have expected to win after immediately calling a by-election when they waited almost a year to call one in Shediac-Cap Pele.

Politics is a tough business. One day you’re riding a wave and the next your crashing into the pier.

Allow me one observation, notwithstanding my horrid track record. It seems to me that the politicians that are most able to win in New Brunswick are those that like to press the flesh, have long conversations with voters about nothing in particular and those that pretend to be genuinely interested in people’s comments. And it seems that ‘I’m Your Man’ Graham understands this while Stiff as a Board Lord doesn’t. The latter makes powerful and compelling speeches to 1,000 people in Toronto or Calgary but looks downright uncomfortable talking with three people he doesn’t know.

Finally, again I am shocked that the ‘We Say’ column in the Times & Transcript this morning wasn’t filled with an unflinching tribute to Premier Lord and his skills as has been the case on numerous occassions on days like this. I suspect, just a suspicion, that this strongly worded vote of confidence is coming tomorrow. Al Hogan usually needs a day or so to really wordsmith something like this.

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0 Responses to Don’t ask me for predictions

  1. Anonymous says:

    There’s no point in making predictions if you don’t know the people. Many pundits try to guess at things, but that riding saw no benefit from Lepreau and none from the LNG terminal-but they WILL pay the price if anything goes wrong with either of them.

    If you follow behind a person there’s no way of knowing whether they’ll turn left or right, even if you’ve followed them before. Voting is infinitely more complicated.

    My dad said it best last night, “they could have voted in Hooton and had a cabinet minister and even if they only kept ONE of their promises they’d be better off, then in two years they could have turfed her. Now they won’t get anything”. But that’s presuming everybody thinks the same.

    Likewise, this is only predicting, but one of the biggest influences was Charles Leblanc and Tim Smith, two guys on welfare with all day on their hands and an unlimited hatred of Lord. Tim lives in Saint John and was there canvassing for Doherty from day one and Charles went down the week before and the two of them did 12 hour days and posted everything on their blog. With that kind of passion, Doherty is just the footnote.

    They made sure the entire election wasn’t about Doherty and Hooton-but about Bernard Lord.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Good insight, anonymous. My area of interest is where economic development and politics intersect – but you have to get elected to get anywhere.

  3. scott says:

    Anonymous,

    Your dad said:

    “they could have voted in Hooton and had a cabinet minister and even if they only kept ONE of their promises they’d be better off, then in two years they could have turfed her. Now they won’t get anything”.

    I am not sure how old you are…I guess that is irrelevant to this debate.

    The main point here is that your dad’s sentiments are typical of the old way of thinking politically. This old ethos only still exists in the maritimes, particularly in New Brunswick. What David has been pointing out on his blog for over a year and a half is that NB needs to take another approach politically. Though his predictions may have been wrong, he was dead on when it came to what the political parties should be focusing on here in NB.

    Making the economy and jobs priority number one has always been his focus.

    If we continue to pander to an uneducated and aging electorate that demands handouts, more equilization, easier access to EI and poor economic investment decisions, then we will always be left with the same type of politicians with the same type of solutions.

    Trust me. This old school political ideology will never produce the visionaries required to turn this province’s fate in the other direction.

    It is people like David Campbell, who think outside the box, who will spurn on great debates about where we need to go in the future.

    We will fail as a province if we continue on the same path of economic destruction.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I think it is YOU who are clinging to an outdated ideal, and that isn’t just a reaction to the parental insult of a person you don’t even know.

    If this were the 19th century then Mr. Campbell would have been right on the money with his prediction as only ‘people of means’ could vote. They would have been the class who would have benefitted completely as it would be their ranks who would fill the boardrooms and engineering jobs Lepreau promises and reap the benefits of cheap nuclear power whose implementation and risk would be shared by all. In those days, ‘the rabble’ had no voice at all, which is also the reason why there was only ONE political party at the time.

    The elitist ideology of ‘listen to us visionaries, we know whats best for you uneducated and ignorant folk’ is an ideology that is quickly departing, and the more speedily it passes, the happier I will be. Even if it were true, we live in a political system designed over a hundred years ago, hardly a ‘visionary’ construct.

    If you think this politics is restricted to the maritimes then I’d suggest a little westward travel. Quebec’s BQ is the ultimate manifestation of the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to politics which representative systems typify. This exists throughout Canada, as every province and every level of government has the exact same form of responsible government.

    At least people like my father aren’t mincing words with pie in the sky rhetoric and recognizes politics for exactly what it is, usually one of the chief failings of ‘visionaries’.

  5. David Campbell says:

    But getting back to the point….

    I think the people in Saint John Harbour – non-socioeconomic profile specific – would be better off if we could systematically grow the economy. At the very least, it would provide more tax revenue for legitimate public investments in housing and welfare as opposed to doing it with Ontarioans’ and Albertans’ tax dollars. I agree with Scott that if politics is only about short term ‘what’s in it for me’ politics than in the long term everybody loses. I don’t pretend to understand the mindset of the average Joe-Q-Saint John-Harbourite but I do know that the long term way out will be rooted in economic renewal in Saint John. Will that solve all social problems? Absolutely not. In fact, it may create more. Some of the strongest economies in North America have problems with poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, etc.

    I’m sorry if this comes across as ‘elitist’ or ‘pie in the sky’. Maybe it is only theoretical but I have seen places like Saint John reborn with old industries replaced with new ones and, I realize this is patronizing, I have seen the attitude of people change as their community has grown. I was in Phoenix earlier this year for a conference and was fascinated at the sheer optimism that pervades that place. They feel that anything is possible. I’ll wager it’s been a long time in New Brunswick since people felt that.

  6. The Virginian says:

    The point you all failed to make is that these are the same people that reelected Elizabeth Weir forever, and for nothing, for them but Liz sure cashed in. Since we are bringing parents into this discussion, my Mom use to say: “Some people are just born for a small loaf of bread.” And that may be the best description for the folks in this riding.
    They are victims, they are not players, they can’t take charge of their destiny.
    It’s too bad for all. If Bernie was to learn any lesson out of this is that you should deliver the goods then you have credibility. If jobs had been created, instead of promised, he would have won the seat with a donkey as a candidate.

  7. The Virginian says:

    The point you all failed to make is that these are the same people that reelected Elizabeth Weir forever, and for nothing, for them but Liz sure cashed in. Since we are bringing parents into this discussion, my Mom use to say: “Some people are just born for a small loaf of bread.” And that may be the best description for the folks in this riding.
    They are victims, they are not players, they can’t take charge of their destiny.
    It’s too bad for all. If Bernie was to learn any lesson out of this is that you should deliver the goods then you have credibility. If jobs had been created, instead of promised, he would have won the seat with a donkey as a candidate.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If Alberta and Ontario didn’t have 13 % child poverty rates then I would agree that general economic advancements mean that EVERYONE benefits, but we know that’s not the case. The ‘golden triangle’ of ontario which has one of the highest ‘general’ income rates in Canada also has 50,000 people living in poverty in a population of 400,000.

    This is the reason that economists love statistics and don’t like to talk about people. In the 70’s Canada was a far different country and there was hardly a book to be found on poverty. I never even saw a homeless person until the late eighties.

    Clearly the ‘corporate run’ agenda is NOT beneficial when all governments do is support them. Corporations are designed to make money, governments are designed to maintain societies. When corporations fail to make money they go bankrupt, well, they WOULD if government’s weren’t now in the business of propping them up-such as the federal government did to the tune of 750 million in the case of Nortel. When a government fails to maintain societies, well, we’ve seen how bloody that can get.

    However, I don’t disagree with the thrust of this blog, as has been said many times, its purpose is to get international investment into the province, however, it never says to do this at ANY cost.

    Dealing with areas of high poverty, I don’t see how talking economic development for the province helps. Moncton is doing far better than it was in the early nineties-that hasn’t done anything for Saint John harbour. And the comment has even been made that economic development in other areas shouldn’t ‘come at the expense of Moncton’, which makes the whole thing even MORE difficult.

    So that I don’t sound just like a critic I would offer some of my platforms based on the Antigonish movement:

    1. Put boarding and lodging house tenants IMMEDIATELY into the residential tenants act so the province doesn’t look like a standout from the 19th century.

    2. Publish the owners of all the housing in the area and force them to live up to living standards.

    3. For those who don’t think it’s worth the effort and want to sell, set up a savings fund for groups of tenants to borrow off of so that their welfare and benefit cheques act as collateral and loan guarantees are given so that credit unions offer mortgages to them. The groups can own the buildings as co-ops-this has been very beneficial in the southern US.

    4. Have the local libraries and community centres wired with internet and open 24 hours a day.

    5. Sponsor ‘communities in bloom’ competitions for the area. When groups have pride of ownership they are more likely to fix up their residence as it benefits them directly.

    6. Allot a specific percentage of funds directly to the area. Funds that are derived from shipping into the harbour should go directly into the area, not into general funds.

    Now, the argument may be that that doesn’t do anything for economic development, but I’d disagree, just like I think that the argument for cleaning up the petitcodiac has economic incentives built right in. You never know what will happen when you empower people.

  9. David Campbell says:

    I think your proposals have merit and would add value. I just want us all to be clear that whether we like in or not in our system of government and organization of society, we need companies to generate economic activity and jobs and ultimately the tax base required to support our large social infrastructure.

    How come all of the social goals you outlined are considered ‘noble’ and ‘just’ but any attempts to gird up the economic base required to fund these social goals is considered supporting evil corporations (my pejorative term)?

    We need both, folks. An agenda biased too heavily toward the corporate side can lead to social problems and an agenda that ignores it can also lead to social problems.

    Balance. Karma. Ying/Yang. Et. Al.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Again, while I respect the ‘economy first’ idea, it depends how economy is defined. The above actual turns everybody into an economic participant, rather than simply a government ‘loss’. The reason it is considered ‘noble’ or considered ‘stupid’ depends on your point of view. If people are simply wage slaves or cast offs in society then the above ideas are just stupid. If you think the economy should exist for the benefit of people, and specifically for ALL people, then it is noble.

    The two things aren’t things to be balanced, they are means to an end. You just have to choose which you want to use as a means and which you want to choose as an end. For my part, when you look at Saint John harbour and then look at Irving’s many homes as well as their ‘gifts’ from government, it is pretty hard for me to think that somehow ‘business’ is the one being treated unfairly.

  11. scott says:

    “Houston, we have a problem.”

    Anonymous’ arguement is running out of vital oxygen!!

    I digress, as you do have raised some very good liberal social policies there. The only problem is, how are you going to pay for all these excellent social programs? By proposing to raise taxes even more?? EESSSHHH!

    Much of what David adds on his blog on a daily basis is not the complete perscription to cure what ails New Brunswickers, but a long list of what has gone wrong here both politically and economically up to this point. A compendium of the many mistaken and wrongheaded economic decisions made by governments who truly don’t understand how to grow a healthy economy.

    I can’t speak for David, but at this point I believe that if I don’t raise these issues on a daily basis than people in this region will continue to be brainwashed by the same old rhetoric that has got us to where we are today. Where is that you ask?

    A total dependency on transfer and equilization payments from other provinces who work hard for the money they make. I can see why Alberta and Ontario have a beef with our dependency attitude with the federal government. (sorry to sound so harsh, but it’s true)

    As for the 50,000 or so people who are living in poverty. Well, there are many reasons for poverty in our country and the world. In the Toronto region alone, there are many first generation immigrants who can not find work when they arrive in Canada. Some because of the difficulty of learning another language, others due to lack of education or problems with re-culturization.

    Some of these individuals could benefit greatly if there were more quality jobs available when they arrive in Canada. The only way this could happen is if we are much more aggressive as a nation in attracting quality foreign investment. It was said this week by an economist on ROB TV that Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale could have gone further with his tax cuts to both the upper and middle class as well as corporate tax cuts. It is the only way that we will spurn on the economy and compete globally with other nations.

    In doing so, foreign countries will see Canada and hopefully New Brunswick as a viable place to do business and invest. But at this point, if we don’t spend the next 5 years turning the situation around for the better, we will most likely miss our opportunity.

    Anonymous, you have done well to identify diffrent problems which exists as the result of a poor economic environment. But in order to eradicate what ails New Brunswickers, we must find solutions to put an end to this madness once and for all.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, I set out six very easy concrete steps to do just that. As for cost, they really don’t ‘cost’ as much as one thinks, it is simply a matter of income distribution, which is of course why the problem exists in the first place.

    Mr. Graham nailed it partly on the head in the reply to the throne, that with 6 billion sitting in investor’s hands in New York, what companies will invest in the province when the province doesn’t do so itself?

    As for the poverty issue, there are HUGE repercussions when a person doesn’t even have basic rights under the law. People have NO self worth, no confidence, and no trust in anybody. The ‘cycle of poverty’ is quite well established. However, as I said, take a house which has eight rooms with eight single men, each is on welfare and so gets $260 per month.

    The home itself is worth $180,000 which could get a $1000 a month mortgage. Classifying the group as condo owners in a co-op means that instead of their $200 a month going to a landlord who never sets foot on the place and probably doesn’t even live in the province, it goes to the local credit union-straight from the government. Six hundred dollars is left over for utilities and food, which again is more useful since this group would be far better off buying in bulk anyway.

    What this does is in one fell swoop makes sure the money stays local, gives them pride of ownership-which gives more confidence. It also gives them a location and a credit history. If they wanted to start a business then banks would not completely write them off, which is the procedure now. Of course some extra help may also be to adopt a common american practise, which is to legislate that banks invest a certain amount of their money in the area they exist.

    The above still has them ‘poor’, because they have little disposable income (much like many current homeowners), however, with their own home there are other things they can do-grow their own produce, perhaps get a small line of credit and fix up the kitchen and start a cottage business of selling herbs or vegetables at the market (which they are right next to) or some kind of baking goods.

    These people of course have time on their hands, they are unemployed or on welfare. This means that the co-op idea can be extended to the library and community centre so they are staffed by volunteers. This is also helpful because there is a HUGE number of grants available to such locations, Bill Gates alone funds internet libraries to the tune of six billion dollars a year and this ‘story’ would be a PR dream come true- I wouldn’t be surprised if the feds would want in on it once it were established.

    The computers themselves would be donated at first, this could be done easily because as anybody who works in government in Fredericton knows, every government department has a HUGE storeroom of old computers that they aren’t allowed to get rid of. NB Power alone has a whole floor of their downtown building dedicated to perfectly useable, but gathering dust, computers.

    Once on the internet of course the opportunities begin to become unlimited. There is mountains of free software available, and the gateway to opportunity is knowing how to use software: audio editing, video editing, 3-d animation, web data base construction, XML programming, web site administration,etc. Since the group is mostly volunteers and currently getting government aid, they could quickly use the newfound knowledge to compete with places like India, because they’d literally NEED squat.

    The important thing is not to simply cut them off their welfare as soon as they are working because that’s the biggest disincentive there is. However, the existing disincentive is simply that they are on welfare, and NOBODY wants to be on welfare. They would have no disposable income-but like just about everybody else-they WANT disposable income.

    Total cost of the above- zero. Even less than zero if you follow the american idea and make banks invest locally. All that is necessary is the WILL to do it, and LEGISLATION, that’s it. Of course then we hear the cries of ‘that’s just pie in the sky rhetoric’, which is another way of saying we don’t WANT to do it because the poor are simply unimportant to us. Every idea listed above is already used somewhere else, and very successfully, so there is no reason WHY it can’t be done, simply no VISION.

  13. vivenewbrunswick says:

    The above is just to attend to one issue, meaning blinding poverty primarily in middle age to older males-people who are going to be unaffected by just about any investment in the province anyway.

    However, the idea that tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations cause a ‘trickle down effect’ has long been disproven. As we know, New Brunswick ALREADY has the lowest corporate income tax in Canada and the US and it is hardly prospering. The idea that further cuts guarantees investment is pretty specious. Wealthy people simply invest their money in new opportunites, primarily asia.

    We also know that in Canada, which has a lower federal corporate tax rate than the US: “Since 1999, corporate profits have risen from 11% to 14% of GDP while reinvestent has declined from 13% to just 11% over the same time period. This is despite the fact that the federal corporate tax rate declined from 28% to 21%”

    However, take a look at PEI where their investment, er, subsidies, er, handouts, were used to build an aerospace industry which currently accounts for a quarter of their exports and employs over a thousand people. The province pays for the buildings and education of the workforce and provides tax breaks specific to the industry, and the province benefits much in the same way that ontario benefits from the auto sector-five jobs created for every job existing.

  14. David Campbell says:

    I love the PEI model (although it is certainly not perfect) but I marvel at why it takes a base closure to free up the funds to put a project like that in place. In my mind, New Brunswick is like one big ‘base closure’ only the process is much slower. Cape Breton is another example where a large Federally funded program is in place to attract business investment. Isn’t Atlantic Canada one big Cape Breton (not to minimize the problems there but on a lessor scale the same things apply – declining traditional industries, out-migration, lack of investment)?

    All I can say is that this blog is in some small way achieving my objective. I ran into a senior government official the other day and he told me that he is a frequent reader of the blog. So keep up the debate (in a civilized manner). There are over 1,000 unique visitors to these pages and a few have the influence to make serious change in our province and in the Atlantic region.