The political platform of champions

Given the economic realities of Saint John, I thought I was try and attempt to see where the various parties stand on economic development during the by-election campaign in Saint John Harbour. I couldn’t find Ms. Hooton’s web site anywhere but I did find the Liberal candidate Dr. Ed Doherty at http://www.ed4mla.ca.

But before I give you Dr. Doherty’s priorities, let me lay out the state of the union for Saint John as it relates to the local economy (as always based on my microscopic view of the world but indulge me for a moment):

*Saint John’s population has been steadily declining for well over a decade. In the past five years alone, it has shed almost 2,000 people according to Statistics Canada estimates.

*Saint John county was larger (population) in the 1950s than it is today. In contrast Westmorland county (Moncton) has more than doubled in that time frame.

*Saint John in the late 1800s was larger than Detroit and Washington, DC by population and was in the top six cities in Canada for population. Now it is one third the size of Kitchener, Ontario.

*Saint John has consistently been among the worst performers across the full set of economic statistics among Canada’s urban areas for most of the past 10 years.

*The new Trans Canada Highway is a real threat to marginalizing Saint John even further. Parrsboro, Nova Scotia (population 4,000) was a significant port city on the Bay of Fundy and on the major trade route from Halifax to central Canada at the turn of the last century. Now, it is a small retirement community with a few small local industries.

*One of the top employers for generations, NBTel, is slowly downsizing its operations and influence in the city.

*As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a new major office building constructed in downtown Saint John in 20 years.

Now, having said all that, let’s look at Dr. Doherty’s platform, shall we? There are five priorities:
1. Harbour Clean-Up
2. Housing
3. Young Families and Child Care
4. Youth-at-Risk
5. Literacy and Jobs

Saint John is in the middle of a slow decay that threatens to marginalize this once great city into another Parrsboro (and most likely take down the whole province with it), and the Liberals are flogging child care.

I know you have to appeal to what the voters want. I’ll give you that the Liberal polling probably suggested these were the top five issues that resonate with the voters. But, cripes folks, why won’t anyone run on a platform of making Saint John strong again? On Saint John taking its rightful place as a major economic driver? On reclaiming its status as an economy with regional influence? Can’t you appeal to people’s pride? Aren’t Saint Johners worried about this slow decay to their beautiful city?

So, here would be my priorities if I was running in Saint John Harbour (again, indulge this little fantasy):

1. Reclaiming Saint John’s role as a major economic driver in eastern Canada.

2. Fighting hard to open up a four lane trade route to the US through St. Stephen and taking back a spot on this critical trade corridor.

3. Immigration – 10,000 immigrants over the next 10 years (note: I went to the ballet last night in Saint John and of the 600 people there I didn’t see one visible immigrant or hear one word of French spoken at the intermission. Saint John desperately needs new blood.)

4. Attracting major, world class companies to Saint John. At least 10,000 jobs over the next decade -mostly from large, multinational firms – opening up Saint John as a global destination for investment and trade.

5. Forging new partnerships with Moncton, Fredericton, Halifax, et. al. I would propose taking the lead on this – leadership on regional cooperation emminating out of Saint John.

6. Enhancing the role of UNBSJ – maybe splitting off as a stand alone Saint John university. Over the next decade – doubling or tripling students – mostly offshore.

Now, what do you think? Think Saint Johners would elect me on that platform? One not even mentioning child care?

Me neither.

Postscript:

And for anyone out there that things the Liberals or the NDP are going to have a strong economic development platform, I would crave your insight. So far, the Liberals are pushing the agenda far to the Left and are barely mentioning economic issues. Take a look at this report published on the NB Liberals’ web site called:

24 Unfulfilled Promises of the Bernard Lord Government

How many of the 24 unfulfilled promises do you think are economic-development related? One – and that is loosely defined ‘innovation’. The rest of the 24 are things like a ‘Basic Income Guarantee’, nursing homes, prescriptions drugs, etc.

I suspect either way you slice it we are in for 10 more years of disinterest among politicians regarding serious, tangible and community-changing economic development.

But this will make for 10 years of blog fodder so I shouldn’t complain too much.

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0 Responses to The political platform of champions

  1. scott says:

    David,

    I wrote this regarding your post on Oct.13th titled “Neutralizing the Opposition”:

    In my opinion, both Bernard Lord and Lisa Keenan’s attack on the NDP and their leader could come back to bite them in a major way.

    I mean let’s get realistic, where do you think the NDP vote will go if their leader and the party fold their tent?

    So fast forward to today.

    You stated that the liberals and NDP both have a weak economic plan so far in their by-election platforms. You said:

    So far, the Liberals are pushing the agenda far to the Left and are barely mentioning economic issues.

    And I’ll tell you why the liberal’s are doing this.

    Firstly, the liberal’s see the Lord government as vulnerable to any type of major policy committments in this by-election. Since they are in government, they can not committ to something that may put them on the hotseat later. Especially, with their slim majority in the legislature.

    Secondly, Dr. Doherty’ and the liberals strategists know that the soft Weir vote on the left is up for grabs. So if you’re a smart strategist, why talk about corporate economic issues that don’t appeal to the soft left vote. The winning candidate will be the who talks about social issues. They will be the one who turns those votes over. And it doesn’t look like Hooten can do it.

    And I’ll tell you why and it’s easy. Just refer to the top where I said:

    In my opinion, both Bernard Lord and Lisa Keenan’s attack on the NDP and their leader could come back to bite them in a major way.

    I mean let’s get realistic, where do you think the NDP vote will go if their leader and the party fold their tent?

    This is what the Saint John Harbour riding will remember from the tories, not Lord’s appointment of Weir.

    I have already heard that the NDP are using Lisa Keenan’s anti- Brewer article in the Telegraph as amo in their door to door campaign when they are handing out party literature.

    That can only help the libs and hurt Hooten’s chances even more.

    She is a sitting duck. And there is nothing that Lord can do to help her.

  2. vivenewbrunswick says:

    I generally agree with the above, but don’t really think ‘cleaning up the harbour’ is a ‘soft left’ issue, though I’m not sure what ‘soft left’ means. “sorta kinda socialist’, or ‘anything that involves the government actually doing something’.

    The problem with economic issues is that so much of what is done is treaty regulated. In essence, ALL the government can do is bribe companies. There are various grades of this, limits imposed, PR attentions, etc. I suspect that after McKenna’s intense whoring of the province and finding it even worse off, NB’ers simply aren’t buying that line anymore.

    I think people are generally aware of how difficult it is to get companies to such an area, but after all, voters expect them to do SOMETHING. Hooten literally can simply show up and say “vote for me or have NO voice in government”. And from blog reports and eyewitness accounts (or blog reports of madeup eyewitness accounts) that’s pretty much how she’s been running the campaign.

    There is something else to consider which hasn’t been mentioned anywhere, and that is personality interests. The remarks here are that liberals, in particular this candidate, are interested primarily in social issues. That seems true, for the reasons ‘scott’ gives, plus the fact that party’s typically open up the wallet just before elections, which effectively steals the thunder of opposition party’s who tout that.

    However, this guy is a doctor, so it shouldn’t be surprising that these are issues he’s interested in. He’s of the age that he certainly didn’t get into medicine ‘for the money’ and if you look at his volunteer work it is primarily in social services like doctors without borders.

    However, one item sparked my interest, and seems underplayed, and that is that he is a member of the Investment Committee of the Asia Pacific Foundation. I looked at their website and it seems exactly what it says. This means that he may actually have something to offer while an MLA right now-which is CONNECTIONS. Something far more valuable than the other party’s, well, whatever they are offering.

    It is possible that he just tacked that on to seem ‘well rounded’, however, sitting on a committee takes at least SOME level of activity. There is ALWAYS stuff going on in asia, and it might be advantageous to have some connections there. It would at least have been a good question to ask at the debate.

  3. David Campbell says:

    I agree with Scott that the Libs are approaching the riding with the strategy that they think is most like to get them the win. I disagree with Vive and his comment of ‘McKenna’s intense whoring'; however. How come when the government does things on the social front they get applauded but when they try to shore up the economic base required to pay for these social programs it’s called ‘whoring’?

    If it’s ‘whoring’ I’d be the first one to brand New Brunswick as a whorehouse and pimp out the province.

  4. vivenewbrunswick says:

    Dude, you’re too sensitive. When all a government can do is whore then obviously the most talented whore wins. But the analogy essentially fits, you bend over backward to give as much as possible to get ‘clients’. THere are winners and losers, in NB, in particular Moncton, will be winners with Molson setting up shop. I will be very interested to see if there will be a union, and what pay scales are, because of course the big losers were the people of Barrie, Ontario, where a huge Molson brewery was closed. That work will now be done in NB, and for a lot less money I’m assuming, because Molson lost a lot of customers in southern ontario because people were so PO’d.

    But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality. I agree with Mr. Savoie that McKenna made perhaps the best attempt that can be made under a dysfunctional federation, and that without equal and elected representation in the senate the province simply can’t do any better.

    So it comes down to whoring, I call it that, not to insult the unfortunate economic necessity thrown upon oppressed women, but to characterize what essentially has become of politics. So my point was that the best whore for the job in St. John may very well be this doctor who may have asian connnections.

    I think the reality is that on the social front, cleaning up the harbour benefits ALL the people who live on the harbour. However, economic incentives are suspect because people simply don’t know what the government is offering in exchange for jobs. It could be Newfoundland, or it could be a great deal. I can guarantee you that some Nackawic workers and future Molson employees will be VERY happy with the government.

  5. David Campbell says:

    I once was minding my business sitting in the Moncton Club and an old guy sidled up to me and started talkign. He told me he used to own a manufacturing plant in New Brunswick and sometime in the 1970s his national union demanded that wages would be the same for all unionized plants across the country. Within a couple of years, he closed the shop here and moved it to Toronto. My point here is not to crap on the union (although I am prepared to do that) but to say for every Molson plant attracted down here at the possible expense of a few jobs in Ontario – there have been a dozen go the other way. Even that crazy chocolate maker in St. Stephen said he should be in Toronto but he feels an ‘attachment’ to the people of St. Stephen.

    So you’ll get no sympathy for me on that front.