Visiting Grandchildren – An Update

Edith Robb’s column today is on Donald Savoie’s new book Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes which is pegged as a manifesto of sorts for the future economic development of the region. I will be going out at lunch today to buy this book at Chapters so if you get there first and it’s the last copy – leave it please.

I have ocassionally interacted with Donald Savoie and expect that this book will be a good read.

Edith Robb makes some interesting points:

Savoie says our situation “will not be helped by moaning about how Confederation dealt the region a bad hand. Such complaints just create despair and ultimately serve to disempower the region. Nurturing a sense of betrayal suggests that the region can never succeed, can never compete with other regions at home or abroad, and that it should simply accept its place in the Canadian family as being “below the salt.

“While acknowledging that past attempts by the federal government to foster regional development here in the east have largely been well-intentioned and based on logic, the economist nonetheless shows that they didn’t work.Instead he calls for a radically new approach, one that recognizes that what is good for the Maritime provinces is good for Canada, no less than what is good for Ontario is good for Canada.

“The goal should be to integrate the Maritime economy better into already thriving economies, whether in Canada’s national economy or in the regional economies of New England and the eastern seaboard of the United States.”While acknowledging the general impatience at the pace of economic development in the Maritime provinces and the strong appetite for solutions, Savoie does not give in to the temptation of a quick fix, but hopes instead his book will serve to generate comprehensive debate.

I sincerely hope it does. I’ll go so far as to suggest it should serve as the foundation for an Atlantic “Thinker’s Conference” that would bring our most agile minds together to work out ways that our region can resolutely break away from Ottawa’s guilt money and stand solidly on our own two feet.

This is, quite honestly, a book that needs to be read and discussed by all of us who care about the Maritime future.

Now, you know what I am going to say before I say it. Edith Robb wants another ‘Thinker’s Conference’. Bernard Lord has hosted a dozen of these during his six years and there have been countless others. These little get togethers do nothing more than give the appearance of government actually doing something.

I propose a slightly different approach.

Do something.

Bernard Lord has cut economic development funding. He did not renegotiate the REDA with the Feds and in fact left REDA money in the pot that could have been spent. He openly brags about spending ‘all new money’ on health care and education.

Rome is burning but the Moncton Hospital gets another MRI.

New Brunswick has not even matched the national level of popuation growth any decade since Confederation. That’s 140 years, folks. Probably since 1867 there have been a million ‘thinkers conferences’ in various shapes and sizes.

Here’s the deal:

New Brunswick has not attracted its share of global business investment for decades. Period. Go get it.

New Brunswick has almost no access to the global capital markets (except outward – all of our government employee pensions are invested outside New Brunswick). Go get it.

New Brunswick has exported most if its top ‘thinkers’ since at least the 1950s. Turn that equation to import, please.

New Brunswick has become, in my opinion, the least innovative province in Canada – if not North America. Change this. Seek out and support innovation across the board.

New Brunswick’s media doesn’t give a rat’s behind about telling us the stories that matter about the economy. Change this. Pound us over the head. Daily. Stalk us. Chase us around. Everytime we pick up the paper, turn on the news or try and do a darn web search, we should have annoying popup Windows reminding us. Do something. Change something. Make things better for your kids.

And then, maybe then, when we are all old and gray (that day is rapidly approaching for some of us), we will see Granny’s and Grampy’s coming here to see their kids who moved here from Toronto, Waterloo, Winnipeg, Boston, Vancouver, etc.

In the interim, read Savoie’s book.

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0 Responses to Visiting Grandchildren – An Update

  1. Anonymous says:

    First, some reality. The IMF does their own studies, which show that actually the maritimes HAVE been catching up with the rest of Canada. That means that equalization HAS been working. Their conclusions of course are that that is bad, that we should be letting people starve so they’ll get off their asses and move to where the jobs are.

    Second, when the depression hit the rest of Canada it had been going on for decades in the maritimes. By that time griping had gotten the maritimes nowhere, so they were trying yet another tact, similar to McKenna’s, the ‘everything is great here, so why not invest?’ Ironically, by coinciding with the depression elsewhere this guaranteed the maritimes didn’t get any attention or services from the feds, because, as mentioned, they thought everything was great here. Even canadian historians tend to gloss over the depression in this part of Canada, claiming that it ‘wasn’t as hard hit’.

    History is useful because it can show us what HASN”T worked. We KNOW equalization ‘works’, we have the studies. We KNOW that the ‘everything is fine here’ AND the ‘God help us we’re dyin’ routines DON”T affect change in Ottawa.

    Integrating into national economies of course relies completely on the feds, a party which now claims to be interested in the opposite (although they are as unpredictable as the libs).

    Anybody that thinks ACOA and other fed giveaways have been ‘well intentioned’ is still reading too much of the irving papers. Recently I looked at a study showing where ACOA money goes and how much, and it IS essentially a political tool. Investment goes to ridings supporting the lead parties, even if its money that goes to infrastructure, not economic development. Money also tends to dry up right after elections, then increase towards the next election.

    The provincial government has essentially become a test case for corporate capitalism. The economy of the largest corporations is infused with subsidies, land and cash, while the rest of the economy is left to service those corporations. Just read our last Natural Resources minister talking about ‘innovative’ ways to get more students into ….. forestry! Again, who benefits from a surplus of educated workers in their industry?

    The blogger here says its time for ‘action’, and that’s true. Although this is a bigger issue than just economic development, and the ‘action’ should be directed to more than that! I hope that this, and all bloggers will join in this action, or else obviously they will continue to be marginalized, voices in the wilderness. Stay tuned.

  2. scott says:

    I really enjoyed his book Pulling Against Gravity. It was one of the better reads on economic development in New Brunswick from both a practical and historical context.

  3. scott says:

    As an expatriate repatriated, and surely the only one in these hinterlandish(not a word…) parts, I am in the happy process of rediscovering the New Brunswick lifestyle. The pleasures and delights are numerous (I just caught the tidal bore for the first time ever this past saturday), but they are definitely not limitless, and adjusting to ways of doing things here, as compared to there(Ottawa), requires patients, which in turn needs stoicism to sustain it.

    As the great Dalton Camp (God rest his soul) once said:

    Expatriate Maritimers who return home are nothing new.

    […]

    They come back to retire, to weather their midlife crisis,or to live out the fantasies they acquired after sniffing auto exhaust in big city traffic.

    Hopefully, if we can create a better business climate here in New Brunswick, they will come back for a better paying job as well as a better quality of life.

    And there is no question that this will not be accomplished by whining and moaning about the poor hand we been dealt by the feds.

    What New Brunswick needs is a new 21st century visionary who can communicate this motto.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interesting how usually people’s ‘solutions’ mean either: a)accepting their ‘motto’, or b) finding some ‘visionary’ who coincidentally shares that persons motto.

    Creating a better business climate is quite vague though, it would at least be beneficial if people were a little more explicit in their solutions rather than “just make everything wonderful and everything will be wonderful”.

    As for business climates, I haven’t heard Irving, McCain, Ganong or Moosehead complaining. The business ‘climate’ appears to suit them just fine.

    Lowest corporate taxes on the continent, a government that will bend over to avoid environmental assessments, hand out cash to money losing corporations and ignore their own policies, change the tax structure of the entire province to suit one investment. I mean, what other ‘handouts’ are required?

    The province is dirt poor, and most of its residents are just getting by. But I think you can find that ‘better business climate’ talked about over at that Atlantic First blog or whatever its called (link is the first one at the bottom). Yes, copying that oh so successful Alberta policy, we’re now seeing the beginning of child labour! There are at least 600 companies that are just pleased as punch.