Listen to the Doctor

I had to show you this. I can’t link because you need a subscription:

Former Conservative says northern N.B. economy nearing ‘crisis’
Furlong turns back on Tories, offers to help Grits
By Shannon Hagerman


A former Conservative cabinet minister says the northern New Brunswick economy is approaching a “crisis” and he’s offering to help the Opposition Liberals improve the region’s plight if they get into office.

Dr. Dennis Furlong, who retired from politics in 2003, says he still carries a Conservative membership card but he’s determined to help any party interested in boosting the region’s sagging fortunes.

The former health minister said he’s offered his help to Dalhousie-Restigouche East Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault.”If I can help out I’ll be there, regardless of political stripes. It’s important up here now because we’re losing population very, very rapidly. And the economy up here, it’s not in trouble, now it’s almost in crisis,” Dr. Furlong said.

Dr. Furlong’s prescription to improve the rural economy is to reduce reliance on resource-based industries, like forestry and fishing, in favour of manufacturing sectors. Dr. Furlong, now a family doctor in Dalhousie, said he has no plans to jump back into politics.

Samuel LeBreton, an economist with Service Canada, said rural New Brunswick continues to lag behind urban areas in job growth, but stressed unemployment in the northwest and northeast regions of the province has improved over the last several years.

When the Conservatives took office in 1999, unemployment was 16.6 per cent in the northeast. In 2005, the average unemployment rate was 14.8 per cent. “You have to go back to 1996 to have such a low in the northeast,” he said.

My ad nauseum:
Is LeBreton an economist or a spin doctor? Cripes, any economist would realize that there is more – much more – to this than the unemployment rate. If you empty out the North, who gives a crap about the unemployment rate? I’ll answer that myself. Those folks that believe the North has to be emptied out.

This war of attrition with Northern New Brunswick must stop. Furlong wants manufacturing? Sounds fine by me except that power rates are going up faster than the rest of the country and they have not made significant investments in the roads up there in years.

LeBreton. Who is this guy? The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan is 4% and they are freaking out about depopulation.

LeBreton thinks depopulation is a good thing, it would seem.

Make no mistake, there is a ground war going on in Northern NB and among the bureaucrats in Fredericton/Ottawa. One camp thinks there needs to be more support pushed up there (i.e. the NB Liberals are pushing this view) and the other thinks that tough love is in order. The latter secretly wants depopulation – hoping to bring the region to some form of equilibrium that is less reliant on government pogie.

But what neither camp realizes is that both of those models is doomed for failure (in my humble opinion). Making EI more accessible and putting more supports up there (the NB Liberal’s position) will only exacerbate the current problems. Slowly cutting the region off and bleeding it dry will not lead to a ‘new equilibrium’ rather it will accelerate depopulation which will lead to more cuts to government services up there which will lead to more depopulation which will… You get the picture.

The famous third way! Cripes, I sound like Bill Clinton.


Pick a few reasonable industries for growth up there and go get them. Incent them in. Build the infrastructure. Train the people. Create the environment. Make it work.

And don’t give me any of that crap. Cape Breton is Nova Scotia’s Acadian Peninsula and while they have a long way to go – they have attracted IT shops, call centres, biotechnology, auto parts manufacturing and now even the coal mine is coming back into play.

The tiddlywinks approach of the current government leads me to believe they favour a slow burn up there. The tired, rehashed model proposed by the Liberals leads me to believe they don’t believe change is possible up there either.

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0 Responses to Listen to the Doctor

  1. scott says:

    A former Conservative cabinet minister says the northern New Brunswick economy is approaching a “crisis” and he’s offering to help the Opposition Liberals improve the region’s plight if they get into office.

    Dr. Dennis Furlong, who retired from politics in 2003, says he still carries a Conservative membership card but he’s determined to help any party interested in boosting the region’s sagging fortunes.

    I may not be a former New Brunswick cab min, but I am a tory and I know exactly where he is coming from. Maybe he reads your blog as my comments were quite similar to say the least.

    As well, I agree with your third way analysis as I believe it would be the best approach for NB as well as the nation right now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are forgetting the fourth way. Since we are setting up infrastructure anyway, doing training anyway, and granting incentives anyway…why not have them on the people who are there?

    Look at the animation idea. What does it take to do animation? Well, what the devil do you need foreign investment for? I can draw a cartoon right now and try to sell it. I can draw a comic book and take it to studios to get them to distribute a cartoon or game.

    And all it takes is one thing, a computer (with software). Oh, and one more thing. You have to know how to do it, why to do it, and you have to not starve to death while doing it.

    Those are all easily accomplished. You mentioned before a guy who took animation, then sold his company for a song. Is there a reason that MORE people can’t do that? Of course not.

    The problem is that the infrastructure in the knowledge industries are NOT roads, rails and terminals, it is people. And the reality is that people are individuals, which is why blanket policies rarely work. The vast majority of people on welfare are aged and single mothers. How to you get them into the workforce? It’s pretty obvious that you invest in social policy, NOT economic policy.

  3. David Campbell says:

    Here’s an idea. Let’s do all we can to get the economy moving and then we can afford to help out those in need. You want to complain about governments hacking away at social programs but it takes money – tax dollars to be precise – to pay for those programs.

  4. David Campbell says:

    Scott, be of good cheer fellow blogger. There are early signs of a changing attitude around. I hear it when I meet with folks in Sackville, Shediac, Sussex etc. (and towns that don’t start with ‘s’). We just need to find ourselves a galvanizing presence – a leader if you will – to bring it together. I think any political leader that would take a single minded focus to bring NB back from the brink would be welcomed by NBers. I think we are just about fed up with all the empty talk and broken promises. Yeah, we need health care. Yeah, we need education. But we are starting to figure out that the machinery needed to fuel all that has been slipping away. So at some point, some person, will figure this out and being the process of deliberately and painstaking looking at ways to fix our economic malaise and bring some sanity to this equation.

    People crap on call centres – a lot. But I have seen hundreds of people in rewarding careers – in many cases careers that lead them out of New Brunswick – working with companies such as Xerox, IBM, Camco, UPS, Centrebeam, etc. We need more – not less – of this.

  5. MartinP says:

    This is why that is doomed to fail-you say ‘let’s get the economy going first’. THAT takes money as well. And it takes tax money, as we know from Molson, Nackawic, etc. So it’s a pretty tough sell to tell voters we want more UPN’s in our province- ‘but it’s going to cost ya’. As the gentleman caller said on the call in show, before it was for jobs and investment, now its simply blackmail.

    So no surprise that people aren’t jumping on that bandwagon, people aren’t stupid. They know damn well that the best jobs are government jobs.

    And I think you are perhaps putting your rose coloured glasses on when you cast your eye about. People get their news from Irving-not this blog. People don’t go out of their way to check Statistics Canada for comparitive figures.

    Most of the popular pays little attention to politics at all. I find it virtually impossible to even bring the topic up (which is why I’m online).

    Again, the ‘messiah’ theory of economic development is an interesting one, but doesn’t go far in resolving problems that exist NOW.

  6. MartinP says:

    Sorry, I forgot the other reason-that there are LOTS of miseerable people in the province with underpaid or no work. Saying “let’s get the economy going first then we’ll deal with you”, is hardly a great deal, and is actually pretty suspect economically. Particularly when, as said, the OECD is saying Canada needs massive investment in R&D. Imagine going into some rural town and saying ‘yes, we’re setting up a think tank here’. It’s laughable-but it shouldn’t be.

    Just as an afterthought, perhaps those criticizing the budget should put together an alternate budget, like that CCPA does. It’s a delicate balance when you have to choose between more economic developers and healthcare or education.