With our without you

I have said this before, and you (and my clients) are going to hear it more and more. I have just read three more chapters of Donald Savoie’s book which detail in excruciating detail the federal government’s attempts at regional development going back almost 100 years.

It is interesting to note that regional development was a ‘top priority’ of every single federal government from Trudeau to Harper. Trudeau said that regional economic disparities was more of a threat to national unity than language or cultural challenges (I have said this as well in the past). Mulroney said he was going to ‘inflict’ economic development on Atlantic Canada. Fast forward to 2006 when Stephen Harper boldly intoned that grandparents would be visiting grandkids in Atlantic Canada after he gets through with us.

And yet, when the economy turned down in the early 1990s, where did the focus go? I’ll give you three words: Technology-Partnerships-Canada. Billions doled out to companies in the strongest and most economically secure urban areas in Canada -diddly squat in New Brunswick.

I am now increasingly convinced that economic development is a bottom up exercise:

1. The individual decides to start taking control of his/her economic destiny.

2. The community decides to start taking control of its destiny.

3. The province decides to start taking control of its destiny.

In that order. The further you get up the food chain – yes you get access to much more resources but you get all that politics as well. Imagine. A Trudeau-era program DREE designed to stimulate economic development primarily in Atlantic Canada ends up spending the bulk of its funds in places like Montreal.

So, with or without you, that’s my new mantra – in fact, I might even get around to changing the name of this blog. If a person wants to get off EI, get an education, etc. he/she should take control with or without the help of government. If a community wants to move ahead on development strategy it should be with our without the help of the province. And if a province wants to change its destiny, it should be with or without the help of the Feds.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s harder without support. Government should be supportive. It’s just that history proves that if we wait around for the other guy to help out – we may be waiting a long time.

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0 Responses to With our without you

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr. Campbell, I never did like the blog name, but it’s taken me this long to get used to it. Changing the name to ‘with or without you’ will only get you sued by U2:)

    However, we can replay your words: “Get this issue talked about in the mainstream media and hey ‘presto’ you’ll probably get it on the agenda. But until then, out of sight out of mind.”

    Perhaps its the New Brunswick mindset, but I find it ironic that when a noted economist talks about the fact that the region does poorly in a federation BECAUSE of the federation, then the fallback position is ‘with or without you’.

    I find that a very odd way of thinking. A noted economist finds something severally lacking in the federation, so the impetus is to ‘ignore the federation’.

    Do you honestly think that the other have not provinces don’t have the exact same problems? You don’t think rural areas of the have provinces have the same problem? In fact CANADIANS all have the same problem. Like I said, we’ve got a new Finance Minister from a CONSERVATIVE party whose contribution to our being over taxed is to decrease the GST by ONE percent.

    While canadians have constantly been saying they want more spending, he’s saying he’s paying off the debt. Do people know how big the debt is? This literally means no spending by the feds EVER.

    So for God’s sake man don’t come away from Mr.Savioe’s book without learning something. McKenna tried going it without Ottawa, so did Hatfield, so did Robichaud, so did…etc.

    However, I do see your point. However, ’empowerment’ is NOT about telling people “you can do THIS, or go without”. If you don’t think people and communities are TRYING to make a difference then that’s wrong. We’ve even discussed them here, but one thing is missing-money.

    It takes money for the MFU to set up that inshore scallop facility and tourist facility, it takes money for Fundy Enterprise to build that gas power plant. Starting at the ‘bottom’ doesn’t mean you ignore politics, it means you find a new way to do politics. The province is made up of 55 ridings in an area that can be driven half a day, why is everyone so afraid of politics?

  2. David Campbell says:

    I appreciate your reasoned and rationale posts but look around. In the 1960s and 1970s one of the main goals of the DREE program was to reverse or limit the effects of out-migration of the population. In 2006, we (NB) have had the single longest sustained period of net out-migration in history (see:http://www.gnb.ca/0160/Economics/ComponentsofGrowth.htm). 15 straight years where more people moved out than in.

    How much longer can New Brunswick wait? This is not a theoretical question. Population implosion won’t happen over night but I would argue we are well into its throes.

    So, it’s that simple then. We find a way to turn things around – and make whatever investment necessary – or we watch in our lifetime the province’s population drop to 500k – watch forced Maritime Union – watch deep cuts to social spending and become a small outpost existing just to service whatever is left of our natural resources (I am assuming there will be fish and wood here in 100 years as well).

    Give me a more optimistic scenario? Paint one for me? Unless it includes building 21st Century information-based industries (i.e. following on the same path as today) I can’t see any conceivable economic development path that will stem the tide of population decline and the inevitable retrenchment of Equalization and other federal transfers.

  3. scott says:

    A Trudeau-era program DREE designed to stimulate economic development primarily in Atlantic Canada ends up spending the bulk of its funds in places like Montreal.

    That was because Trudeau caved to political pressure in Quebec. In other words, Trudeau did not have a clear sense of where he wanted to take the entire federation economically. Instead, he assumed that everybody would be pleased with his confrontational style towards federal-provincial relations. It was the same thing when it came to DREE (Department of Regional Economic Expansion), Jean Marchand, the Quebecer Minister who administered the program, was extremely biased when it came to his own province’s concerns. So when the Montreal region, in the early ’70s, began to fall behind the golden horseshoe in economic growth, Trudeau caved to political pressure from his base and ordered Marchand to grant Montreal “special regional status” under the program. The expansion of the program was the end of good news for Atlantic Canada. I guess that in hindsight, there should have been a Maritime Minister in charge of DREE that would fight on behalf of the atlantic region and its’ interests. In the end, Trudeau’s lack of an overall economic plan for the maritimes and the failure of DREE proved once again that Ottawa should have developed specific objectives from all federal departments instead of creating a politically motivated body like DREE to create growth.

    Unfortunately, under Trudeau, Ottawa always took the view that the provinces had nothing useful to contribute to the good governance of the nation. Which is precisely why he appointed Marchand as Minister of a region he did not reside in.(they included eastern Quebec under the DREE program for this very reason) Also, so that it would not look like a central government was attempting to rule the destiny of provincial capitals.

    With such a gap in federal-provincial relations, Premiers were treated like mayors of two-bit municipalities rater than important figures of vast economic regions. I’m glad that we are finally seeing the erosion of that “government knows best” approach to regional development by the current Harper administration. Hopefully, this attitude will finally be weeded out of our political mindset here in this province as well. We can always hope.

  4. Anonymous says:

    That last part makes no sense. Who else BUT government can address ‘regional development’? You think Coca Cola gives a rats ass about the maritimes? If we weren’t in a region of canada it wouldn’t BE regional development, it would just be ‘development’. Companies don’t care about regions, they care about making money, that’s what they are SUPPOSED to do. Of COURSE regional development is done by government, there is nobody else to do it. However, governments are BIG, and I think the above point proves quite well that government DOESN”T know best when they don’t do it at all.

    It goes back WAY further than Trudeau. In fact I’ll repeat that Canada was chastised by representatives from Great Britain for being war profiteers. CD Howe, the american, used the war as an opportunity to centralize everything in Ontario and Quebec. After the war the regions once again tried to get the federation interested, but once again had to go it alone. This is not new stuff people, we’re talking about over a hundred years in a federation where one of the two main beneficiaries were so pissed they almost voted to start their own country. Imagine how all the other people must feel. Sure, there’s all the jingoism that’s comes out at canada day, that’s mostly because virtually no canadian will associate their country with their fedreral government (which is obviously what forms a nation).

    However, this is a blog, there is no point talking as if we are the provincial or even a municipal government, so anything we say isn’t translated into action anyway. If people are just spouting off so that others will agree with them, that’s OK, but I don’t see what it accomplishes.

    THe point is WHAT DO YOU DO? You and I can’t bring about your policies even if we all agreed to them. The reality of New Brunswick is EXACTLY the same as the reality everywhere else in the world-governments do not represent their people. They do not do what is in their best interests. Now, we can debate forever about who is right and who is wrong, or we can admit that different people have different solutions.

    So, yes, you can pretend that by SAYING ‘we must do this’ that that accomplishes something, in the end the only thing it accomplishes is perhaps it makes the person who says it feel a smug sense of superiority that they know something other people don’t. That’s why blogs are only useful so far. You can HOPE somebody in power will listen and say ‘yes this guy is right, let’s do this’. Or…

  5. David Jonah says:

    This is an important conversation string and it needs to be continued and developed further.

    It is not about the name of this Blog, which I like because everything we do flows from our collective and individual focus on the local – that’s right local economy. If we look after our own part of the problem, others may follow and take action on their responsbility.

    I am an enthusist.

    I started participating in my local community in 1980 under Mayor Dennis Cochrance and subsequent Mayors to date.

    All I know is what I observed over these past 30 years of making our own luck in this community.

    When I look back for the reasons for Metro Moncton’s ( thank you DAvid Campbell of lobbying for this designation when you were in the Economic Commission), current strong growing economy and track it back to when it posted three consecutive years of municipal sero increases in the tax base; I see the following actions.

    Actions that support David’s initial observations.

    First I was retained by then Mayor Cochrance to read the previous half dozen consulting engineers and economic development consultant’s reports, the most significant of those I recall as being a Montreal firm called FENCO. The reports were paid significant dinero by then DREE – maybe by that time called DRIE – but the common refrain of these reports was the historic recap of what had created Moncton in the first place.

    Essentially, where rivers came together with portages and offered some security from costal gunships, forts got built and trails tended to follow animal and native traverse between the Strait watercourse and the inland Bay of Fundy transport to New England. Moncton became a commercial trading center and cross over point of some popularity.

    Then came the timber boom of lodge pole pine and other species of softwoods that made cheap and effective masts to be floated to various creek beds that became functional if natural drydocks for creating vessels powered by tall masts floated in from nearby forests from Martinhead to Hall’s Creek.

    When steam power displayed sail, the once booming economy disappeared literally overnight and the documentation records that 10,000 able bodied and somewhat skilled workers were without jobs and the fertile plains and sub-sistence farms absorbed the displaced workforce and Moncton tetered on disappearance and loss of charter. The beginning of the concept of resurgo, which is celebtraated in that faux sailing ship monument in Bore Park.

    It was a horrific fire that destroyed the railyards that had naturally developed in booming Shediac/Pointe du Chene seaoirt railroad intergration that set in motion a backroom booster politican from Dorchester, who as Federal Minister of Canals and Transport ( I recall the canals part, but am vague on the rest ) whose dithered and agonized for months and finanlly annointed Moncton as the new service center for the growing east coast railroad industry. It set Moncton up for a 75 year run as a rail center. It was a Federal decision that was based on politics.

    I currently live in a cottage on the decaying organics of the former railyard service center that without a fire would have perhaps seens Shediac and the real hub of the MAritimes, or Amherest, instead, a politican chose Moncton.

    Not quite qa hundred years later, then Minister of Fisheries Romeo LeBlance, Minister of Atlantic partronage cut a deal with then uber Boss of all Altantic partronage to not block the Mint building a Canadian Stamp center in Antigonish, in return for not blocking the relocation of Federal employees for SuperAnnuation in the community of Shediac, which was struggling at the time with negative economic growth.

    Today, that 300-400 jobs has a mini housing boom in Shediac, aside from the cottage wannabe’s and as many cars driving into Shediac in the morning as leave for Moncton jobs. Not to mention the Department of Fisheries being relocated into the old Churchg building on Archibald Street, at a time when Moncton needed a goosing in the economic rear to get something moving in the then struggling City.

    Oddly, it was another fire, quite devastating that drove Federal employees out of their office digs in Downtown Moncton that needed an instance home, and luckly Richard Carpenter was holding fire sales on urinals in the old Eaton’s catalogue center and got enough of a boost from a temporary Federal relocation program to get the financing to start building out what is now Hertiage Court building.

    It was a spark and lit a fire of positive economic development effort that continues in one form of another to today. The spark landed among those who were prepared to work with what they had availale at the moment.

    Now to my point. Honest.

    Regardless of where and how the spark orginates, it has to land on the kindling of local people who are prepared to stay postive and work it.

    In Moncton, what all the studies concluded was that Moncton had a central location in Atlantic Canada and should build on that strategic advantage.

    But the reaility was that a small group of like minded business people aggregated around the local political leadership and began to try and change the largely negative image surrounding the community and talk a positive message to one another and to the external business community.

    The point was that Moncton’s so called miracle was simply a small group, who networked with others and celebrated anything or anyone that achieved even the smallest advance. The MP, Gary MacAuly of the time brought back news that the only program that could jump start investment in Moncton was a streetscape. It was up to then Mayor Rideout and others on council like Jim Lockyear to pilot it through council of the day.

    it was a tenuous connection to make that by starting to renew the streetscape, someone would see it in a positive light and start investing. Meanwhile Dick Carpenter keep building out another piece of the building and when ever some business decided to move into Moncton, or make any kind of announcement, a call would go out and 60-80 enthusiasts and supporters would come out to the meeting.

    The believers created more believers. Those coming from some other location to make even a small business announcement would marvel that Moncton was so sold on itself and appreciative of their investment and attention.

    For the first 20 years of re-development, Moncton was more smoke and mirrors than actual stregth and oddly now, the momentum is stull carrying on. When I go to an announcement in Dieppe, now the new Moncton with it’s networking and enthusiasm for anything anyone does or brings to their community; I see the seeds of the old postive message and get it out.

    Make community development and economic development contagious.

    Now I know even as I write this, it is too simplistic. Will what worked in Moncton, and is now on steroids in Dieppe, who want to be the new New York, or Montreal, let alone Halifax; I see that old lesson being played out again and again. Dieppe would fill a stadium with cheering community members, for anyone announcing anything for their community, including another bank or drugstore, let alone an aerospace park making heliports.

    It is the key to any community’s future. The lessons and the proof are everywhere.

    There is no leadership in Fredericton for anything because by their very nature they have to be neutral and can only respond to what is happening among community leaders.

    If the Miramichi community leaders seriousely sat down in the Douglastown Rec Center and met over a weekend and came out with a plan to revialize their local economy as the first green economic zone in Atlantic Canada, let along Canada or North America; money would be found for supporting the economic viability study. A plan no matter how wild, beats laissez faire, anytime.

    When I look at the Miramichi, I see a community with a history of offering touri
    sm for Atlantic Salmon and yet their is no science-enviro centre project there to anchor tourism. There is no bold initiative to declare that in 25 years time, the Miramichi will be completely independent of fossil fuel. Think that is silly, well ask WildBill Stanly, formerly a multi-millionaire from calling the cable industry correctly and creating Fundy Cable, now Rogers Cable and soon to be Liberty Media from the US or Ameritech in some global deal to retire Ted Roger’s mega debt.

    But back to the Miramichi and their future economic development. Why not invite WildBill over for lunch and mortgage the future land reserves of the Miramichi and the port operation to be a strategic investor in Stanly’s Fuel Cell. Hydrogen powered, stationary units that are probably more easily shipped around the world from a year around port, than from some landlocked community of Fredericton, where research and development is happening on a limited scale now.

    It only takes one idea. As a community, take every business and legistate that by 2020-30 will be connected to fuel cells as a primary power source and have back up power only from NBPower. The municipality has power to issue Purchase Orders that new industry can take financiers and gain investment. In return Miramichi barters for production, licensing rights. And that’s just a start.

    By announcing in North America a time table to end fossil fuel dependence, and only allow fuel cell enabled cars, public transport, everyone would take notice. Now you have something to talk about, instead of what the community used to be. Take back the economy. It’s simplistic, but a direction will unlock other opportunities.

    For instance as part of that same mandate, establish a ten year target to have every water heater in the community connected first to solar panel generation, and back up secondary supply from NBPower for cloudy days. With fuel cell development, even those days may be overcome.

    The point is a community has the power to change its future. I believe that is true of any community that has the will to build out their economy and back the local players that have some product or service that will bring or attract investment.

    And the other truth is that some communities will eventually die out and vapourized because whatever caused them to aggregate in the first place is so far gone that no amount of community boosterism will bring them back.

    It is all about attitude and the altitude of the discussions in the community. You can try and be defensive or you can simply seek out what’s is coming and stake out a position.

    Pulp and Paper as an industry was once as new as fuel cells are now. In communities like Bathurst, where they formed Bathurst Paper, local investors created a momentum and 100 years later it was called smurfit after several large capital market plays.

    The future of economic development is local. There may be external forces at play, but if he mentality to respond is not well developed, no external political leadership is going to save anyone’s bacon. Ever. Again.

  6. scott says:

    As New Brunswickers, we have an over-dependency on government…

    ..and what this has done is produce a province where the bureaucracy is the driving force behind economic growth and not the private sector. Not only has this resulted in common people on the street being disenfranchised, it has led our governments in Fredericton to a “Think Small” attitude where they function like a pseudo-municipal organization.

    In the end, government members hands are so bound by bureaucratic red tape that they end up trying to please everyone, when in reality, because of their lack of freedom and vision, they please nobody.

    This circle of self-destruction must be reformed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It depends what you mean by ‘government’. You don’t think Ottawa is ‘dependant on government’. Where would southern ontario’s auto sector be right now without ‘dependance on government’? Mexico. Even in Alberta, there’s a reason that Canada’s economy was built on natural resources, because we have the fewest environmental regulations of any G-20. Five years ago the oil sands were considered just too expensive to invest in, so the feds coughed out a tax incentive plan to push development. When there was oil found in the maritimes, the feds were there to make them work, even though oil companies are the richest companies in the world. THEY wouldn’t even do it, in fact in Newfoundland the feds paid the majority of the investment.

    To Moncton, that is of course utter nonsense. Local ‘can do’ gets you nowhere and everybody knows it. When the feds closed the railways in the eighties there was a conscious decision to put massive infrastructure funds in place by both the province, and the feds. There’s a reason the highways around Moncton are far better than anywhere else.

    The idea that companies were coming to Moncton because some people held a press conference and went ‘yay’ is just silly.

    The point is well taken though that looking locally for solutions is where its at. However, the question is how to decide. Do you give carte blanche to Irving for an LNG terminal just because the St.John board of trade says so?

    There’s a reason federations exist, and there’s a reason Robichaud fought to bring NB into the present. ‘Market solutions’ favour those where the markets are. We KNOW this. And NB is not a substancial market, so Campbellton in NB, becomes a microcosm of NB in Canada, and pretty soon Canada will be the same thing on the world stage.

    We wouldn’t be at this blog is there weren’t the ‘over reliance on government’ which the above poster discusses. This blog is centered around the idea that we NEED MORE government in our marketplace-not less. As for the ‘market’, well, again, just go to the Saint John Board of Trade’s website, they think everything is coming up roses. Read the Irving Press, and the government , they all think ‘the market’ has this province on the right track.

    However, the owner of this blog is smart enough to know that there is more to a market than a GNP. THAT”S the problem.

    Expecting Miramichi to ‘pull up its socks’ is just crazy. It takes money to do these things, and municipalities have little, while the province at least has a little more.

    The trouble is, how do you combine the failures of ALL three governments? While municipalities are the least aggressors, there are significant problems there as well-just go to ACOA and see where the funding goes.

  8. David Campbell says:

    “Therein lies the rub” (slightly misquoted Shakespeare).

    Governments are intimately involved in economic development either by action or omission.

    I once heard a Baptist Minister preach about the ‘sins of omission’- those things we don’t do that turn out to be ‘sin’ (you know like leaving that poor injured person in the ditch and walking right by – good Samaritan).

    That’s also a reality in economic development. Government’s that do nothing are fostering one type of economic development.

    I think this is a good discussion – especially when you throw my own words back at me – but maybe we have gotton to used to blaming the province or the Feds or Alberta or NAFTA or those ‘damn yankees’ or Irving, or McCains or the WTO, or FDI, or any one of a hundred boogeymen that have plagued us for over 100 years.

    When I say “With or Without You” I mean that at some point somebody just has to go ahead and get some things done – that’s all.

    Some lunatic in rural Ontario decides to create the world’s largest Elvis Festival in a town that Elvis never visited and never even heard of. But this guy created the world’s largest Elvis Festival on an idea.

    They said Disney would be absolutely crazy to build the world’s largest theme park in the middle of a Florida swamp.

    Before the Germany auto makers starting putting billion dollar manufacturing plants in the southern US – Michigan officials said it would be a cold day in hell before any auto maker in its right mind would set up outside of the ‘cluster’ in that region. Well, every new auto plant in the United States since 1991 has been set up in the southern US (Kentucky down).

    If Miramichi wants to create a small cluster of video game activity built around the NBCC program, I believe it could. It wouldn’t be easy. Cripes, none of this stuff is easy.

    If Sussex wants to build a little energy park over top its natural gas reserves – I think that is possible.

    That’s the only point I am making.

    And to the Anonymouses that do not like FDI – we will have to agree to disagree. I think that hundreds of billions of dollars in global capital is spread around the world each year and I think NB should get at least its share. Ireland recieved 50 times its share during the late 1990s and it is the case study that everyone is looking at these days.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Again, nobody is badmouthing FDI, the reality is that if a province the size of New Brunswick can’t even get investments from it’s own provincial government, from it’s own federal government, what likelihood is there that FDI will come? Ireland is a tax haven, which it became thanks to EU taxation policies which enabled it to be the economic tiger.

    However, when you talk about ACTION, that is exactly right. You can’t MAKE FDI come to New Brunswick, you can’t even MAKE the feds cough up some dough. You can’t even get the province to put economic development ahead of corporate welfare. THATS reality.

    However, “WE” can foster small business growth. We can buy Pumphouse beer because its made locally and provides good jobs, we can start ‘elvis festivals’. Heck, one town in Iowa called the Star Trek people and asked for permission to call itself the location where Captain Kirk was born and has Star Trek crap all over.

    Festivals are great ideas, mostly because virtually every town wants tourism. Sudbury has a ‘garlic’ festival for pete’s sake. Personally, as somebody who enjoys both drinking and making beer I think towns are crazy not to get licenses for beer festivals. Kitchener has Ocktoberfest which is basically a marketing idea by Brick, Molson and Labatts, yet this german city with a local population of half a million has only ten brewpubs.

    I can find better home brewing equipment in Fredericton than I can in Toronto, so clearly people know homebrew in the maritimes.

    That’s why socialism WORKS. Because it’s grassroots. Co-ops are not started by government, they start and run in spite of them. Yet they continue. There are things ‘we’ can do, but foreign direct investment in NB is less likely than federal investment in NB. In fact, it’s been PROVEN to be less likely. ACOA at least does some things.

    My point is that there are plently of grassroots organizations and companies trying to get established, yet can’t even get a foot in the door because they have no funds, and no name. There are TONS of things ‘we’ can do for them-buy their products, talk about them, join their lobby groups, write letters to the editor.

    Just for some good news, last thursday our new “Residential Tenancies Act” was passed. This problem was around forever, but nobody knew anything about it. We got ONE sentence of exposure about it from the Irving Press, CBC was on strike at the time. But thanks to a by-election in St. John which had Charles Leblanc and Tim Smith going door to door, Dr. Doherty introduced legislation the day after he was elected.

    Since the problem of boarding house tenant rights has existed forever in this province, there is no point pretending that the government did it on its own.

    Granted, it was a small thing for government, even the MLA’s didn’t even know this was the case, however, the facts are there. People CAN make a difference, but it doesn’t come from talking about it, or offering vague suggestions.

    We even submitted the actual phrase in the legislation that needed to be changed, and the government took it from there.

    My point is simply that ‘grassroots’ does not start with lobbying government, it comes with action that forces a government to do something. An election may well be on its way, the liberals make some noise, but not much. How many here are even members of a party for heaven’s sake?

    Political change is made politically, not by being spectators. You can wait for FDI, and you can wait for the feds, or we can recognize the basic fact that, like the rest of the world, our government is not responsive to our needs or wants. That’s NOT democracy in case you didn’t know. That’s a worldwide struggle, and I’d partner up with those new companies that are trying to make a difference rather than join the race to the bottom.