Donald Savoie getting cranky?

I like to read through the Halifax Chronicle-Herald – mostly because it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the local rag here in Moncton.

There was an interesting article about the need for economic growth in Atlantic Canada. But this is not your average puff piece:

Indeed, Donald Savoie’s frustration is now palpable when he discusses the region’s problems and prospects. Savoie is a University of Moncton professor who has spent a career studying and writing about regional development, most recently in the superb book Visiting Grandchildren.

And what does he think of the attempts of the Maritime provinces to consolidate their efforts and push a common agenda for growth? “It’s a pile of bullsh*@$ the past 10 years,” he said in a recent interview with Stephen Maher, The Chronicle Herald’s Ottawa correspondent.

In essence, Ogilvie and Savoie are prescribing a favourite aunt’s remedy for almost any ill. “There’s nothing the matter with that kid,” she was fond of saying, “that a good, swift kick in the rear end wouldn’t cure.”

So, here’s a couple of observations.

1) How come more and more of the region’s top thinkers are getting more and more cranky about the total inaction in the area of economic development (Savoie most of all) and we have to read about it in Halifax papers?

2) At what point, exactly, do politicians wake up to all the yelling at them (admittedly Lord in New Brunswick gets very little of this is NB papers) to do something, anything to support economic development?

I understand why guys like Savoie are so frustrated (to the point of using colourful language). In Savoie’s early days 1970s, 80s – there was much more effort put on regional development – even though population was still increasing. Now, population is declining, and there is arguably the lowest level of government-initiated economic development in New Brunswick in the past 30 years.

And New Brunswick’s collective indictment? Well, in the latest opinion poll the NB Conservatives have a fairly good lead. After 7 years, New Brunswickers are apparently quite happy with declining population, retrenching traditional industries, significant increases in government spending (increasing dependance Equalization and other Fed transfers) and a complete lack of direction for our future economic growth.

Well, not all New Brunswickers feel this way. There’s at least one guy – Donald Savoie – that’s not very happy.

I have to recall an old song. I heard Sting sing this once but I’m not sure it’s his:

I’ve been down so long
Being down don’t bother me
I’ve been down so long
Being down don’t bother me
I’m gonna take all my troubles
Drown ’em in the deep blue sea

Finally, a good theme song for New Brunswick.

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0 Responses to Donald Savoie getting cranky?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve got news for Mr.Savoie and friends. It’s a belief in the free market which effectively wiped out the fishery, leading to that dependance on seasonal work.

    Not to be too unkind, but always be suspicious when people’s remedies involve kicking somebody else’s ass.

    To recap, we already know the ‘free market’ story. AIMS and every board of trade in the maritimes is talking about how wonderful everything is. It’ll be so much better, according to AIMS, once we run all those rural and northern dwellers out west or at least to the cities. Not to mention privatize those universities and introduce that american style health care.

    But you’ll notice the ‘remedy’ is always ‘tough love’- but tough love for YOU, not for ME. ‘Me’ being of course the government and the people who run them, the wealthy families and corporations.

    So ‘tough love’ means a ‘kick in the ass’ to those lazy shiftless seasonal workers, even though it was hardly their fault their resources were wiped out.

    Not to mention the fact that its impossible to get some meager resources to those starting an inshore fishery, ‘inshore’, of course means ‘year round’, but that doesn’t seem to get much print.

    However, those ‘free marketers’ are usually pretty quiet when it comes to nice juicy tax breaks for Irving, forest giveaways, monopoly protection, unadvertised government procurement contracts, or government land confiscations for ‘private gas lines’.

    For some reason THOSE aspects of the ‘free market’ get very little mention. Of course we already know ‘the free market’ solution, its espoused very eloquently by Mr. Crowley. Whats always so surprising is how many who are supposedly after the opposite result clamp onto the same ideology.

  2. Anonymous says:

    After 7 years, New Brunswickers are apparently quite happy with declining population, retrenching traditional industries, significant increases in government spending (increasing dependance Equalization and other Fed transfers) and a complete lack of direction for our future economic growth.

    In fairness, the average guy doesn’t hear about those stats, or their implications.

    Stay on your soapbox, the truth will out eventually.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The above is sort of true, however, I don’t suspect they are as true as it seems. Although newspapers don’t touch the stuff, and spout the opposite, it’s hard to hide the fact that, particularly in rural areas, everybody that people know are heading west.

    This is true even in urban areas. The real crux is how much people suspect that it ‘has always been this way’.

    More central to the point is that people don’t think there is anything they can do. And in a large part they are right. This isn’t like getting a school in your riding or a tax break. It’s pretty tough to make a dent in this issue, even at a group level.

    Even here at an economic development blog, and with all due respect, there have been few concrete solutions offered. Even Donald Savoie, whose ‘frustration is palpable’ has been frustrated by one thing-federal inactivity.

    He usually swings on a pendulum, every few years he is railing at the provinces, but usually he is railing at the feds and the chief problem-lack of representation in Ottawa.

    Imagine what the province would be like if the feds actually did their job, if they invested in NB at the level they invest in Quebec. Or subsidized grassroots businesses at the level they subsidize the auto sector. Or the research sector.

    Hell, the money from one mad cow subsidy would completely alter northern new brunswick.

    That doesn’t let the province off the hook, but as we’ve seen, their biggest fault is ‘not trying hard enough’. If a person believes that is the only trouble, then the liberals are of little more value-they may ‘try harder’ but what will that do? Even if they adopt Mr.Campbell’s chief complaint and actually admit “things are tough we gotta get cracking” that doesn’t actually ‘help’. In fact, they WILL do that, because every new government says that, then proceeds to use the next four years as an excuse as to why things are still so bad.

    To some that may sound ‘defeatist’, however, I urge you to go back and read the blog on the Chicago city council. Or research how Maine attended the LNG terminal issue.

    There IS a way to deal with the economy, it’s called ‘democracy’. Unfortunately Mr. Campbell admits to not knowing how democratic priorities affect the environment, because that is the central issue. Take a look at the most successful economies and see. ‘successful’ doesn’t meant huge GNP with lots of miserable workers, I mean Switzerland, Norway, Sweden. Places where life doesn’t suck for the vast majority of the population.

    To add a caveat, thats not a swipe at Mr.Campbell, people can’t do or know everything, those comments are from things he’s admitted himself. Of course people would be completely correct in stating that if I claim to know how the relation between democracy and economic development works and enhances the latter, then I should be doing far more than shooting off at somebody else’s blog.

  4. David Campbell says:

    Swipe away. I have offered my simplistic solutions. Take a page from North Carolina and put auto plants and other large industry 1 to 1.5 hours from the urban centres (in NB’s case that would be Miramichi, Nackawic, St. Andrews, Tracadie, etc.). This would shore up rural economies and feed into the urban areas (like Michelin in Nova Scotia – three large rural plants). Also, other developments like the recently mentioned large housing development 45 minutes outside Moncton. I realize that many of you think this is stupid and not practical but I readily put on my dunce cap – because I have seen this at play in many other regions – just not NB. Cripes, even Slemon Park on PEI is an hour from Charlottetown.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My point would be what ‘large industry’ have we seen anywhere in New Brunswick? Belledune is pretty rural, they got a soil treatment plant that employs ten people. Are you then supporting moving Molson out of Moncton to Penniac?:)

    The simplicity of it comes down to how to get those industries. What auto industry is going to set up in New Brunswick? Remember, NB is running a deficit. They can’t pay the kind of bucks that ontario can. It would of course cost MORE to move to NB because of transportation of supplies and equipment, etc.

    Even Frank only got call centres, which take minimal setup and educational costs.

    However, personally, where you are on track is whether the province is doing all it can. Why isn’t there a New Brunswick office in British Columbia where the companies can’t find enough workers? If you have satellite television just watch the commercials in BC sometime. Last night showed a woman in her late forties talking about working for a call centre and how great it was.

    If there IS a reason why this can’t be done, then it should be front and centre so it can be addressed. This is what a FUNCTIONING federal government would be doing. Short of that, having a New Brunswick spokesperson in southern BC might help. Perhaps doing some research on what it would take to set up a branch in NB. THis stuff is all on the phones for pete sakes, its not like they NEED to be all in southern BC.