For what it’s worth, ten tidbits of advice for the new government – with a particular focus on economic development:
1. Split off a group modelled after Nova Scotia Business Inc. Head it with a top mind in economic development (and a kick arse sales guy/gal). Trying to work a revolution in BNB will be very tough.
2. Make a commitment to ramp up funding for economic development generally to 2-3% of the total government spend by 2008.
3. Re-envision the Fed/Prov relationship not around demands for more Equalization but around a partnership for economic development. Try to get the Feds to cost share on a number of fronts such as industry attraction, significantly increasing R&D funding, strategic sectors investment.
4. Pick a few economic sectors to focus on for both local entrepreneurs and attracting global leaders. Don’t make this a silly academic exercise. If you choose animation as a key growth sector – then make serious investments to train computer animators, attract computer animators, build infrastructure, build partnerships, attract global firms, etc.
5. Re-envision the Prov/Municipal relationship. Engage local communities and local organizations such as the Enterprise Network into joint partnerships. Get the locals revved up on your vision for the future.
6. Look seriously at consolidating the 15 Enterprises into 6-7 maybe 8. We need to build stronger urban/rural ties and we don’t do that by putting urban and rural communities in silhos.
7. Partner more with adjacent provinces/states. We’re all facing many of the same problems. There are ways to work together. For example, the Port of Halifax is strategic to New Brunswick – vital to this province. If we put on our silly, traditional blinders we won’t see this.
8. Have a liaison in every government department that links to your economic development vision. I hope to never, ever hear the Deputy of Health saying “I’m not into economic development”. Every time a government department does a deal with a US supplier, some one should call them up and say “Hey, have you considered setting up in New Brunswick?”.
9. Engage key industry groups – chambers, CFIB, Biz Council, etc. – but always remember they have a very vested interest in their own stakeholders’ needs. The government must be above – well above the fray on this. Economic development is about a holistic view of attracting our share of global investment, incubating high quality growth-oriented firms, supporting capacity building, addressing workforce needs, etc.
10. Finally, respond to the public. That sounds simple but if I had nickel for everybody (in a private or work capacity) that send a letter or made a call over the past seven years and didn’t get a response from the Premiers’ Office right on down the line, I’d be a millionaire (or at least have coffee money). One thing’s for sure, there was no fatal blow on Monday night. The Lord government died from a thousand little cuts. Some cuts, like Charles LeBlanc, bleed more than others but on the whole the best politicians take citizen contact very seriously – almost religously as each spurned citizen turns out to be a spurned voter. People aren’t stupid. They know that every request cannot be met but they at least expect consideration.
That’s it. Ten little recommendations to add to the pile that is most likely running waist deep right about now.