Imagine that

A recent poll in the Calgary Herald found that managing the red-hot economy is the central issue for Alberta residents (I can’t link you need a password):

Managing Alberta’s red-hot economy is emerging as the central issue for residents — eclipsing both health care and education — as provincial Tories prepare to choose their next leader, a new poll suggests. One in 10 Albertans now lists the “booming economy” as the most important issue facing the province, according to a Leger Marketing survey. When combined with a series of growth-related worries, nearly 40 per cent of respondents expressed concern with Alberta’s ability to cope with issues such as staff shortages, growing inflation and rising housing costs. Other challenges listed as top concerns include: the labour shortage (eight per cent); inflation (five per cent); infrastructure (five per cent); and population growth (one per cent). Combined, they outweigh health care, cited by 24 per cent of respondents as Alberta’s leading issue.

Ironically, the flipside in New Brunswick is not true. Managing our tepid economy and trying to get things back on the rail is not the #1 issue for New Brunswick. We, predictably, like to fall back on ‘health care’ et. al. as our area of concern.

Maybe it’s not that bad a model. We sit back and stew and suck money out of Alberta. Let them deal with ‘growth’ and all its problems. Maybe Lord was onto something. If we can enshrine a very lucrative Equalization package, we can sit back and let the dollars roll in.

Maybe Lord was right and I was wrong!

Food for thought.

Although, I have this nagging issue. On the CBC this morning there was a story set in rural Newfoundland about how the whole community is depressed and morbid. A woman was passionately insisting that Newfoundlanders need more pride or some such thing (it was secondary in my sensory perception, my primary concern at the time was a client briefing I was working on).

Something tells me that shedding people and bulking up on Equalization won’t do much for our collective self-esteem.

Food for thought – but don’t overeat. We are already the most ‘obese’ population in Canada.

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0 Responses to Imagine that

  1. Anonymous says:

    The real story there is that only 30% could even think of a problem. The poll sounds even a little iffy: ‘when combined with a series of growth related strategies’ then people mentioned one of those problems, but without the prodding probably couldnt’ come up with anything.

    Dealing with growth is the central theme of most cities though, whether in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Ontario. Even in New Brunswick, like I posted before,the Board of Trade thinks things couldn’t be better.

    Again, I think strategies should reach beyond provincial boundaries because if you ask rural people in any of those places you will get similar answers-BIG problems, mostly due to the economy.

    I still have a tough time convincing my parents that there is a problem in New Brunswick. They see growth, in fact a lot of growth in their suburban town, see lots of corolla’s and few signs of poverty. They think things are fine. And they are – for THEM. Unfortunately, they almost never get to see their grandkids, and even most of their kids are 5-14 hours drive away.

  2. scott says:

    Is it possible that 40 or so years of solid decline will make people less apt to take on new risks and new challenges?

    I was very surprised to see the tepidness of PEI farmers towards the possibility of building ethanol fuel plant on the island. Yes, it is a risky venture that would require hard work, but what do they have to lose? It is taking off in the prairie provinces and Ontario and is a leading industry in Brasil and Europe. So what’s the hold up?

    Is it possible that we just don’t have the right people left in the maritimes [with the right positive attitude] to take on the challenges needed to succeed in the competitive global economy? I mean getting off of EI and government dependency are one thing, but are these people ready for primetime? I’m getting some clear signals they’re not.

    I know this isn’t something that can be measured scientifically David, but am I way off here in thinking this?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes and no. Keep in mind agriculture is hugely dependant on government subsidies. For a farmer making a decent living in spuds, the ‘incentive’ to switch to another stock is a big one. If you’ve worked a farm you know how much is involved in knowing every facet, every angle of every crop.

    I would be more surprised if somebody were to say “here’s the number of companies who want to buy this crop, all you have to do is grow it”. Then of course there’s the issue of price because transportation is involved.

    Farmers are wary for a reason, ‘taking risks’ is one thing to speculate on, when its your life and your life there’s good reason to be wary.

    If you want examples of what you are talking about though, just leaf through other sectors. Go to your local farmers market and see what ‘new products’ are available. Its far easier for Joe Public to simply invest a tiny bit in some product to flog locally, yet how many do you see?

    Those disincentives are even more pronounced in the education system. Entrepreneurial studies isn’t even a class. Kids in science s know full well they are studying so they can leave home, something most people like to do (at least relatively close).

    That ‘attitude’ is very prominent, but I’d submit that one of the reasons is the media. You simply never HEAR of anything. They have a template that they continuously talk about and most of the inventive stuff goes unnoticed, or at the most, covered in one day and then forgotten.

  4. scott says:

    That ‘attitude’ is very prominent, but I’d submit that one of the reasons is the media.

    For me, that attitude is something that I have witnessed firsthand from thousands of citizens. I’ve only been back for a year now, but I have been very proactive since coming home from Ontario. I can honestly say that this attitude isn’t completely fabricated by the media, it really and trully exist.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but you haven’t been here long, where do you think attitudes COME from? THey come from the stories people read day in and day out over forty years. As Mr.Campbell’s blog shows, that blatant propaganda is part and parcel. Propaganda WORKS, which is why it’s been pretty much the story this last century since psychological testing and studies established it.

    Like I said, my parents are perfect examples, they don’t even see a problem. And you’re right, its permeates the society through and through.

    But here’s a test. Where you find cultural attachments strongest, are places where Irvings media don’t exist. That’s why Irvings have been buying up more and more smaller media. In french areas and native communities it isn’t like that, in fact some of those places have real success stories and the people are well aware of it.

    But you don’t see it nearly as much in Nova Scotia and in PEI. If all you are talking about is farmers who won’t take risks then that’s a different story, but I don’t know thousands of people (and you must be some busy quizzing all those hundreds of people you come across) but I do know enough to note the existence of what you are talking about. Like Mr. Campbell and myself, perhaps a different perspective comes from living somewhere else for awhile and then returning.

    But again, that rampant propaganda plays a HUGE role. YOu don’t out and out lie about economic statistics for no reason. If people don’t KNOW the facts, they can’t very well react to them. If they don’t know the context, they can’t very well react to it. THAT is the role of media. Either people get misleading information, wrong information, or increasingly NO information, so the result is hardly surprising.

  6. David Campbell says:

    By definition, people that ‘move’ are more adaptive than people that ‘stay’. So at least in theory to say that Maritimers don’t like to take risks would be grounded in logic. However, in practice, I think there is more to it. As I have said in this blog before I have had the privilege to spend time in fast growing economies such as Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, Phoenix, Ireland, etc. and I think the common theme was the attitude that anything was possible. That over the top optimism is impressive. Of course, it can also lead to too much risk taking and economic meltdown but the question nagging me is can you fabricate optimism? Can you just by talking about it make it happen? I don’t know? I do know this. Getting the first one or two multinational firms to set up call centres/back offices in New Brunswick (CAMCO, FedEx) was like pulling teeth. It was tough. By the time over 30 firms had come, you couldn’t beat them away with a stick. Everyone wanted to know what was so great about New Brunswick for call centres.

    So, the lesson for me, to come full circle, is that we need a few big wins. A few ED projects that make us believe again that New Brunswick can be a place where companies will invest and good jobs can be created. Then, with some forward momentum, things could turnaround.

    As for agriculture and ethanol, I am a huge fan of biofuels as an economic dev. driver – I just don’t know enough to be able to add value to the discussion. My hunch is that there may be challenges with unit cost. Everyone has been yakking at the farmers for decades about value add value add value add and now we ask them to go back to low value added commodity agriculture to feed ethanol plants (or other).

    Old dog, new tricks, etc.