Self-Sufficiency commission wants input

The self-sufficiency commission wants people to provide input according to a column written by Francis McGuire in today’s paper. I had heard they were going to have some form of forum or blog on the site but none yet. However, you can send them an email.

There are seven realities facing New Brunswick according to the commission They are, with my comments, in italics listed below:

1. We must increase our population and our labour force by increasing incomes.
Axiomatic ‘our’, nebulous ‘by’. There’s no evidence that you increase population/labour force by increasing incomes. It certainly makes sense as a theoretical construct but I have yet to hear an expert agree with this. I have read the revitalization stories of Ireland and others and income appreciation was an effect – not a cause – of population/labour force increase. We must increase our population by growing targeted industries and then aligning workforce development strategies (including attracting immigrants and in-migrants).

2. We must be prepared for sweeping changes of unprecedented magnitude.
Heady words. This province has gone through multiple recessions, one great depression and massive cuts of the early 1990s. If we are to see changes of ‘unprecedented magnitude’ we are about to witness heretofore never been seen politics in New Brunswick.

3. We must increase labour productivity by providing people with the right tools for the right jobs.
Touche.

4. We must strengthen the connections between urban and rural New Brunswick through large scale investments in infrastructure.
Ahem. I have said on numerous occasions on these pages that a four lane highway to the Acadian Peninsula will do more for economic development up there than all the EI you can throw at that region.

5. Export growth must drive overall economic growth.
No smoke and mirrors here, please. Be specific. Export growth of high value added manufacturing and services. Another Irving Refinery will double exports (and the LNG plant will massively increase exports) but their impact is limited and local (important, but not far reaching). The last thing we need is another Refinery and then the Premier riding the ‘exports growth’ shtick for the next seven years.

6. We must move quickly and aggressively to expand our existing corporate base.
Yes. We are far too reliant on either micro-businesses or massive conglomerates. We need more export-oriented multinationals, high growth technology firms, selected large scale manufacturing, more R&D, etc.

7. Leaders at all levels of New Brunswick society must step forward.
Easy to say, hard to do. Vested interests prevail. Who has New Brunswick’s economic growth as its sole ‘vested interest’? Only the government. Local entrepreneurs look at the world through their lense. Unions through theirs. Educational institutions through theirs. Associations through theirs. Civic groups through theirs. The media through theirs. Bloggers through theirs.

Leaders in government must step forward first. Elected officials, bureaucrats, heads of crown corporations. Then, bring along the private sector as needed.

I don’t say this lightly. I have had senior bureaucrats say things like ‘why should we attract multinationals? We need to support local businesses’. I heard a senior NB Power executive once say they weren’t in the ‘economic development’ business. A former DM of the health department said in a meeting I was at that the health department wasn’t in the business of ‘economic development’ (apparently the $2B in health spending has no economic impact). I have heard town officials say they ‘don’t want growth’. They like their ‘small town feel’. I have heard regional planning commission staff make highly hostile comments towards economic development. I have chatted with education officials who don’t really care that their community college graduates are leaving the province. In fact, I have heard of NB schools organizing job fairs for firms outside New Brunswick.

You see. The government has little control over the ‘leaders’ outside its walls. But inside government at all levels, efforts should be made to inculcate a growth mindset and growth agenda.

I had a macabre moment a couple of years ago (in an economic development sense). On the same day I heard a long and winding speech from former Premier Lord about how much prosperity he was heaping on New Brunswick, I got a call from a friend in the post-secondary education realm. He told me on that day that education department officials were going around to the universities warning them that demographics were going to lead to deep declines in their student populations and that would be paralleled with government funding retrenchment.

Let me end by being really clear:
NB Dept. of Finance officials need to be about growth – not about managing decline.
NB Dept. of Education officials need to be about growing the student base – not about managing the decline in students.
NB Dept. of Health officials need about about leveraging their massive budgets to support a growth agenda – not about turning the province in to a virtual rest home.
NB Dept. of BNB officials need to be about growth – real growth – not smoke and mirrors. If they don’t have enough resources to get it done then say so but don’t hide behind weird statistics like ‘jobs maintained’. If you are ‘maintaining’ you aren’t growing.
NB Power needs to be an economic development agency. It’s that simple. New York Power company gave a massive power discount to HSBC to put a multi hundred million dollar data centre in the heart of rural New York. NB Power must be an economic development driver.

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0 Responses to Self-Sufficiency commission wants input

  1. Anonymous says:

    what should the NB govt do to offer incentives for the new refinery? If Irving Oil and their partner spend 5 Billion and offer to employ 1000 permanent people…what $ value should the public purse offer to ensure the investment takes place?

  2. David Campbell says:

    I hope that this process can be put forward in a fair and transparent way. You can’t ignore the environmentalist concerns over this. I hope there is a solution that will allow this project to go ahead with a very limited impact on the environment. 1,000 great paying jobs are vitally important for the SJ economy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In the case of a second refinery I dont think the government should offer any incentives of any kind. In fact, I think the government should be about penalising the advent of this second environmental disaster zone through environmental and clean air taxes and penalties.
    If Irving oil survive a non partisan EIA then they should be left alone to operate it independently. They are getting enough tax reductions on the LNG farce already. If we are sitting back and allowing Irving to rape the Provincial environment on many levels I do not see why we should fund it too.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Come on Anon 11:16.
    Isn’t there some sort of rule of thumb that could be applied here? If we allow a few tens of thousands per person for “training” for a contact centre…shouldn’t the public purse be available for a similar amount per person at a refinery? (where the equipment is firmly planted and there is zero risk of the facility moving).

  5. Anonymous says:

    There may be zero risk of it moving, but remember the two year strike where it was manned by only managers and some scabs-which means it won’t move, but Irving can run it without workers. And now there is far more technology available.

    Jobs are nice, but if Bennett were bringing their soil de-contaminator to Moncton instead of Belledune I wonder how many people at this blog would be saying “great, we need more jobs”.

    Forget good industry, imagine RIM or a research organization landing in Saint John-they’d never invest in a place like that because knowledge workers are in demand and nobody in their right mind would live there unless they had to.

    Its scary enough to see it going through, its horrible to think that New BRunswickers are talking about helping Irving pay to own the town and add to their billions.

    At one time I saw an original story about the LNG terminal saying that during construction it would employ over 1000 people. According to national reports they now say it is only 700. You would think it would be relatively easy to find that out so people can make an informed decision, but no such luck. All we have to go by is Irving figures. If management and scabs and contract workers can run a refinery by themselves, i’m pretty skeptical about the 1000 jobs premise. Again, if we had a functional media they’d be investigating these things.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Come on Anon 1:19
    Where Irving is concerned it wouldnt surprise me if it moved to Halifax just like the ship building contracts. Besides, a contact center is a vastly different beast than an oil refinery. It is unlikely that a contact center would belch out noxious fumes over the ‘oldest incorporated city in Canada’ which just happens to be set in the ‘picture province’ where there is a big ‘eco tourism’ drive on around the ‘worlds highest tides’.
    Who pays to clean this up? Not Irving! It is us stupid taxpayers as usual. I think Irving, McCain etc are big enough to stand independent of the public purse. If they want a refinery and they get the proper independent zoning done then fine, let them build it, but let them build it with their own money, they already have enough of mine.
    As for operating the refinery with scab labor can someone tell me who was looking after the safety side of the operation when it was totally undermanned – if indeed it was undermanned. I too dont trust the Irving numbers, they can say pretty much anything that they want. $7bn, 1000 jobs? show me the paperwork and research. The last thing we need in NB now is another Irving self perpetuating cash cow paid for by the taxpayer. Any funding that they seek should be spent promoting the province to NEW OUTSIDE PROPER investment. Investment that can make a difference to NB.

  7. Anonymous says:

    1. Income appreciation is indeed an effect of of labor force increase in Ireland. They increased their workforce by inward migration. So much so that only about half of their health care staff are Irish. I was in Newfoundland three years ago and saw an Irish jobs fair looking for 5000 workers.
    2. Any changes in NB are bound to be sweeping changes at least if they bring the kind of investment that helps generate an increase in population / higher incomes. Reversing the trends of decades is no small job.
    3. Agreed.
    4. Also agreed.
    5. External investment will stimulate exports simply as a result of their day to day trading. Look at RIM for example. They make anyones export figures look good.
    6. Agreed. Why not build a few technology parks and use them as a carrot to attract start up investment from abroad?
    7. The government should set the tone in this. I cannot see Irving or McCain seting this trend as it would frighten them to death. This is where the bureaucracy needs to climb out of corporate pockets and do the job they are being paid to do by the public purse. Lord was a waste of space at least Graham is trying to do something and showing a bit of passion for the job.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hate to say it but NB seems dysfunctional in so many ways. I doubt Irvings could set up another refinery in Nova Scotia, it would be a much harder sell than NB. But the political system mirrors the corporate system, and the corporate system is doing just fine.

    Just a reminder of something that hasn’t been mentioned in a long time is that business figures don’t mean prosperity and they don’t mean happiness. Take a close look at the economy of Vermont. They have half the exports of NB, yet their economy is far stronger. Industry, like politics, is decentralized with a state government that works primarily to keep the environment in marketable condition. The industries are small scale and do a lot of trade amongst the areas with no one big corporate leaseholder.

    But as we’ve seen, Irving doesn’t get cash, they just get legislation and tax breaks. Refinery work is not nearly as technical as people think, it is mostly the engineering and management jobs that they are looking for out west, but the rest can easily be trained. Irving got the break on the LNG terminal, and with their own gas to heat and power the refinery they’ll be sitting pretty, unfortunately Saint John won’t be.