Self-sufficiency – Part Deux

“We need to be prepared for sweeping changes of unprecedented magnitude.”

I have to admit that I was hoping for much more of a wakeup call from this Self-Sufficiency process. I know that Francis McGuire rocked the boat with his comments on hastening rural out-migration but in reality the reports don’t indicate this at all. In fact many of the recommendations and action areas are rural tilted such as: increase the wood supply by 25%, oyster aquaculture, $70 million for northern tourism, Satellite offices of existing customer call centres can be a growing source of employment for small-town and rural New Brunswick, etc.

But that’s actually not my point.

My point is that I don’t think that the so far they have made the case for “sweeping changes of unprecedented magnitude”.

They talk vaguely about the potential downside of doing nothing but I would have preferred (as I wrote here before) a more direct and blunt assessment.

Premier Lord and gang spent seven years talking about all the prosperity they heaped on New Brunswick. Volpe still can list of all the accomplishments like they were written on the back of his hand.

Now, the commission talks about unprecedented changes required and I think the average NBer’s eyes glaze over. Never mind them, I think the average civil servant’s eyes glaze over (as evidenced by the crap coming out of the Training Dept.).

There will be significant and transformational changes to the NB economy if nothing is done. Negative outcomes that will impact everyone of us.

This commission should have been more bold. How about these zingers:

-We will have to cut the provincial civil service by 40% within 15-20 years if we don’t make changes now. That might light a fire under the 15% of civil servants under the age of 45 in Freddy Beach. I believe this to be true. There will be no appetite Federally or among the ‘have provinces’ to fund through Equalization an expanding bureaucracy on a declining population and Maritime Union will be the impetus for deep cuts.

-Increasing labour shortages will drive up wages (McGuire is right) but without matching productivity increases (or firms that can pay those wages) – many firms will close or move offshore. The impact of this will be felt throughout New Brunswick with potentially thousands of jobs lost in urban and rural regions.

-New Brunswick will be forced to become part of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is starting to distance itself from New Brunswick on the economic front. I believe, without a serious change, Maritime Union will be forced on us and the largest player will win out.

Etc.

If you want more zingers, read previous blogs. The point I am trying to make is that the Self-Sufficiency should have s-p-e-l-l-e-d i-t o-u-t more clearly for folks. You think the average civil servant in Freddy living in the highest income neighbourhoods in New Brunswick and leaving early on Friday to spend the weekend at the cottage on Grand Lake feels any real sense of urgency? Come on. Physician heal thyself.

I think we need straight talk. If the population drops to 650k or less in the next 20 years the ripple effects will have wide ranging impacts on us all. Government services will be dramatically cut back. Any real health care will be offered in a couple of regions. The only industry left here will be what must be here (trees, fish, etc.) and the limited services that go with it.

So, forget all the pillow talk. Convince the Fredericton bureaucrat and the Joe-Q-Public that they have to change and change dramatically and then you will have gotten somewhere.

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