Ready to take risks

The TJ is reporting this morning on a series of focus groups held by the self sufficiency task force. Here are some conclusions:

The overwhelming majority of New Brunswickers who participated in a series of focus groups are ready to take risks to achieve economic self-sufficiency, as long as their health and environment are not sacrificed.

…eight of 10 participants in the focus groups agreed the province must take some risks to attain self-sufficiency by 2026.

“I was really impressed again with the individuals suggesting that self-sufficiency was a worthwhile goal, self-sufficiency was something that they would be willing to work with government, with industry, with commerce to move forward towards,” Robichaud [the consultant] said in an interview.

Now, after reading this article, my first thought was what ‘risk’? There is absolutely nothing in the article to state what ‘risk’ people are prepared for their government to take in the pursuit of self-sufficiency.

That’s what I dislike about polls, surveys and focus groups. The ask open ended questions and devolve into generalities. A poll will ask, for example, what do you think the top priority of government should be? And the answers are ‘health care’, ‘education’, ‘environment’, etc.

If the question was “New Brunswick is going down fast. If the government doesn’t stop the population decline, many of your communities will cease to exist within a generation. What do you think the top priority of government should be?

Of course, pollsters reading this post would scoff that this is not objective. But, is any poll, survey or focus group valid without context? If you took ten people in a room for a focus group and starting asking them what the ‘priority of government’ should be and while they were in the room a large war broke out in Canada, don’t you think they would change their mind based on the context?

I won’t belabor this point too much because I have in previous blogs except to cycle it back into the TJ article today.

What ‘risk’?

Would they agree to ‘risk’ health care (they said no in the abstract)? If the government said they were freezing health care expenditures at the 2007 until 2010 and plowing that dough into ‘self sufficiency’ would they agree with that?

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of tax increases (not if Al Hogan gets his way)? No pain no gain, folks.

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of amalgamating small communities into one larger municipality? Based on the discussions I have had in these communities – that’s a non-starter. Remember old Bernie said he was going to get rid of LSDs and dropped that promise like a hot potato when he realized there would be a little political heat.

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of diverting funds from other spending areas into economic development? I’ll believe it when I see it?

Would they agree to the ‘risk’, gasp, of running a small deficit in order to have funds for economic development? You would see heads rolling up and down Queen Street in Freddy Beach if one penny of red ink flowed out of the Leg.

So, what risk are New Brunswickers prepared for their government to take on? It’s easy to say things like this but put your money where your mouth is.

No, I think the dopiness of the past almost a decade now has turned us into a state of comfortable numbness. I was told that Richard Hatfield was concerned about population trending in the 1970s! If this is true, imagine what old Tricky Dick would think today.

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0 Responses to Ready to take risks

  1. scott says:

    Great post, David. However your “negative” tone towards the great people of New Brunswick is concerning. I have no idea how you can blame them for Al hogan or for the limited choices offered to them during an election. We all know that sooner or later people will embrace change [re:Quebec], but the circumstances have to be just right in a conservative and “low risk” province like ours. But to target the people and not the two main parties as the problem in our province is simple ridiculous. I have no problem with you whipping Bernard Lord as the culprit for all our woes of the last 30 yrs. as it is obvious that you don’t want to acknowledge our provincial difficulties on a larger scale aside from meager partisanship. But to now blame the people? Wow.

    As for: No pain no gain, folks.

    Even as tories, Premier Hatfield, like I, probably would say that we are ready to “take the pain” [tax hikes], yes you heard me right, if the money is used in a reasonable fashion.

    However, we are not willing to “take the pain” to sustain a government without vision who thinks holding focus groups and forming task forces is acting on a problem, not to mention, giving $60 million of our money to an unaccountable and uncompetitive Casse Populaire without a full explanation. That, to me, is a serious mistreatment of the great people of NB. And they will remember.

    However, you are right on one front, in that, when you said, “I was told that Richard Hatfield was concerned about population trending in the 1970s! If this is true, imagine what old Tricky Dick would think today.” No doubt, but I know for a fact he wouldn’t lash out at the people and blame them for the difficulties we suffer today. He’s knows better as that practice will get us nowhere and fast.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Your points are well taken. I will respond to a few. First, I am not ‘targeting the people’. I’m just saying that it’s easy to say ‘take risk’ if nobody puts a price tag on it. I hope you are right and the people will ’embrace change’. It’s really quite simple. I know you you don’t like my criticizing old Bernie Lord but he bragged on many ocassions about putting $2.5 billion more into health care. What if he had put $1 billion of that into growth activities? Would he have survived that politically? I am not sure.

    You have posted to my blog as much as anyone over the past couple of years and you know that I am preaching positive change. Why else have I spilled over 1,400 pages of this crap over the past 2.5 years? There are a few things that grind my gears so to speak: politicians pretending that they are doing great things for the economy when they are really doing nothing of consequence; Al Hogan insulating his readership from the kind of education that we need on this issue and pollsters asking questions with no context. Those three things drive me nuts.

    As for the Caisse, it’s my understanding (although I don’t know much about it) that the Lord government guaranteed the loans and if it had gone bankrupt, the province would have been on the hook for far more dough. I don’t know – but someone said this (maybe on this blog? I can’t remember).

    Keep posting. Maybe you’ll change my mind.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve cut back on my posting but I’d just like to add a comment on the ‘problem’. Once again it’s political and once again its ‘the people’. At least the bloggers and those writing to the letters to the editor.

    Yesterday I posted a quote from the Moncton Fight for Real Poverty. His message was simple. Not only was Bernard Lord the highest paid Premier in Canada, but the top 10% of New Brunswickers are the wealthiest of all the top 10% of any province in the country.

    To me that is simply outragious. That even tops Alberta! Yet as the letter writer complained to the paper, the silence is deafening. Nobody cares.

    Yet a grant goes to a credit union which is handing out commercial loans in one of the most disenfranchised parts of the province in order to sustain some kind of industry, and people go on about it endlessly. The blogs are full of them, the newspapers even have a few. Meanwhile, there are the letters to the editor complaining ‘gee isn’t it too bad there’s poverty’.

    Yet the fact that the poorest province in Canada has the richest 10%, is run by two of the richest families, get tax breaks out the wazoo, gets the lowest percentage of corporate tax of any province in canada, and nobody makes a peep.

    Everything is just “damn those credit unions” and “we got to be prepared to take risks”.

    How about this, the people that are among the richest in Canada start taking the risks FIRST.

    Just to make a quick reply to Scott, I do somewhat agree, its not the PEOPLE who make these decisions. However, it IS a free country. People can act. In Bolivia the people sustained gunfire to combat a crooked deal with Bechtel and succeeded in kicking out the corporation. In Venezuela when Chavez was ousted they rioted in the streets.

    In Canada they don’t even have to do that. All they have to do is get involved. The ‘people’ don’t make these decisions, but people do choose to act-or not. But of course then we go right back to the point that most of these facts people don’t even KNOW.

  4. scott says:

    I know you you don’t like my criticizing old Bernie Lord but he bragged on many ocassions about putting $2.5 billion more into health care. What if he had put $1 billion of that into growth activities?

    You’re completely right David, but don’t you think that we have to be more proactive as a government [tory or liberal] instead of waiting around for a federal handout that won’t necessarily happen?

    Case: today Graham mused that “he plans to ask Ottawa to sign on to fund half his amibitious self-sufficiency agenda.” Now I know you read the self-sufficiency reports so far so I won’t rehash the stuff. But besides the fact that we both know what the task force has proposed so far, don’t you think that this stuff will look very amateur like to the Ottawa mandarins who are there to access its validity.

    For intance, it proposes major highway projects, adding a second nuclear facility at Point Lepreau, amalgamation of municipalites, pushing immigration etc., etc. However, don’t you think that these Ottawa mandarins will first of all rehash the fact that we will be receiving more eqilization money under the new formula. So therefore there they will say that there will be more money for infrastructure, ED spending, education, healthcare, etc. Secondly, we already have ACOA as a regional development agency that supposedly helps fund SME’s [I question that] as a way to spurn on economic growth in the Atlantic provinces. We all know that ever since Chretien scaled back the loan amounts that ACOA could issue, that it became a weakened entity and a shadow of its own self. In other words, it’s useless. And not only that, don’t expect Harper to reincarnate DREE or DRIE anytime soon. It’s not in the cards.

    I could go on, but I have to go. But to conclude, I guess what I’m saying is that both Graham and Lord are and were dreaming if they think that Ottawa will bail us out of theis mess. We don’t have enough at stake down here [i.e. seats] ro hold any clout. I’m not going to lecture you on the Quebec and Ontario scenerio, but reality is reality. Cam we change are situation? Cetainly. But it definitely won’t be a federal rescue mission, that I can assure you.

  5. David Campbell says:

    I agree with you completely about waiting for the Feds.

    Scott, I still think you should run for the Tory leadership. There are too many people in denial these days. Good, decent people but they seem locked in to the Version 1.0 of New Brunswick. I don’t care what party a person is involved with, if they are not talking about transformation, they are in denial. Lord’s tax cuts were nice. Sure. Thanks. I saved $200/year. Lord’s small debt repayment was nice. Sure. Lord projected himself well and certainly wasn’t an embarrassment as a Premier. But at the end of the day, he’s the only Premier to have witnessed population decline during his mandate. Under his watch we passed Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for Equalization per capita. And our provincial spending increased almost as much as Ontario’s even though we had zero population growth. And that should keep the next round of Tory hopefuls up at night. Wondering what needs to be done? What went wrong?

    As for the Libs, I’m not a big bravado guy myself. I think these days you should under promise and over deliver. These days, that’s why so many people are so cynical. Politicians over promise and under deliver.

    Shawn Graham has made an unbelievably outlandish promise and he will not even be around to see it fulfilled. So, the best he can hopeful is to start moving NB in the right direction. And that will take serious and tangible effort. The focus government put on health care over the last 10 years will have to be put in economic matters this 10.

  6. Anonymous says:

    To add to what Scott says, New Brunswick used its federal-provincial infrastructure money to build a piece of highway. That’s part of the ‘Atlantica’ scheme that even Alec Bruce comments on.

    Who here thinks that new or more industry is going to accrue because of that piece of highway? It’s not like there are NO roads. So from the federal point of view, if the NB ‘mandarins’ are going to get all the goods, money is going to go to short term employment contracts on highways, or else the province is just going to cut taxes, then why would the feds ‘get on board’? What’s in it for them?

    All the province is going to do is (*&^ it away.

    However, once again it comes down to fairness. If Quebec can get a 30% increase, why not the others. But again we go back to representation-if you’ve got none, then forget about it. There’s a reason that the biggest federal ‘gifts’ went to the two provinces that have the feds by the short hairs. They want Quebec, and need Ontario. The rest are either already blue, or are irrelevant.

    When you are politically irrelevant you either live with it, or else you do something about it. And again, look at the Atlantica Party, or look at the maritimes creating a single block of NDP members, or even Green, or even SOMETHING.

    The other side of that is lobbying, this blog is great, but again, lobbying requires proposals. There are plenty of people who will be lobbying for a second nuclear plant, and plenty of people lobbying for highways, and those people vote and they have money to donate. Moreover, since both create jobs its a ‘win win’ situation.

    To counter that takes more than blogs, but I’ll mention this-there ARE people who will do more, they will make signs and they will head to Halifax and protest. You and Alec Bruce should really be with them, not inside listening to people talk about spending money they don’t have on highways and energy giveaways.