Sorry Centrist out front on key issue

I’ve never actually met the Sorry One. We’ve exchanged emails. I have met his dad – good fella all around.

I am a big believer in Maritime cooperation – throw in all your buzz words – critical mass, power in numbers, yadda yadda yadda.

But there’s a broader, deeper and more insidious thing going on here the people don’t want to talk about.

There’s a deep-seated and multi-generational fear in Atlantic Canada that one or the other province might just ‘get ahead’ of the other. Misery loves company and virtually all efforts to get the provinces to seriously cooperate (beyond stuff that all can readily agree on) have failed.

Even now, we fight over beer, LNG, pipelines, Equalization, jobs, funding, on and on.

Heaven forbid that PEI might just get ahead or curse us all if New Brunswick moves one step forward.

I remember having a talk one time about 15 years ago with a grizzled old veteran of New Brunswick business. He used to manufacture windows and doors and he told me in the 1950s and 1960s it was harder to sell to government in Nova Scotia than just about any other province or state. He said they would rather buy from an Ontario firm at a higher cost than a New Brunswick firm.

So that’s why the Sad Centrist makes perfect sense and why some will scoff at the notion.

Not me. The first thing I thought when I heard Halifax was scrapping their bid for the Commonwealth Games was “why wasn’t this pitched as a Maritime bid? Sure, the bulk of the activity would have been in Halifax but if we can do a Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid, why not a Halifax-Moncton-Saint John bid?

I don’t know but I think deep down in my bones that a lot of regional – non-Nova Scotia – and maybe just non-Halifax politicians were secretly grinning last night. And if so, that’s shameful. I don’t know the full extent of the rationale to pull out but I’ll take them at their word that it was necessary. But hosting those games and the resultant infrastructure and influence would have been a coup for Halifax – and yes, you parochialists – the Maritimes.

This kind of morbid race to the bottom, fighting over table scraps, attitude between provinces and cities in the Maritimes has got to stop.

I stand up and clap loudly when Halifax lands 1,000 hedge fund management jobs. Hallelujah. The recent wins on PEI – financial services and biotech? Hallelujah. The recent….. in New Brunswick? If there were some, I would yell hallelujah.

And if, God forbid, PEI gets a little bit ahead? Great. Maybe a little more pressure on the other Atl. provinces will get people moving.

I have the ‘pleasure’ of reading virtually all of the regional newspapers on a daily basis. Occupational hazard, one might say. I can tell you in all of these papers, you will find snide voices stirring up this kind of community-to-community resentment in the Maritimes. Al Hogan probably puts on seminars for guys like this Peter Moreira down at the Chronicle Herald. Constantly crapping on any attempts to work together to the betterment of the whole Maritimes. Constantly demanding that we isolate ourselves from any effort to move ahead. And the icing on the cake? Never offering any real alternatives – just spiteful and self-defeating rhetoric.

So we leave it to those lost soul bloggers. And the rub? These scribblers get paid to spew forth their poison while the Sorry Centrist gets sweet diddly squat.

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0 Responses to Sorry Centrist out front on key issue

  1. Cooker Boy says:

    I agree with you 100%!

  2. MonctonLandlord says:

    The failed bid is sad, I would have loved to see all communities come together. I guess the young people with the drive and will to succeed have already left the Maritimes.

    The failed bid, has brought Halifax behind 10 years.

    Where is ACOA in all of this? — oh yeah muzzled by Peter MaKay, since he addressed the media announcing NO MORE FUNDING – TOO BAD HALIFAX.

    —-
    Canada’s New Government Provides $2 Million for Stanley Park Restoration – as announced on Jan 18, 2007, ten days following the visit by Federal Environment Minister John Baird
    —-
    “The federal government is giving Vancouver $2 million to restore Stanley Park after a series of windstorms in December destroyed about 3,000 trees.

    But Halifax Deputy Mayor Sue Uteck said Point Pleasant Park, which lost more than 57,000 trees when Hurricane Juan hit in 2003, deserves federal support, too.

    The municipality has spent $2.3 million restoring the park in Halifax’s south end and has yet to get a penny back from Ottawa, she said.” – http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/02/16/pleasant-stanley.html


    Bottom line, maybe if Halifax would have gotten ACOA money if Halifax choose to hold the games in a satellite locatation called BC.

  3. Wendy Waters says:

    Good post. That’s what’s always puzzled me and a lot of Western Canadians about the Atlantic provinces: why they don’t work together? If Halifax could become a more significant hub city and major city (and it’s the only Atlantic Canadian city capable of achieving this status) — everyone in the region would win economically. Read the Conference Board’s latest research — very compelling.

    It seems to me that if Atlantic Canada could form one economic unit (not necessarily political, but economic) it could work together internally and globally to generate more economic activity.

    Think aout New Zealand. It has 3 million people and is a series of islands in the middle of nowhere. That country turned its economy around a few years ago. They have vibrant high tech clusters as well as traditional agricultural industries. But all their exports have to travel along ways, putting them at a disadvantage and yet they succeed.

    Atlantic Canada has a huge market of the US NE and Central Canada on its doorstep. There are so many opportunities for that region. And, the population of Atlantic Canada is only slightly less than New Zealand. The only difference is New Zealand thinks and acts as one entity — Atlantic Canada does not.

  4. David Campbell says:

    We’re looking for a few good Western Canadian minds to move here, Wendy. We have lots of 100 year old homes here and at reasonable prices (unless you want downtown Halifax).

  5. mikel says:

    IT’s not as simple as all that. First, there are plenty of unhappy New Zealanders. Second, and more importantly, go read some comments from Nova Scotia outside of Halifax. These are no happy campers and they complain that Halifax gets all the perks and the rest ‘get the handouts’ (sound familiar?)

    There are numerous integrated associations between the four provinces, of course they rarely get any mention in the press. The press thrives on conflict, and those presbyterians at Irving are the worst of them all. They thrive on conflict, their ideology is capitalism, and that means cutthroat bargaining and the meanest orneriest cuss gets the spoils.

    ‘Working together’ of course smaks of unionism, or even worse, ‘co-operation’, and those don’t sit well with individualists.

    But keep in mind just because you hear about the disagreements doesn’t mean there is no co-operation. Of course this is an odd set up, I mean other provinces would get literally nothing out of the commonwealth games in Halifax. Hell, the bus line are so shitty that if there WERE sharing it would just mean nobody would ever come back again.

    But let’s not dumb things down. Co-operation doesn’t mean anything about ‘the northeast’. Free trade already means you can get stuff to the american market, in fact that’s often a problem, since american customers can often pay more, the other provinces are out in the cold.

    There is no such thing as working together ‘economically’, hell, north and southern New Brunswick can’t even do that. Hell, Saint John and Moncton can’t even do that! Quite simply because in economics somebody always loses. Somebody in Edmunston is just as likely to say ‘hallelujah’ that Riviere du loup gets a new industry of 1000 people, Campbellton likewise to Gaspe. That’s because people work on vested self interest.

    So forget economic cooperation, however, political cooperation makes sense (interesting that a BCer mentions economic union but not political union-afraid of the competition?:)

    So go to the Atlantica Party website and sign up. Economics comes from politics, not vice versa.

  6. Wendy Waters says:

    Sounds like most people and factions in Atlantic Canada are trying “not to lose” rather than “trying to win.”

    I was comparing Pittsburgh and Hamilton a few months back — two former vibrant steel-industry cities that have suffered as that industry declined. Pittsburgh turned itself around and re-invented itself with new knowledge economy and arts clusters. Hamilton remains a declining steel town and its economic development people often seem more concerned about not losing further companies and jobs, rather than what it will take to gain new industries and companies.

    From what I could gather, the difference for Pittsburgh was new political and economic leadership. The steel families left, allowing new blood and money to become influential. Leaders who recently succeeded tended to look forward and brought others along with them.

    That’s another of my outsider’s take on Atlantic Canada.

    ***
    Couple other things: I didn’t say everyone in New Zealand is happy, just that the economy works and there are jobs and it wasn’t always this way. Happiness is an entirely different issue.

    I didn’t mention political union because (a) that’s often more sensitive for rival regions than economic cooperation — but maybe Atlantic Canada is different. (b) it probably requires a national constitutional referendum (ugghhh).

    I think most westerners would welcome an amalgamation of Atlantic Canada into one province (economic and political entity). It would be more successful and therefore require fewer transfer payments.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I disagree, there’s are reason they say ‘divide and conquer’. Ontario is a massive economy, but northern ontario is pretty distinct from southern ontario, which is distinct from eastern ontario. Yet as we’ve gone over and over here, the ‘cost’ to Canada for Ontario is far more extravagant than all the maritimes put together, its just paid differently.

    Let’s look at health care. Keep in mind that Ontario gets social transfers, for health care Ontario gets far more because federal health care is distributed per person, so with a larger population, they get far more.

    And as mentioned before, the ENTIRE New Brunswick federal contribution (to the province, but federal presence in the province is minimal) is only equivalent to the capital cost allowance (in other words the tax break) that the tar sands get. And thats in an industry and province that is the wealthiest in the country.

    The most successful economies are the most expensive. Ontario’s car industry cost billions. The federal government saves a fortune with maritime division. Notice that ‘energy’ doesn’t get second notice in PEI, but gets the grand stage in Alberta.

    There’s a reason why the feds NEVER mention this stuff, political union doesn’t require a change, the reform were a western unifier, the BQ ditto. Like I said, check out the Atlantica Party, you don’t need a constitutional amendment, all it needs is to elect an Atlantica Party member in every riding and a minority government and bobs your uncle.

    Just a note though, Pittsburgh is helped by a lot of things. American cities find it far easier because they have constitutional powers of their own and aren’t hamstrung by the other levels of government. Hamilton is well known as the medical research backbone of ontario. However, Pittsburg made its industrial changes two decades ago, whereas steel duties meant Hamiltons steel companies are still vibrant (relatively).

    Pittsburgh was a run down hell hole in the seventies when it began to make changes. Times change and what works for one area doesn’t necessarily work for another. That’s a familiar cry though, that its the hard work of local politicians and ‘business leaders’ that do these things. In virtually every area it is something completey unique because economies can change so rapidly.

    Of course nothing is stopping Irving from donating a few hundred million to set up, say, a Quantum Physics Research center or a Perimeter Institute like Mike Lazaridis did in Waterloo. That’s their choice though, unfortunately that’s not something you can ‘force’ a millionaire to do. Unfortunately, Waterloo got an immigrant catholic physicist, and new brunswick a presbyterian scot.