Rethinking pork barrel politics

I’ve been thinking about the mythical ‘convention centre’ proposed for Moncton or a host of other projects put forward by communities that are (or seem to be) totally dependent on either or both provincial or federal government funding to go ahead.

The first time I heard a politician say that ‘funding looks good’ for the Moncton convention centre was seven years ago. Since then, there have been ebbs and flows but consistently politicians provincially and federally have been ‘pushing’ this ‘file’.

It’s amazing that community development can be held up for years and years because of pork barrel politics. The Tories had no need to fund the convention centre – they had a virtual monopoly here (only one Liberal seat before the last election). Plus, they funded the Kay Arena and could point to other pork. The new Moncton Liberals, it is said, are under-represented at the Cabinet table. Federally, Claudette was for it – but nothing really happened. MP Murphy is a huge supporter but not in power…..

I’m sure this story is played out across New Brunswick. The government has 100 bucks to spend and request for 1,000. So they play politics and decide where to spend based on political advantage. Which doesn’t help the communities much nor public opinion on politics.

No, I think we need a new approach. Maybe a capital projects funding formula based on population. The provincial government would say there is $100 bucks to spend this year and Moncton gets $10, SJ, $9, Freddy beach $6 (hey, this is population based) and spend it where you will. You want a convention centre? Fine. But that highway upgrade will have to wait.

Reducing pork barrel politic would reduce, I think, cynicism. It would allow communities to plan based on hard facts – not whether or not they can get the ear of the Premier. And ultimately it would force communities to take control of their own destiny and not be able to blame the ‘province’ or the ‘feds’ for the lack of action on ‘files’.

Maybe porportional representation would help address this. If politicians were not elected for specific ridings, maybe there would be less need for pork barrel politics.

Who know? But something tells me five years from now I’ll be penning a similar blog about the lack of movement on the ‘convention centre’ for Moncton.

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0 Responses to Rethinking pork barrel politics

  1. Anonymous says:

    Or how about this, Moncton pays for their own stupid convention centre:) You think anywhere else in Canada it takes three levels of government to build a municipal building? Moncton is hardly broke. Why should the people of Hampton, or Woodstock, or Campbellton contribute for a convention centre for Moncton?

  2. Anonymous says:

    David, the other infuriating aspect of these endless debates is that the news media portray each incremental step in the process as a big story. Mayor X meets with Minister X and both declare they’ll “work towards” doing it … they’ll “look at” the idea … they’ll “hold meetings” and “set up task forces.” It means nothing until someone writes a cheque — yet it gets reported in breathless tones as a sign of major progress. When one level of government or another balks (even temporarily), there are more meetings, more lobbying … and people wonder why citizens are cynical about politics.

    Look at today’s story about Red Lobster. The restaurant chain will “look at” how it might help the struggling lobster industry. It’s not helping. It’s not implementing. It’s “looking at” how to help. Politicians tout these statements so it appears they’re doing something … but there’s no concrete result.

    You will probably be posting in another five years about the convention centre … and politicians will still be making statements about how they’re “looking at” ways to cooperate. Maybe they’ll even sign an MOU on “working towards” a funding agreement …

  3. David Campbell says:

    Oh, the dreaded MOU. Lots of understanding but not a lot of getting things done.