And the band plays on

I got quite a bit of feedback – some posted publicly and others not – on the future of this blog.

I have to admit I am losing some interest in the blog – not the subject matter – but the value of the blog vis-a-vis my time and effort to keep posting content.

I am also becoming more skeptical that things are going to change in New Brunswick. I had hoped that things would change but as I sit here almost 17 years after I first starting thinking about economic development in New Brunswick, I still don’t see any real momentum.

I have watched Ireland go from a low skills back office hub in the late 1980s to a high end financial and information technology hub. The last five major announcements of company expansions in Ireland that I have noted were all R&D-related – high end jobs.

I have watched the U.S. south build – in just 15 years – a massive auto industry. I actually wrote a proposal on behalf of New Brunswick to attract the Mercedes plant back in the early 1990s. Since that plant was sited in the southern U.S. – a dozen more assembly plants have located there in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina – etc. and hundreds of suppliers.

I have watched British Columbia build a strong film and digital media sector. I have watched Quebec buy its way into this sector with over $100 million worth of incentives.

I have watched New Brunswick build a call centre sector – and instead of going up the value chain (like Ireland and others) – in many ways New Brunswick has gone backwards. In the early days of the call centre initiative it was names like ExxonMobil, UPS, IBM, Xerox, Royal Bank then it become more the lower end outsourcing firms. Instead of getting Royal Bank’s hedge fund research unit, we are attracting lower end call centre jobs into rural areas (like TeleTech in Bathurst). I am not complaining about TeleTech per se, I’m just stating the facts. There was enormous potential to evolve that sector into high end data centres, financial back offices, research centres, etc.

Now we’ve got the rhetoric on overdrive and the action in park. Not that long after Bernard Lord was elected we had the Department of Economic Development split into two parts, we had an eNB initiative launched and we had an “Innovation Foundation”. All of those efforts, IMO, fizzled but at least they did stuff.

Now BNB gets a part time Deputy Minister and a $10 million cut in its budget.

You’ve come a long way, baby.

So, all this to say I will continue to post.

But one of my regular readers had a really good point. He said you folks are also coming across interesting stuff and should be submitting it to me for inclusion. That’s a great point. Why don’t you send me information (related to this blog, please – send your gardening tips elsewhere)? That way we could have a steady stream of content worth looking at.

I will say that I will be limiting my commentary on the provincial and/or federal government to actual initiatives and actual efforts. I think I have wasting my and everyone else’s time on speculation, conjecture and this wild rhetoric that we get today about “worst to first”, “best in Canada”, “self-sufficiency”.

Starting today, I will comment only in the context of “where’s the beef?”

But I still want to post good ideas for regional economic development. I realize that our friend New Brunswick Taxpayer wants to convert me back to a laissez-faire thinking on these issues but I still believe there is a role for governments and local communities to play in ensuring their communities have a strong economic base.

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0 Responses to And the band plays on

  1. mikel says:

    I think you should reconsider that, since NBT and others post frequently on the ‘wheres the beef’ motif. However, what is really lacking in New Brunswick is ‘perspective’. When people aren’t aware of how other locations are operating, then they simply don’t know that there are alternatives.

    That’s a good idea about getting some help, I’ve often come across stuff but simply can’t find your email address.

    One final thought is that Ireland didn’t start in the eighties, but rather in the mid seventies when the EU really got going, but actually was getting money as early as the late fifties and early sixties. And as said before, Ireland is also the poster child for child poverty.

    That’s just to say you never know what will happen or when. From my point of view ‘success’ will be exactly the opposite of what you and NBT consistently say-that New Brunswick will be ‘booming’ when lots of multinationals set up shop there. Venezuela has seen poverty drop almost to the level of New Brunswick in far less time than Ireland has made a bunch of millionaires. People can argue politics all they want, but thats the reality, and its not from getting more multinationals, its from doing like Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and other countries are doing, which is getting control of their own resources.

    However, thats an opinion. Keep in mind also that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get more contacts to try to cover many of the stories which are consistently ignored by the press-and there’s plenty of them. I know it won’t matter much, but I don’t come here to see bellyaching on politicians, but to see those ideas you talk about.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi David,

    I read your blog on a daily basis, and you are an important voice for growth in our Province. No one could provide an unbiased opinion on economic development issues like you do.

    I share your views of the importance of government role in promoting and developing our economy. There is no reason why NB could not play a key role in the North American economy.

    I would like to offer a different angle on Brian Dick’s appointment as DM of BNB. He is very well respected and understands the NB economy. You have a guy here who dedicated his career to economic development with the Government of Canada (ACOA), he led the NB Federal Council for at least ten years. (The NB federal council is a group of senior federal official based in NB) He understands Ottawa very well and he has just completed the work of the SSTF, which heard from NBers for three months.

    The final report of the SSTF can only be perceived as a road map for this new government. It is a good start and give them a chance. Hopefully, with Brian Dick at the helm of BNB, with the agenda of SSTF and the politial will of Graham, his federal counterparts will support the principle of the agenda and we will get real team (Fed-Prov) approach to economic development in NB.

    Eternally optimistic

  3. David Campbell says:

    I genuinely hope you are correct.

  4. NB taxpayer says:

    Give me 10,000 more mikels, 10,000 more David Campbells, Alec Bruces, eugenes, kits, trevors or 10,000 more ppl like Spinks and you have a bunch of people who believe strongly in something.

    Yes, they may not all agree, but at least they are not sleepwalking into the next decade thinking everything is alright. That’s the biggest problem with our democracy and media today, the leaders and editors fail to engage its citizenry in the proper manner (in other words, they are disassociated with the ppl on the ground), therefore citizen ennui rises and community involvement declines. And because of that, we end up like a bunch of serfs who believe the government rhetoric, not to mention, rely on their bailouts.

    I think this blogs serves as a counter to that type of ethos. And you should be proud of that fact. NB needs more economic warriors, like yourself, not less.

  5. Anonymous says:

    David, good plan to continue. I dont know Brian Dick but he cant be any worse than the previous incumbent. In fact I would wager that he will be ten times better. All that is required is that the Prem sits on him and makes sure that progress is being made. Thats part of his leadership remit.
    On the Ireland thing, the seventies and early eighties in Ireland were a wasteland of depression, emigration and unemployment. Inflation ran at an average of 21% and it was a miserable place to live. The Irish were as dependent if not more so on federal EU payments as we are in NB at present. The Celtic tiger kicked in around the early 90s so the self sufficiency ambition of 21 years in NB is not an unachievable ambition. Traditionally, in the richest economies in the world there are always a portion of the population that exist on or around the poverty line. To keep bashing the Irish with this is ridiculous. They arent the only country in the world with this problem.
    The focus of this blog should be on this aspect as you mentioned in your post and any contributors to this blog should begin to take an objective and constructive view in the hope that someone out there will sit up and listen for a change.

  6. mikel says:

    To counter the above, it ‘may’ be true that ‘the poor will always be with us’, however, it is the percentages that matter. As we saw during a previous debate, Ireland has the LARGEST number of children living in poverty in europe-thats a far different scenario than just ‘oh well, theres bound to be some poverty’.

    And that is also applicable to Canada. I can afford to spend some time talking about New Brunswick because I live in a city and region which is about as affluent as it gets. I know the three homeless people in this city by name as well as their stories. The services here for the poor beggar comparison. During one days picture taking Charles showed ten people panhandling on King and Queen streets in Fredericton. Again, I NEVER saw a panhandler when I lived in Fredericton.

    That doesn’t even get into other issues, like that Fredericton is the only city in the province whose soup kitchen serves more than one meal a day. Here in Waterloo, the poor and homeless literally have choices on where to get each meal. Churches deliver food on a DAILY basis here year round. Nobody goes hungry here.

    Of course everything is relative, just an hour away is the city of London, which has a downtown where you literally do not go after dark unless you want mugged. Here in a city of well over 100,000 people there’s been no more violent crime than there was back in my hometown.

    However, its pretty easy to tax wealth. The disparity between rich and poor has no bearing on trade issues. It has to do with taxation. If some people are filthy stinking rich and others are dirt poor, thats because of fiscal policy, not monetary policy. But like I’ve said, New Brunswick has the richest ten percent of income earners of anywhere in the country, so people can’t put on the poor mouth. The province has massive resources which are constantly given away-THAT is where you get poverty from.

    Saint John is supposedly booming now, yet has massive poverty. That comes down to a basic question, whether you believe an economy exists to serve the needs of people, or whether you believe people exist to serve the needs of the economy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have a couple of thoughts on the above post. Firstly, I am delighted to hear that there are only 3 homeless people in Saint John. It is also comforting to know that you know them personally, Mikel. Unfortunately, as you probably know already, being homeless is not the criteria used for assessing poverty or where the poverty line is. Would that it was. Part of this equation is the calculation of household income, cost of living etc etc.
    Relative to this it is a misnomer to state that Ireland has the “largest number of children living in poverty in Europe”. As a percentage of population it might have the highest PERCENTAGE rate of children living below the poverty line per head of population in Europe. It certainly does not have the highest NUMBER but a few statistical factors must be considered when this determination into household income is being made. Factors such as long term unemplyment must be considered as should people on welfare, disability payments etc etc. Just because people choose or have been forced through circumstances to live this way does not necessarily make the country a bad place to live. I am sure that your research would have indicated this to you anyway so I apologise for being a pedant. Also Ireland is not the only country to have this problem. There are lots of people in this province who wont admit that they are in this situation.
    Secondly we cannot bend the shape of the future of the provincial economy to suit people who are curently living below the poverty line. As the economy strengthens these people will have the choice on whether they want to exist as they currently do or take part in a meaningful way instead of relying on handouts.
    As an aside, I would suggest you do some research on the Irish income tax model. I dont know the exact figures for this year but last year I read that all incomes under 28,000 euros were removed from the tax system. Is that about $40K?
    Personally, I would like to try a booming economy for a while.

  8. Trevor says:

    Just an idea David, but why not try to launch a NB Wikinomics project like the project proposed here for global warming:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070911.wgttapscott0911/BNStory/Technology/home

    We can post economic development info to a site and have the masses analyze and make recommendations.

    This is different then what the province just did with the self sufficiency taskforce.

    Instead of pure opinion, lets post raw data to a collaborative site where minds that span across the globe can look at it from a different view and propose the changes that are needed in this province.

    Imagine the NB economy being discussed among the brightest minds across the globe, that includes NBers. Perhaps for once we can be the place where we are ahead of the curve and write history by becoming the first official state to harness the power of the web to propose policy.

    With the internet, there no longer exists a geographic divide between us and the rest of the world.

    This type of project might be able to re-energize you and create some momentum for significant change.

  9. David Campbell says:

    That’s a good idea, Trevor but I am probably not the guy to lead it. I haven’t really researched what this type of thing entails. But if you do it, let me know!