Evaluating federal government economic dev. priorities

It would be nice if the federal government would come out and list the sectors that it will be dumping serious cash into over the next few years (as the ex-CTF man shouts “Don’t tase me, bro!”). But unfortunately, they rarely come right out and say this stuff so you have to piece it together.

So, here is my reckoning of where the federal Tories are spending billions on economic development, based on recent media reports and press releases.

We know there’s a billion+ dollars in direct subsidies for biofuels development.

We know there’s a big pile of cash for the aerospace sector (as they have revamped and relauched the TPC program which basically funds Montreal’s aerospace sector).

We know the auto sector is a ‘key’ priority. The new Industry Minister says the sector is crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity.

We know they are focused on biotech.

They have piled more cash into the clean technologies sector.

Pop quiz. Name one commonality among all these sectors. Time’s up.

None of those sectors have any traction at all in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick has the smallest aerospace sector of all ten provinces.

New Brunswick has no biofuels production at all – there is one plant in the works – but the Federal funding will likely go primarily to projects in the west.

New Brunswick has no biotech sector at all – Nova Scotia, PEI and Saskatchewan have built interesting biotech/life sciences sectors – but NB nada. The new cancer research institute in Moncton is interesting but by any measure, there is virtually no biotech/life sciences activity here.

Auto sector? Come on.

Clean tech? There is a little bit of this going on here but when I looked at all the projects funded by the Feds over the past five years, I think only one was in New Brunswick.

But I guess we should be thankful that Stephen Harper was done to announce new tourism infrastructure funding. Those $9/hour seasonal jobs will come in handy.

My thinking, as you know, nowadays is about alignment. Maybe the province of New Brunswick should try to focus its development in the areas where there are actual Federal funding programs.

Just a thought.

However, prying Federal dollars for auto, aerospace or even biotech in New Brunswick would be difficult if not impossible. These sectors have entrenched lobbies and strong channels into the funding programs. Coming in as an interloper would be hard.

Imagine for a moment the Feds ever putting a nickel into an auto plant in New Brunswick or working with the NB government to attract Boeing here? Or how about attracting a 1,000 person pharma plant here?

Anyone inside the system has a big grin on right now because that won’t happen in our lifetimes.

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0 Responses to Evaluating federal government economic dev. priorities

  1. mikel says:

    I don’t think there would be nearly as much of a problem as you think. An auto plant, sure, but that’s pretty out there anyway. You don’t hear griping in ontario because PEI has some aerospace investment, in fact even Quebec doesn’t gripe.

    Here in Waterloo there wasn’t ONE word of complaint, in the press or anywhere, when they announced the plans for Nova Scotia, and there are still plenty of people here who would jump at the chance to work for RIM in any capacity. And this even though there were two huge layoffs at local manufacturing plants (I don’t believe the RIM jobs are research, but entry level positions).

    Politically its the same. The party in power wants the votes, so they try to buy them. That’s why the rural investment program was announced in Thompsons riding, even though there is more rural up north.

    The problem is how to get those initiatives started. You need industry or people to actually start the research, or at least have universities involved. Getting things going is a LOT tougher than keeping them going. People will bicker and argue about the placement of the research, guys like NBtaxpayer will gripe about public money going to private initiatives.

    I fully support the cancer funding in Moncton, I’m also glad they’ve got so much private investment, however, people should be aware at the outset that it is highly unlikely these places will make money. I know companies in that field that have been working over a decade and still operate on stock splits and new issues. And that’s in INTERNATIONAL markets even with proven products.

    However, anything like aerospace or anything tied to the military will get you federal investment nowadays, which is why the Base gagetown mention of a few days ago was an interesting one.

    It takes a LOT of work to get a govenrment into alternative energy, and so far hardly a peep has been raised about the current ‘dirty coal’ expansion plans, so its doubtful the govenrment is looking at all at alternative energy. Especially when there is no media for people to even complain to.

  2. sc says:

    You nailed it, Dave.

    Lord government was asleep at the switch when it came to ethanol, biotech, etc. To be fair, Shawn Graham actually mentioned this while in opposition a few years ago, but has done little [lately] while in government to move forward on this file.

    The end result? Well, with the combined lack of effort by both governments, the province has been put behind the eightball by at least 6 or so years. All this footdragging while other provinces have been busy courting these industry.

    And ppl wonder why we don’t (as they say) “get picked”.

    I think it’s more like, when are we [NB] going to get in line? (with a particular industry)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’d suggest the problem is the opposite to the above, its not that NB isn’t business friendly, the problem is that it has always been TOO business friendly. This goes back to the days when the first immigrants came.

    Ethanol is still pretty spurious, it takes as much energy to create it. However, where would they grow it? Corporations already have licenses for the crown land and own much of the other land.

    The CoOps and dairy industries have the Moncton-Miramichi area sewn up, and of course McCains has pretty much the whole Saint John river valley. So there is nowhere else to go.

    The big areas are solar and wind power, even Alberta is really cranking it up. However, the energy sector is tied up with Irving’s gas and coal. What’s left is taken up with nuclear, which MAY well become a private industry as well.

    So thats the biggest industries that are already taken up by corporate interests. But some people still seem to think that even though Irving and McCain are bigger than the provincial government that somehow they have no political influence.

  4. Anonymous says:

    All of this talk about Irving sends shivers down my spine. We can bury our head in the sand on this if we wish but the fact remains that Irving is holding this province to ransom thereby holding us back from any real sustainable progress.
    I realise that Irving has his supporters, namely his employees and certain factions in the government, but Irvings agenda is not New Brunswick’s agenda. They are totally self serving and I am not even sure if anything can be done about them at this stage.
    Part of the problem is that they instill fear in everyone who holds power. They will threaten to take away business unless the government backs down even though they do take it away if it suits their needs (Halifax ship building in point). No, Irving views the government purse as HIS money and then just invents ways to get his grubby little hands on it while also doing his best to pay as little tax as possible on it.
    Until this situation is faced head on this province will go nowhere. Do you really think that nobody outside NB can see this? Why should they send Federal dollars in investment to NB when all it will do is make Irving richer?
    Is anyone brave enough to stand up to them?

  5. mikel says:

    Wow, somebody even tougher on Irvings than me:) That MAY all be true, and I tend to agree with most of it, but not all. McKenna managed to get attention to call centres and significantly build up telecommunications. That wasn’t finished and huge inroads COULD be made in numerous areas with a program to get high speed internet to everyone. If Fredericton can do it, then why not the province?

    Irving is always the elephant in the room, and there’s something to be said for having all these talks when they can typically be summed up by one word-Irving. Personally, as I’ve done more research on politics and economics I don’t think I’d want to live in NB again simply because of the Irving question. It is simply too creepy. Most places are run by ‘business interests’, even ‘corporate interests’, but none in quite the same way as NB.

    However, as they say “all is flux”. Just because something is true today doesn’t mean it’ll be true tomorrow.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Call centres paying minimum wage are not a threat to Irving because it doesnt let us think that we are worth more than they think we are. Also better telecommunications suit Irving, specially as they didnt have to pay for it themselves. I am sure if it was researched effectively that Irving actually made money from this too.
    Bottom line here is that it does not suit Irving for better paying jobs to be coming into NB because it then lets people make comparisons (among other things).
    I hope that your sentiment about all is flux comes true before it is too late (that is if its not too late already)