Good night, and good luck

Look folks. I am seriously thinking about shutting the blog down. I tried a few months ago but a lot of people I respect told me I was adding some value to the discourse and to keep it up.

But I’m getting tired. I’m 40 this year and the first time someone accused me of standing on a soapbox was in 1992. And I have been standing on that soapbox ever since. As an economic development worker, consultant, – and since October 2004 as a blogger.

I don’t know what would keep me writing. Don’t get me wrong, I like this stuff. I am a believer in transformational leadership. I think things could turn around in New Brunswick.

I am not sure what I actually thought this blog would accomplish. I didn’t have grand schemes but when I started getting invited to have lunch with an MLA, or got an email on the side from an ADM or a telephone call from someone’s EA, I thought there were a few folks reading this that maybe walked the halls of power and maybe would take some of this stuff into the policy discussions.

But that was niave at best and silly at worst.

The truth is that New Brunswick has not outperformed the national average for population growth since Confederation. 140 years. As a side, apparently the Prime Minister in 1967 told all Canadians to do something special to celebrate Canada’s 100. I was my parent’s gift to Canada – that’s what my mother says anyway.

Again, maybe it’s just my naivete. But there is a record level of money sloshing around Ottawa these days and a Conservative government in power. I thought, stupidly, that a Conservative government would want to put programs in place to ween places like New Brunswick off Equalization and get onto a firm economic foundation. But I was wrong. One of the first things the Tories did was sweeten the EI program and since then, not a word related to anything even close to a strategy to help NB become a contributor to Confederation and not an increasing drain. At least the Liberals pretended with all that talk of innovation. The Conservatives aren’t even pretending.

Then there’s the new Liberal government. Worst to first. Self-sufficient in 20 years. Healthy and happy. Pass the pistachio nuts. But then what? Nothing in a 1/4 of a mandate and a lame duck deputy minister shuffle.

Someone I trust on this stuff has told me that government is essentially a pragmatic entity. Politicians talk and talk some more and the bureaucracy gets on with the business. So the same people in different roles will likely yield the same results.

I admit it. I wanted something different. Something maybe even a little innovative. Possibly magical.

I called for 5% of the total budget to be channeled into development oriented activity. R&D support, industry training, sector strategies.

Instead, I got a cut in the already piddly 0.5% of the total budget spent on BNB.

I called for a bold new economic development strategy that engaged local and provincial stakeholders and brought the thinking of economic development across all government departments and up the ladder to Ottawa.

Instead, I got BNB tacked on as a side to the responsibilities of another Deputy Minister.

I called for aggressive changes to the way we look at R&D in New Brunswick.

And I got – as of yet – nothing.

I called for a serious people attraction strategy tied to real jobs and real sector growth strategies.

And I got more consultations about social integration and sensitivity building among the populace.

So, maybe I am wrong. Maybe things are all heading forward. Afterall, the Telegraph Journal ran a story this week entitled “Atlantic Boom in Jeopardy” or something similar.

From 1996 to 2006, the Atlantic Provinces collectively lost something like 70,000 population as Canada as a whole saw record levels of population growth.

Someone did a Wikipedia on the definition of boom, I guess.

So, that brings me to the point. Why continue this charade? I don’t get paid for it. I don’t get any new consulting business as a result of it – in fact, if I had shut my mouth I’d probably get more consulting business.

There are bloggers – good ones – that write witty, thought provoking prose for a business.

Maybe I should stop talking and start listening. Or better yet – just accept the fact that New Brunswick will always be New Brunswick. Like most have.

I appreciate all your comments and emails. But, honestly, ask yourself. If it was you would you keep writing all this crap? Wasting upwards of 6-7 hours per week? Cripes, there is over 1300 pages of original writing in this thing. Over 275 charts/graphs.

For what?

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0 Responses to Good night, and good luck

  1. mikel says:

    I’m not a ra ra kind of person and this is a decision only you can make. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before, that this is the best blog in the province-no two ways about it. Lobbying for change though takes more than a blog.

    However, unlike newspapers and radio and TV, on the internet this stuff is always there. Many subjects i’ve searched I’ve been sent right to this blog. Don’t measure ‘reaction’ simply by the silence, you have no idea what is ‘going on out there’. All thanks to the media.

    Keep in mind that politcians have many masters to answer to-party offcials, party members, party leaders, financial supporters, the business community, etc. What you usually state is not exactly the party line, so you can’t expect they are suddenly going to prop up your banner and make it policy, thats not how politics works.

    I don’t think you seriously thought that the Premier was reading your blog and some days said “oh yeah, lets try this”. I don’t think you’re that naive. However, whenever somebody ‘wastes time’ like this then that itself sends a message to the powers that be. If a middle class guy is willing to waste hours each week churning this stuff out, then what else is going on? These are questions that politicans constantly ask-if they’re smart.

    I’ll just leave with a couple of platitudes:

    “big things come from small beginnings”
    “the race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running”
    “there’s a reason its called ‘grassroots’, and not ‘grass blades’ “

  2. Anonymous says:

    David, personally, I hope that you continue posting. I have your blog bookmarked, and for me, it is part of my daily routine to catch up with what’s going on in the world. I work in the economic development field, not in New Brunswick. It is people like you who give me some hope for the future of this region … hope, I might add, that is in very short supply some days.

    Whatever your decision, at least let me tell you that your thoughts and observations are appreciated by your readers.

  3. mikel says:

    One more thing Dave, I’ve ‘wasted’ far more time than you have, all while trying to do the same as you-earn a living. And I don’t even live in New Brunswick anymore and probably never will again. The question you should be asking is not whether other people would do the same, but simply how important do you think it is?

    But once again I’ll tell this familiar story of two guys on welfare who got involved in a by-election in Saint John and accomplished something I don’t think ANY civil rights organization has accomplished on their own, which is to get an entire Act rewritten giving a class individual human rights that they never had before.

    Again, thats TWO guys on welfare, but mostly Charles Leblanc. That was done PARTLY with a blog. But a blog is only one part of the equation. AIMS didn’t get to where they were by blogging. Now, it may be true that the Irvings aren’t going to give you the time of day, but there’s the CBC, and there is nationally.

    MOST important, is that New Brunswickers have always had an aversion to being organized. That seems true of bloggers as well. As I’ve said numerous times, its ironic to see you badmouth the Centre for Policy Alternatives when you didn’t even read their study and when you virtually say the identical things as they do. The same is true of the Council of Canadians, the ‘assumption’ is that they are ‘bad for business’, all without knowing much about them.

    Check them out. What is most interesting is that most national organizations hardly seem to have a presence in New Brunswick. The council of canadians barely has enough to fill a room. And as I’ve said, as far as labour and jobs go, the conservation council has the same agenda as you do.

    My point is this. Join an organization. Or start one. Its easy to get down when working alone, thats why social change NEVER comes from people working alone. You guys in Moncton have a ‘local in the know’ group, yet we’ve never even seen an attempt and putting together a website or any kind of lobby. Perhaps its a function of simply being ‘apolitical’, nobody seems to know how politics works. I tell you, it was an eye opener once I started getting involved, I paid zero attention to politics, but the more you learn, the more infuriating it gets. Believe me, more people will hearken to your message than you think.

    In fact, you’ve got all the features of a good politician. You’re rarely dogmatic, keep on message, and are a decent speaker. And to not be blunt about it, are not a lawyer or an idiot. So if no other organization appeals to you, consider political parties. In other words, don’t labour alone. Go to the high school and get a volunteer student from an economics class, lord knows the public school system has no problem sending kids out to work blue collar jobs. There are lots of options, don’t get discouraged-that sends an even worse message.

  4. Phoff says:

    To echo mikel’s statements, you can only do this if you feel that it’s worth it.

    Trust me, however, there are many lurkers, like me, who love your writing and get more information here than in any newspaper.

    It’s selfish of me to say, but if you shut the blog down, I (and many other NB ex-pats) will be far less “in the know”.

    Should you decide to hang up the keyboard, I wish you well and thank you for the enlightenment

  5. Kit says:

    I will miss your blog. I think you spoke to hope when few could. You could articulate a vision when others could not. It is a shame that you feel it was a burden. But I think you have had an effect. Who will do that now?

    Godspeed.

    If you come to F’ton, I have beer.

  6. David Campbell says:

    Folks, I haven’t consumed the hemlock yet, I just think that all the material is recycled crap. I try and dress it up and spray perfume on it but it’s still crap. But, if there are readers (thanks for the note, Mom!), maybe I’ll keep it up. There’s a new show on TMN called Californication – about a writer who has lost his motivation to write. What would the NB version of that be?

  7. Geeks on Ice says:

    The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.
    ~Socrates

    I would hate to see you stop writting but I understand your frustration. I can tell you that I have personally learned and at times been inspired by your writtings. I also appreciate the debate which takes place on this blog.

    History tells us that most leaders that try appealing to our reason meet an untimely fate. See Socrates, MLK Jr, Jesus, etc. I think it takes great courage to reveal yourself to the world and accept the consequences with grace.

    Change takes time and like a farmer you have planted many seeds that will one day bare fruit. Your worldview has impacted mine and I share with you a grander vision for this province because of it.

    See you later…

    Trevor

  8. Scott says:

    Folks, I haven’t consumed the hemlock yet, I just think that all the material is recycled crap.

    You know what they say about a great message, squeeze the life out of it.

    Anyway, I know we have had many heated disagreements on policy David, but one thing is for certain, you are a courageous person for speaking your mind against the status quo that is New Brunswick politics. And for that, my friend, you should be commended.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Since there is a pessimistic mood in the air, perhaps a darker outlook is in order.

    Instead of valiant attempts to prevent NB’s slide into oblivion,let’s think differently and try to accelerate it.

    As some would advocate, let’s encourage massive government spending, subsidized energy rates, hospitals in every community, paved divided highways in every direction, increased government hiring all with absolutely no idea where the money will come from to pay for it. In desperation, NB increases business taxes and chases them out of the province then is forced to increase income taxes to chase out most of the remaining workers. As we await eminent bankruptcy, perhaps then there will be a public wake up call and we will realize that change is necessary, and oh yes, the ‘government money’ is really our money and it is not a bottomless pot. (Unfortunately, there would be a group pointing to the Feds and saying hey, you are obligated to help us because we can’t help ourselves).

    It sounds dramatic but the lack of urgency and prominent complacency is likely the root cause of your (and many other’s) frustration. Perhaps we need to sink a little lower before we truly embrace change.

    Hmm, somehow a proactive approach seems less painful. Facilitating the exchange of ideas and insights on economic development via a blog is one way to be proactive. Is that justification to continue?

  10. David Campbell says:

    Thanks for the comments. But consider it from my position. The TJ is quoting the guy that runs Centrebeam in Saint John as saying we should be able to attract Google. Nice, feel good story right? What the TJ doesn’t say is that Google is getting roughly $200 million dollars worth of incentives to site data centres in places like South Carolina. So, regardless of whether you like or dislike the use of taxpayer funds for corporate incentives, it is happening. And there’s no way in heck that Graham and the boys are going to play in that game. So, why would the TJ write that crap? Why would the TJ raise expectations among the populace that New Brunswick can compete for these jobs? At one point, I was hopeful that things could turn around. At one point, I would have said bravo to that TJ article. Now, I just say that they are just whistling dixie. Google, Microsoft, Toyota, et. al will never locate here. Never. Never. Never. Minister Byrne is out there peddling N.B.’s aerospace sector. What the TJ doesn’t tell you is that New Brunswick has the smallest aerospace sector of all provinces in Canada. Maybe someone will pick up a few hundred thousand dollar contract. Yipee. Big news. New Brunswick will never compete in the big leagues. Never.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Google, Microsoft, Toyota, et. al will never locate here. “

    That’s likely true, if everything remains the same. But things seldom due. Who would have predicted 20 yrs ago Toyoto building additional plants in ON in 2007? ON/federal strategies built an auto industry in ON.

    I read this AM that the NS premier is musing about stimulating a financial services industry in NS. You have pointed out that NB should be trying to establish a financial data services industry in NB. You are correct that NB/Ottawa needs to focus on a realistic strategy to attract these industries AND invest the money to do so. Much more productive in the long run than propping up pulp mills.

    NB needs to do its homework and get the feds onside, because fed dollars will be needed. Thing is, it can be done. NB has sent a lot of backroom talent to Ottawa’ its unfortunate that they did little if anything to help develop a real strategy for NB.

  12. scott says:

    We can be competitive and successful. But it’s not going to happen overnight.

    To be honest, I think you’re mixing up success and competition with the wishy-washy utopian ideas of the so-called local braintrust. (which can frustrate any logical thinker any day of the week)

    For example, just this week, Halifax suddenly declares out of the blue that they want “their own Wall Street”. Now there is nothing wrong with this notion if you were a province that had shown a longterm history of foreign direct investment. But let’s get real, a few financial back offices doth not justify this claim.

    That’s the problem with political thinkers around here, they either don’t know the numbers and climate or they aren’t realistic.

    It’s what I call the “worst to first” notion. It sounds good to those who don’t know, but is it obtainable? Probably not.

    So don’t get down, everything you discuss on this blog is doable as most of your ideas are born from previous economic trends and facts. Furthermore, your ideas are more marketable on a global stage because you have done one thing that all the rest of the so-called experts have not…you admit to the current failures and shortcomings of this province.

    Unfortunately, the past two governments have not had this luxury because they are too busy defending a turf which benefits no one. Not the taxpayer, not the small business owner, not outside investors or corporations, not even immigrants looking to relocate to NB. Why? Because it is a dishonest position that hides what is actually going of in this province.

    You know what they say, in order to move forward you must be able to admit your past mistakes. I’m still waiting to see that message imbed itself in all government departments. So far, all I’ve seen is useless spin.

  13. mikel says:

    Good to see some optimism. From ‘your point of view’, like I said, that’s what organizations are good for-namely to keep away the idea that ‘everything is hopeless’ as well as ‘everything is fine’. As others have said, never say never. I posted a long time ago about the problems that Vermont is having because IBM is slowly pulling the plug there. I researched it and it turns out that they located in the first place there because the son of the chairman liked the skiing.

    And remember the game guy who was going to set up in Nova Scotia just because he liked it there. It didn’t pan out, however, it COULD have happened, and it COULD happen anywhere. If phatcat can succeed despite being where there is really no animation industry to speak of, then what else is possible? In Bolivia an impoverished population succeeded in running Bechtel, one of the worlds largest corporations, out of the country when they were cheating them. That’s a dirt poor country where cops shoot at you to kill.

    In case you never noticed, there were two different expatriate NBers groups who presented to the self sufficiency task force. At facebook there is a lot more organization going on than on blogs, so there is definition lots to be cheery about. Technology is the most exciting thing, about the ONLY thing that I’ve seen to be depressed about in New Brunswick is the government and media. One of those can be controlled, the other can be ignored. The real question is getting people’s attention, and thats the biggest problem.

    You can’t simply keep saying a message and expecting that it will be implemented just because its been said a lot. People need two things-first, the facts, and second, some way to affect policy. Those are the two things that need to be dealt with. And soon there will be:)

  14. Anonymous says:

    “the ONLY thing that I’ve seen to be depressed about in New Brunswick is the government and media.”

    Agreed. Perhaps what NB needs is another Robichaud – someone with a vision who can shake things up.

  15. Trevor says:

    I’m currently doing a Western Philosophy course and came across this little tibit that I think best describes the current state of our province. Hopefully this helps sum up you mission over the last couple of years…

    Galileo’s Law of Inertia states:

    “A body remains in the state which it is in, at rest or in motion, as long as no external force compels it to change its state”

    He was refering to the solar system, but you fill in the blanks…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well, David. I think you have your answer. Your readership wants you to continue.

    Speaking as someone within Government, your voice is being heard. Perhaps it is not being acted on or, if it is, not at the speed that you would desire, but it is being heard.

  17. nbt says:

    If you haven’t already, you should read this article on Brian Mulroney and the west. There really is something to what Gunter says in this excerpt:

    After all, he pointed out, the region had many on Brian Mulroney’s constitutional legacy. Plus, more Cabinet members than it had under Trudeau and was receiving much more patronage. So what was our gripe?

    The question missed the whole point of the region’s discontent. It wasn’t that the region’s snout had been kept out of the trough during the Grits’ rule. It was the fact that there was a trough, period, that burned in Westerners’ craws.

    Perhaps naively, we didn’t see politics as a to-the-victor-goes-the-spoils game. And, initially, we didn’t think Mulroney did, either. We believed him when he promised to get government out of Canadians’ lives and off their backs. We accepted his pledge to make government smaller. We thought he meant it when he promised to end partisan and regional favouritism.

    Shame on us for being so idealistic, but it’s bred in our bones. Why do you think the Progressives and the CCF/NDP and Reform– the major alternative parties that arose in the 20th century — were all Western creations? We’ve never lost our faith that politics can be more than a cynical Red versus Blue contest.

    The Reform slogan that best summed up the West’s frustration with Mulroney was not “The West Wants In,” the jingle for which the party is best known. Rather it was Preston Manning’s promise to “do politics differently” if elected.

    It kinda gives your statement below a bit more perspective:

    I thought, stupidly, that a Conservative government would want to put programs in place to ween places like New Brunswick off Equalization and get onto a firm economic foundation.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you are proposing is another regional scheme in addition to ACOA.

    Though the tories have continued with TPC funding and grants to Ont and Que, they seem to be attempting to ween regions off these programs. I would anticipate that the patronage trough would be practically shut down if Harper were in a majority government. Furthermore, I would anticipate devolution in Quebec in the future and less corprate welfare.

    Allows them [Quebec] pseudo sovereinty and reduces regional jealousy across the country due to limited regional favoritism.

    Cut the trough off to central Canada and you strengthen the nation both economically and socially.

  18. William says:

    I have just discovered this site this evening so my voice is small and unearned, however I do want to add myself to those who see value in your time (pay you if I could). It is great. I have just started studying Rural and Community Studies at Brandon University, and there is so much wealth in these posts that I can extract from. Just what I needed as someone who wants to get up to speed on these issues and that sincerely likes N.B. and hopes to live in that area at some point (sooner rather than later).

    Anyhow will keep this short due to the fact that this is my first glance over this site, but man it will serve as a great tool for me and that my friend is a hidden value that maybe is not voiced enough.

    ~William