Spending money

I don’t know much about how government decides how to spend its money. I study it probably more than most – but I still don’t understand the mechanics of how money is spent.

For example, it seems relatively easy to get money out of the Feds for highway construction (I see that Premier Graham is looking for more federal dough to twin the Saint John-St. Stephen highway) than for R&D. It seems far more easy to get money from the Feds for health care spending than for economic development projects. It seems far more easy to get money from the Feds through Equalization than through economic development programs.

Maybe it is an issue of limited funds and the province deciding where they want to put their lobbying efforts. For example, the TJ is reporting that the Premier is in Ottawa looking for more money for highways and a natural gas pipeline (arguably the latter could be considered economic development, I guess). I, on the other hand, was blown away when the Feds announced hundreds of millions of dollars last week to fund research and development “Centres of Excellence” across Canada – and none in New Brunswick. Why weren’t we in there pushing for the R&D?

I am evolving my position on highways. I used to think that having a kick arse, four lane highway system all over New Brunswick was key to our economic future. But I am revising my position. Maybe the highway system will just make it easier to drive through New Brunswick or to move on down the road.

In other words, beyond highways, you need a strategy for economic development.

My new thinking on this is simple. If the Feds will give us a few hundred million more for R&D, I’ll trade in my Passat for a horse and buggy.

In other words, when somebody says “Mr. PM, we spend less on R&D in New Brunswick than any other province including Newfoundland”, he can respond but we give them piles of dough for highways.

I don’t like that trade off.

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0 Responses to Spending money

  1. Anonymous says:

    maybe your thinking has changed because Moncton already has twinned highways in ALL directions…

  2. nbt says:

    You are right, David. They should be pushing for more investment, especially the R&D kind.

    Btw, am I the only one who noticed that the Graham government quickly jumped on the bandwagon this week by shifting their focus to planks of the Atlantica project which were already unofficially announced by Harper’s tories.

    Trying to score a few points with other ppls initiatives?

    I guess they realize that coming back empty handed (well, other than a few big photo ops of the premier and his delegation on a big rig at the tar sands in Alberta or standing at an intersection at Time Square) just isn’t cutting it.

    I think it’s safe to say at this point, people want action and results, not more self-sufficiency rhetoric.

  3. richard says:

    From today’s CBC:

    “But the province’s Liberal government couldn’t guarantee the Saint John institution will keep a liberal arts focus…..

    That’s not good enough, according to the mayor’s task force. The school must continue to have liberal arts and science programs, ….”

    If that really reflects the opinions of SJers, then I have to conclude that Mikel was right after all: air pollution in SJ is rotting their brains and they can no longer think straight.

    Lose the arts program (and the psuedosciences of economics and polysci too; students can always drive to Fred for these); replace with pumped-up science programs, specializing in applied energy research applications. Result: SJ has a research university (whether polytechnic is in the name doesn’t matter so much) in applied sciences. Well-trained grads work in energy industries or spin-off new outfits servicing those industries.

    That sounds like a win-win for SJ to me. If they don’t want it, then screw them. Give the money to UNB Fred and U de M for aquaculture research instead.

  4. mikel says:

    Whoa, I put my foot in my mouth enough, don’t stick words in my mouth I never said. I don’t know where that comes from, but I never said anything of the sort.

    From Saint Johns perspective what the mayor says makes perfect sense. Always keep in mind that elected officials have very different ideas of who they are impressing. The mayor wants a ‘well rounded’ city, which means not too much emphasis on industry. They are already getting the emphasis on industry, so they are getting what they want there, so its important to make sure that they keep what they have and not go too blue collar.

    But its nice that Dave is finally on board with getting off that stupid bandwagon that even bloggers were talking about a year ago that ‘economic development’ means sprucing up highways. Again, Saint John harbour could have been cleaned for what the feds put into a small stretch of highway.

    The govenrment loves highway jobs, they give some people enough weeks for EI, gives some owners lots of cash, and always gives them bragging rights in various ridings. What it doesn’t do is offer much in the way of a future.

    So hopefully David’s next ‘ditch’ will be those ideas about NB building ‘big truck stops’ for all the highway traffic of atlantica. That certainly doesn’t build an industry.

    New Brunswick quite simply needs its own scientific revolution. There are some interesting things going on, but there is no media focus on it, and less political focus-or at least not the sustained focus necessary.

    However, it is a problem when the PM comes out and says that they are looking mostly at ‘atlantica’ initiatives. Thats good for highways maybe, but not much else. However, ‘atlantica’ is still a pretty vague concept, so if there is a way to link R&D to ‘atlantica’ that would be the most intelligent strategy.

  5. richard says:

    Statscan reported today that:

    “On average, a scientist or engineer with a PhD employed on a full-time basis earned $70,000, nearly twice the average of $36,000 for Canada’s full-time workers in 2000.”

    On that basis, seems to me the mayor of SJ would want a research uni, not a liberal arts uni. He appears not to, however. More evidence of brain rot!