First, when I compare economic development spending in the column today, it’s not a complete apples to apples comparison. I take economic development, tourism and culture from 1999 and add in parks and compare that to Business New Brunswick and Tourism and Parks in 2007. One of the neat little tricks that old Bernie did in 1999 was to carve up the old EDT so that an apples to apples comparison would be harder to do. However, dropping from $140M to $95M is hard to ignore.
Second, I can’t believe all the negative reaction to focusing on a few key economic sectors. The CFIB dragged out the dreaded ‘picking winners’ analogy. this is the biggest piece of crap I have ever heard. Hasn’t Alberta ‘picked’ oil & gas? Hasn’t Ontario ‘picked’ automotive? Life sciences? Hasn’t Quebec ‘picked’ animation? Pharma? Hasn’t Ontario ‘picked’ financial services? Hasn’t Nova Scotia ‘picked’ financial services and Aerospace? Doesn’t the Federal government have eight strategic sectors for investment attraction? This is just crap. The government has scarce resources to spend on research and development, on industry training, on infrastructure development, etc. Getting focused makes all the sense in the world and these guys with their vested interests will just lead the government back down the road of doing nothing.
Let me tell you about the CFIB. They want the government to ‘pick’ a sector. It’s just that they want that sector to be ‘small business’. They are a vested interest – a powerful vested interest – and I believe have exerted undue influence on the government over the years because small business owners – all 20k of them – live in local communities, vote and employ local voters. IBM or Xerox do not give a rip about local politics. They will set up in Saint John if it makes good business sense.
As I said yesterday, I still can’t figure out what the CFIB’s problem is. The small business sector has been absolutely booming in Alberta and British Columbia – because they have a far better mix of multinational business investment and local business investment than New Brunswick. You would think that they would be the first out of the gate supporting efforts to attract industry.
And as for me, yes, I am a vested interest too. I admit to that. Policy makers would be well advised not to just follow any one approach to the letter and would be foolish to just take old David Campbell’s word on it. However, my positions (most of them) here come from 18 years of research and study of some of the most successful regions in the world. They come from pouring over reams of economic data and they come from my experience working with 29 different municipalities.