David Adams Richards weighs in

David Adams Richards has a piece in the Globe & Mail today on the troubles in the Miramichi. It’s a harsh take – a rebuke of foreign ownership – and has a thread of despair. I can’t link to it because you need a username and password. He ends it with a story about some Miramichi fishermen and the phrase uttered by one fisherman when asked why he does it: “What in hell else could we do?”

I hate this notion of inevitability.

At the same time, I read in the Financial Post this morning that partners in the Mackenzie Gas Project have asked Ottawa to treat their stalled megaproject like Newfoundland’s Hibernia project or the Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine in Alberta, both of which got federal support.

In essence, they want what will eventually amount to hundreds of millions if not into a billion or more (like Hibernia and the oilsands) in Federal incentives to get that project restarted. And the federal Minister has said he would consider it.

It’s kind of fun. Call it a federal government induced version of economic development musical chairs. Put hundreds of millions into a project where there are very few people now and suck people out of existing communities in Atlantic Canada to go work there.

If someone came along and asked for a billion dollars to pull a ‘Hibernia’ in the Miramichi – people would laugh and laugh some more. Yet a new auto plant in the ‘Chi would likely have almost the impact of Hibernia on central New Brunswick. Sure, it wouldn’t have the royalties generated by Hibernia but in terms of direct jobs and direct economic activity, it would be close.

But somehow in our twisted way of thinking, billions of incentives for oilsands development is different. Giving Fiat $300 million to establish a 30-40 year 1,200 person manufacturing plant in the ‘Chi is corporate ‘welfare’. Giving $4 billion in royalty and tax subsidies to oilsands developers is ‘a good public investment’.

As my 95 year old grandmother used to say before passing on, “maybe”.

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0 Responses to David Adams Richards weighs in

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting comments from a talented author who became successful by moving to Toronto to work with publishers who had access to foreign investment.

    He is following in the footsteps of former premiers who promote staying in NB while they pursue careers (with competitive executive compensation) on Bay Street or in Place Ville Marie.

    Oh but wait, these guys all retain homes in NB and travel back whenever they can. Maybe this explains why the government favours investments in tourism over real economic development?

    Not taking anything away from David, Bernard or Frank; they have accomplished more than most of us but the point is, we need to have more investment in the Province so others can share similar success.

  2. mikel says:

    Yes, they come home for the fishing. But that DAR sounded ‘bleak’ shouldn’t surprise you, have you read his books? However, why shouldn’t he rail against at least one multinational? Again, your pet idea about animation doesn’t rely on multinationals-FatKat is right there. So maybe this is an opportunity-‘foreign’ press talking about the miramichi, and a federal government that is talking about investing at least something.

    This can pertain to the post above as well. The feds say they only want viable projects-well, animation is viable. The feds say they will put up funding, we’ll see. There is a difference though between big gas projects and other investments. Canada is the US’ gas station which means if you can tie your business plan to that then you’ll get at least a yellow light. As you may remember, in Cape Breton there was the project in partnership with NASA for a research/entertainment/tourism project that the feds quickly said ‘fuck you’ to. You can edit that harsh word out, but its about time maritimers got used to the actual words the feds use-I don’t use it lightly or generously.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mikel-

    I totally agree that the feds have done nothing but window dressing for our region but it is a two way street.

    When the premier economic development agency/funding (ACOA) mandate is watered-down to be used for political photo ops such municipal infrastructure funding and tourism information shacks we have to stand up and say “not acceptable”.

    We must demand funding for meaningful opportunities that are strategically selected that have a chance of long term success.

    You do not see the Technology Partnership Fund (I think the interst from this fund dwarfs the annual ACOA budget) get diverted for basic infrastructure projcts that should be funded by federal-provincial partnership projects (as opposed to economic development) yet we are apparently so despeate for investment and attention we spruce up for the photo op and stand shoulder to shoulder with the guys that are (effectively) holding our heads under water.

    We deserve,and must demand better but this means avoiding the temptation afforded by the photo op funding.