Odds & ends

Not much on the radar this morning. I read that interesting story in the TJ about David Booth, a senior executive at Computer Sciences Corporation and his ties to New Brunswick. He’s a Mount Allison graduate and a Moncton native. Will CSC ever invest in New Brunswick? Maybe, maybe not but having that guy on the Ambassador’s list makes great sense.

The TJ also has an editorial calling for reforms to the EI system and moving us away from a seasonal economy. This is on the heals of a report last week critical of the EI system. The TJ brass need to realize that the national calls to reform EI are motivated by the desire to have more of our people move out west. They say that EI is an impediment to the free flow of labour from poor areas with surplus workers to rich areas with a need for workers. I have read several of these reports over the past couple of years – some sponsored by the federal government itself – and my opinion is simple. If you remove or dramatically reduce seasonal EI, you will in fact force at least several thousand New Brunswickers – maybe more – to leave the province. This will exacerbate the problems, in my opinion. Don’t underestimate the problem of morale and its decline in many of our communities. Accelerating out-migration will make that even worse. In my opinion, we need more proactive economic development in these communities that is tied to EI reform.

Speaking of morale, I am about half way through Jacques Poitras’ Beaverbrook – part biography, part NB history lesson and eventually I think there is something in there about the paintings dispute (I’m not there yet).

I could write a dozen blogs on what I have read so far – and likely will on a slow day – but today I’ll just make a comment about the fealty that New Brunswickers – from the Premier on down – showed to Beaverbrook and a few other captains of industry and the condescension that Beaverbrook had towards his native New Brunswick. I could be wrong, but there seems to be a touch of scorn and even rebuke in Poitras writing about this.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud people who go out and make a fortune – as long as it is done in a fair manner where people, law, environment, etc. is respected. If you find a niche, exploit it and become rich, good for you. But I don’t think that people owe you royal deference because of that and indeed that kind of genetically encoded link to our feudal past needs to be resisted. Many of these people are the opposite of what you might consider a role model. I’ll let you read the Poitras book and decide for yourself about these specific characters – but suffice it to say, if our ‘patrons’ see us as a backwater and exploit some of those backwater characteristics, how will we ever get ahead? New Brunswick has to be more than just a nice, simple place to move back to after you have made your fortune elsewhere. It needs to be a place where fortunes are made. Where entrepreneurs thrive.

Heaven help us if we become the retirement home for old crankpots like Christofor. If you don’t know who that is, read the book. Just that is worth the price.

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0 Responses to Odds & ends

  1. Anonymous says:

    David,

    EI was created when we had double digit unemployment. I believe EI still has a very important role to play as an employment insurance system paid by employers and employees.

    My father lost is day-time job at the same time he lost an evening contract with a small sawmill that was shutting down in the late 80s. His three kids were all in post-secondary education, with big tuitions and living away from home. I will always be thankful for EI. He found a job within 18 months, at the age of 55.

    The issue with EI is what do you do with the billion dollar annual surpluses: Cut premiums for both contributors, use it all for the general revenues of government, or find innovative ways to use this surplus.

    I am of the mind that we should do a little of all three. Right now, only the unemployed qualify for retraining. With unemployment around 7.5% it is the wrong approach.

    There is nothing out of the Labour Market Development Agreement with NB that can be used for employed workers, nothing for productivity measures, nothing for retraining of existing workforce on new machinery, nothing for lean manufacturing, Kaysen and other crucial tools that can help our manufacturing sector cope with the drop in value of the US dollar.

    This has to be fixed ASAP if we want NB to be competitive.

  2. Gawain says:

    Think this through: most of Canada, from Nova Scotia, through Upper Canada out to British Columbia view New Brunswick as a cultural and economic backwater. Ottawa’s reluctance to consider New Brunswick’s equalization case in the face of successes of other Atlantic provinces speaks volumes. The political risk in Ottawa was very low.

    And a significant number of New Brunswickers who have made it here export their investment capital elsewhere — most notably to Upper Canada.

    The feudal system is hale and hearty in this province. Maybe we could market the province as a political, economic and social historical artifact. We already have Kings Landing as the potential capital.

    Our biggest hurdle is our defeatist culture and our willingness to be happy with crappy.

  3. nbt says:

    The guys in power [now] in Ottawa have read the access-to-info request during the HRDC scandal in 2000.

    Let’s just say it was one of a few reasons they are [now] backing away from calls to pump more money into the province via some sort of regional economic scheme. On the other hand, they could always import in a few good business managers to replace the ones who have abused it for three decades now.