A little sad today

I just heard that a couple of people I have a lot of respect for in Saint John were not very happy with my recent comments about the Benefits Blueprint for that city. It’s frustrating for me that when you raise questions about anything, instead of seeing that as positive feedback, people in this province almost always view it as some form of partisan criticism.

The truth is I am happy with what I saw in the Benefits Blueprint. The full study was not released so it is impossible to critique the data. My only concern is that a) the boom cycle they are forecasting is unprecedented in the history of New Brunswick and b) after that boom, the remaining jobs will be relatively limited. As a result, I am calling for efforts to leverage the energy hub into a broader, longer term economic development plan. This could include energy research investments, policies to develop and make available low cost industrial power to attract industry, etc. I am not poo-pooing the BB. If the people of Saint John want this, I am fully behind it. I have been involved with a number of projects in the Saint John region and I feel I have am personally invested in the community’s success. Any commentary I make is with the best of intentions.

The same can be said for Business New Brunswick. A couple of exBNBers have told me lately that sometimes my comments are viewed harshly by some inside the provincial economic development group. Be clear about this. I want more resources for BNB – not less – I want a broader mandate not a lessened mandate and I think a successful BNB is key for the province’s economic future. I just may disagree with some people on what BNB should doing.

It’s sad to say that in this province if you want a discussion on things you have to go right to the polarity of the issue. It’s either hard right (AIMS) or hard left (David Coon). Everyone else is parsing their words to make sure they don’t offend anyone. The Energy Hub should be debated – broadly. Moncton’s economic development should be debated – broadly. Same for the North.

I want to be part of that debate but if I alienate potential consulting clients I may end up debating from the metaphorical Siberia.

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0 Responses to A little sad today

  1. nbt says:

    The same can be said for Business New Brunswick. A couple of exBNBers have told me lately that sometimes my comments are viewed harshly by some inside the provincial economic development group. Be clear about this. I want more resources for BNB – not less – I want a broader mandate not a lessened mandate and I think a successful BNB is key for the province’s economic future. I just may disagree with some people on what BNB should doing.

    I’m far from being hard right, I’m more hard facts. lol And let me tell you, there is absolutely no evidence in Canada that regional development agencies work (ACOA, WED, DIPP, TPC etc.) Not in Ontario and definitely not here, especially with the poor track record of BNB.

    Not only are these development agencies costly and wasteful, they are overly partisan in nature (they roll out money to buy votes during elections with no attention to detail or business sustainability). Who ends up footing the bill for these poor (and overly partisan decisions)? If you guessed the taxpayer, you get 10 points. Not to mention, the damage these wasteful corporate welfare loans cause to small business and the economic climate as a whole is irreparable, especially if it is allowed to continue for a long period of time (which is the case more here, then any other region in the country).

    Plus, there is hard evidence that the reverse is true (about the success of these regional development and business development government agencies) as you just have to look at BC’s change in attitude on this as well with Alberta (where subsidies, loans and handouts over $1 million are banned). The less government interference in the market, the better. Plain and simple.

  2. mikel says:

    This isn’t about NBT’s view, which is pretty far from ‘the facts’, but about the blog. It always takes serious balls to say things publicly, particularly about politics. THe problem is not that they are partisan, the problem is that most of the people who take part in making the decisions are partisan.

    I never read the newspapers for awhile, but if Irving wasn’t critiqueing the Blueprint Benefits then they simply weren’t doing their job, and its unfortunately that David has to be the only guy talking about the emporer’s new clothes.

    However, two things are possible, since I never read the actual criticisms they may have been badly worded, so that people misunderstood them, or some people simply ‘don’t take well to criticism’. That’s pretty much a given.

    For BNB, that’s a tough call because for one thing we are talking about investments, and there HAVE been investments-but David accurately questions whether they are the RIGHT investments.

    That, unfortunately, is the price to be paid for making populist statements because be CERTAIN that David is far from being the only person questioning these decisions, in fact his comments are downright wishy washy in comparison.

    For BNB, we don’t know enough about ‘them’ for specific individuals to be upset, if they ‘react harshly’ that’s just bizarre. I’ve been called all sorts of names on blogs and don’t really care, it’s weird to think that people may be upset who haven’t even been publicly mentioned.

    If they are lousy at their jobs, then its understandable they’d be mad at Savoie for saying they should be axed or work on commission, people obviously fight pretty hard to defend their paycheque. But again, it’s NOT the fault of BNB that when Nova Scotia announced a massive program to support arts and culture and the NB government said “we’ll throw some money at FatKat” and that’s it for the entire industry. In other words, it’s hard to get out and sell when there is nothing to sell. (just because I can’t resist, fatkat recieved a bunch of money from the feds to buy new computers, they used the savings to hire ten more people, so quite clearly these decisions are NOT failures, they just benefit people far differently than the largest corporations which NBT has in mind).

    That’s always a problem when you are public critic. People who are invested in decisions don’t like it when policies are even examined, let alone questioned. But again, you hit on the central issue, that ‘these things need to be discussed publicly’. But WHERE? And to what effect?

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is so much negativity in NB I think people are super sensitive to critical views, even when constructive.

    A point raised in your recent McKenna post was the generally positive atmosphere that his government created. There was renewed confidence, a sense of yes, we can do that. People put more energy into figuring out how to make things a success than making things a failure.

    I am not suggesting we should blindly accept everything that is thrown our way but we have lost that positive environment we once enjoyed.

    So, recognizing the world will use gasoline for some time to come, instead of bashing the new refinery idea, let’s say, great idea but we need to do these things so we are a leader in the associated environmental issues. Same with mining. Same with nuclear energy etc.

    Instead, the public seems to be in a mode of denying everything; “yes I need electricity and I dislike the fosil fuel plants but I refuse to discuss cleaner energy developments”. This frustrates development efforts.

    So, while your posts are generally positive with constructive critiques, I think some people erronously classify it with the constant naysayers. You are better than the naysayers. Your colleagues should be thankful for your efforts.

  4. mikel says:

    Yes and no. First, look at where the negativity is coming from. McKenna certainly never had to deal with the internet. And if you recall there was TONS of ‘negativity’ around virtually ALL of McKenna’s policies. The problem was at that time there was no place to voice them but at Irvings. But that’s nostalgia to think that during one of the most unprecedented cutbacks to social programs everybody had a ‘can do’ attitude.

    It’s true that McKenna TALKED a mean game, but again, he wasn’t doing anything EVERY Premier was doing-which was travel around trying to get business. Although it wasn’t in the paper, that’s what Lord did all the time, and no doubt Graham is not that much different.

    It was a different climate, also a point mentioned. McKenna actually had some real concrete things to sell unlike now. That councillor in Miramichi may be mentioning economic development,but the fact is that miramichi has little to sell on over, say, well, anywhere. Virtually all they have is “it’s a nice place”.

    McKenna also got that press from ‘company poaching’, which got BAD press out west, and that tends to give people the ‘circle the wagons’ kind of attitude, sort of like if everybody started badmouthing the home team.

    As for POLICY, that’s completely different. You won’t stop naysayers by simply telling people not to naysay. Criticism comes with a purpose. At least when they were gambling on wind power in PEI it had other benefits besides immediate financial ones. When they gambled on aerospace they didn’t have to worry about the massive amount of pollution that would be killing people.

    In NB it’s a far different case, and actually its unfortunate that ‘naysayers’ have nowhere to get their voice heard. THere’s no doubt that the refinery will be (probably) a technological wonder compares to past ones, its been twenty years since the last one was built in north america. It will also use natural gas because of course Irving has a vested interest.

    NONE of that means squat for economic development. THere’s a reason that every single refinery in the US was built in poor neighbourhoods. In Ontario many were built by native reserves.

    There is NO economic development that says “hey, they’ve got a refinery right there, thats’ the place to be”. In fact, we KNOW that being right next to a refinery doesn’t even have the benefit of cheaper gas (although it may for Irving companies, which again makes it impossible to compete, which flushes that NBT idea of a ‘level playing field down the drain even though it has NOTHING to do with government subsidies-corporations can play the same game).

    Plus, most importantly, the long term outlook for jobs isn’t even as close as what Nova Scotia has created in financial and research jobs ALREADY.

    So the ‘naysaying’ is for a very specific reason, and that doesn’t even get into the point that people are DYING because of air pollution. Death AlWAYS should trump economic development, which again brings us back to all of this being a political problem. At the very least, there should be the ability for St. John to do the same as the people of Maine, which is VOTE for whether they want an oil refinery or not. A referendum at least has the benefit of ensuring that, unlike LNG terminals, the maximum benefit will be derived for the people of NB, unlike the current case of ‘give them whatever they want’.

    The world is turning to alternatives, having a ‘state of the art old technology’ is hardly an ED move, its like making a kickass horse and carriage while everybody else is buying cars.

    And its THAT move that is actually the negative one. New Brunswick right now essentially says to the world “We think so little of our own population and environment that we will do ANYTHING to get your crummy heavily polluting industry”. So there’s a reason why people ‘naysay’,because other poeple actually have GOOD ideas.