Legitimate question (I think so anyway)

This is a serious question. I have been meeting with government officials the past couple of days and this issue keeps burning in the back of my mind. Someone please provide an answer based on some knowledge of the question.

Why wouldn’t the Prime Minister of Canada get on a plane with the Premier of New Brunswick and go visit Company X (a huge lead let’s say) and pitch the merits of investing in this province?

Because I don’t really buy this argument that it wouldn’t be ‘fair’. Ontario is running TV spots in global markets and advertisments in some of the most read publications in the world. Quebec the same. It seems to me that the larger provinces in Canada might not even need the PM on an investment visit. But smaller provinces like New Brunswick, with no international brand, having the PM and the country in question ambassador opening the door, I bet that they could get a meeting with Volkswagen or Microsoft or Nokia or Tata or whatever.

It just seems to me that the PM would accrue so much good will by doing a few of these each year – I can’t believe it doesn’t happen. Why the PM doesn’t want to associate directly with efforts to fix NB’s economic problems is a mystery to me. Helping site a 1,000 person manufacturing plant in Bathurst would endear him far more to the people of Northern New Brunswick than just about anything else he could do.

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0 Responses to Legitimate question (I think so anyway)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m guessing there aren’t enough seats to bother making the effort.

    Elections are decided in Ontario and Quebec, they’re focusing the attention where it might pay off with a majority.

  2. mikel says:

    The above just said it for me, but it really needs to be rammed into people’s heads. ‘Fairness’ has ZERO to do with politics. Hell, like the US we live in a country that can’t get its federal government to do ANYTHING that its citizens want. That’s a little bit of a stretch, but not much.

    But the west didn’t care when Paul Martin went to Japan to sell ontario to Toyota. However, that was a MAJOR crisis point, because if Toyota wasn’t expanding in ontario, ontario would be in deep doo doo.

    The PM is supposed to be above this stuff and I don’t think I know of any political leader that has publicly gone to a specific company to sell X to X.

    And of course Harper would be the last guy to do that. He’s pretty much stated that economic chips will fall where they may. The economic ‘model’ is simple-people aren’t supposed to BE in New Brunswick if there are no jobs. Go to ontario, go to alberta, go to the US, go to China-thats the global economy. Certainly not ‘lets pick the biggest backwater and put a lot of effort into shoring up their economiy’.

    That may be what PEOPLE want, but its certainly not what politicians want. But here’s a quick example, is it ‘fair’ for the feds to set up three new federal bureaucratic departments in Quebec when Quebec’s own representatives vote against it? Quebec’s representatives didn’t even WANT those federal jobs, now how much do you think ANY province on the atlantic seaboard would complain about hundreds of new federal jobs?

    But again, like the west now, quebec and ontario have the seats. That’s why I’ve been saying at blogs that at LEAST bloggers and maritimers should start talking about a federal atlantica party. We live in a country that by accident has the equivalent of Proportional Representation. Can you imagine if 30 of those seats right now were The Atlantica Party? Hell, can you imagine if at least maritimers voted NDP. That would give them control of not only the NDP, but also the balance of power in Ottawa.

    That’s what COULD have happened, but instead, there is simply no political agenda for the east. And to play the devil’s advocate, if people are dumb enough to keep voting in the same two parties over and over again instead of doing the work of getting decent representation, then really what does that say about the region? (that’s meant to be sort of snide and simplistic, but that’s very much the view of the rest of canada which DOES do that work).

  3. AC says:

    Why would Harper hang with a Liberal? And what would Harper gain by coming here? All of the Atlantic Provinces can be outvoted by Quebec alone which makes it quite clear that we are weak.

  4. AC says:

    Why would Harper hang with a Liberal? And what would Harper gain by coming here? All of the Atlantic Provinces can be outvoted by Quebec alone which makes it quite clear that we are weak.

  5. David Campbell says:

    Beware the stupid question but does everything have to be about politics? How much trouble would it be for Stephen Harper to visit a hot business prospect with Premier Graham? It’s too bad if everything comes down to politics.

  6. mikel says:

    Actually, its GOOD that everything comes down to politics. Go to Alec Bruce’s website and you can read both his take on the recession and my reply which was based on the BBC’s ‘Dispatches’ show. The entire recession we are facing essentially comes down to problems in the market. That’s ‘business’. That’s what happens when everything comes down to economics, stupid.

    The GOOD thing about politics, is that people can DO something about it. Quebec got cheesed off, Quebec got a PQ and BQ and got lots of economic goodies. The west got cheesed, same story.

    As Alec admits, there is virtually nothing you or I or anybody can do about global equity positions, but politics is a different story. IF there were an Atlantica Party in my former scenario, you may not see Harper doing the soft shoe sell, but you’d certainly see a hell of a lot more interest in the maritimes.

    For the political aspect a good summary would be: “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it”.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your answer is FOCUS. More specifically, lack of focus.

    Ontario focused on the auto sector and had legislation, trade policy, free trade agreements, government departments, new funding programs, taxation policy, labour regulations and so on all subsequently fall into place complements of the Canadian taxpayers. Getting the PM on a plane to meet with the President of Toyota about a new manufacturing plant in Ontario is natural, it is defendable, it is logical, it is realistic, and it is practical.

    The same story could be told of Quebec’s aerospace industry.

    So, New Brunswick asks the PM to get on a plane to talk to hot prospect about establishing a high tech financial services company in New Brunswick. As soon as he does that, the papers are filled with accusations of favoritism and the PMO is flooded with requests, demanding the PM make the same effort for forestry, aquaculture, energy, mining, fisheries, agriculture, food & beverage, contact centers…you get the idea. At this point, let’s not consider the pent up anguish ready to be unleashed from other special non-sector battles in New Brunswick such as north vs. south, Anglophone/Francophone, Moncton/Saint John/Fredericton, and urban/rural.

    By trying to be everything to everyone the absolute best we can hope for is mediocrity. In fact, we make it dead easy for Ottawa to ignore us; they can, and have, just sit back and let us self destruct. Come to think of it, who would dare to wade into these battles? Why would the PM risk political capital on NB ED when it appears our most significant political issues are things like toll highways, moose fencing and auto insurance rates? With issues like these at the forefront, one could easily assume that education, health care and economic development are well under control.

    If we want to make a significant difference in ED in NB, we have to focus efforts on something that makes sense for NB. It worked for Korea with shipbuilding. We have seen it work for Ontario and Quebec. Closer to home it worked for PEI with aerospace. Yes, we have a small number of Federal seats but if any government can take credit for making significant progress towards a sustainable economy in NB, they would do it. We just have to make it easy for them.

    NB has to prioritize a logical sector that holds promise for growth, and we have to allow for focus; correct that, we have to encourage focus and celebrate it. This means consistently prioritizing funding programs, prioritizing trade missions, prioritizing requests to the federal government, prioritizing policy and regulatory changes. It means developing a 5 year plan and sticking with it. It means regular mention in news stories, speeches, and press conferences. It means having universities and colleges focused on the sector. It means making it easy for related businesses to excel. It means telling ACOA, NRC and others that NB needs help with the sector.

    It does not mean ignoring all our other interests; it simply means tolerating some focus and prioritization.

    So, for argument’s sake, if NB’s goal is to be the leading source of greener energy for Canada, then the PM can easily accept NB’s invitation to meet with German windmill manufacturers, French nuclear power companies, Dutch tidal power companies, Italian geothermal companies etc. who are seriously considering setting up in NB. It means the PM can objectively consider ACOA initiates related to the sector. It means the PM can, without hesitation, entertain enhancements to SRED credits, education programs, immigration policy and tax policy to support the sector. It means the PM will encourage entrepreneurs and spin off businesses associated with the sector. It means the PM can freely encourage NB research into nuclear energy, clean coal, biofuels, solar energy, tidal energy etc.

    As it stands now, how can the PM support our ED focal point when we don’t know what it is ourselves?

  8. richard says:

    anonymous’s comment (5:03) nailed it. There is little evidence that NB has a plan or knows where it wants to go. Without that, no federal party will do much for us.

    The Graham government has an opportunity with energy, but they seem to be squandering that opportunity with a short-term ‘construction jobs’ approach. No focussed attempt to use cheap power to attract white collar jobs, no focussed attempt to use the forestry sector as a source of bioenergy or biomass products,no focussed attempts to push universities to develop research projects in any of these areas.

  9. mikel says:

    Interesting comments, but I think the evidence suggests otherwise. Energy gets TONS of focus, but again, not the kind of energy YOU like. Auto jobs didn’t go to ontario because people asked for it, aerospace didn’t go to Quebec because people held a referendum on it. It came because business interests were there that lobbied for it.

    The same goes for NB. THEre is TONS of focus. In fact we usually agree here at this site that there is TOO MUCH focus. THere is so much focus in fact, that the government doesn’t even bother to put together a package for the arts and cultural sectors. So much focus that the province essentially ignores EVERY industry but energy.

    And for energy they’ve been very specific. Getting gas to northern New Brunswick from Quebec, getting another oil refinery in Saint John, getting a new nuclear station for the Saint John area. Wind energy is also ‘clear’, they won’t develop it, but they’ll subsidize Alberta companies to set up wind farms.

    I don’t see how that can be lack of focus, virtually every time they make a statement its about energy and how it will bring ‘self sufficience’. For mining its by ownership of the minerals under private land and they’ve stated they certainly aren’t going to stand in the way of the mining industry, even if it may affect water supplies.

    I really don’t see how they can be MORE focused. And they are that focused on those things, because those are where the jobs are and those are the industries with a voice. There is no talk about manufacturing german windmills, because there are no german windmill manufacturers. There is no talk about biomass because there is nobody doing it.

    From the feds, again there is PLENTY of ‘focus’. One of Harper’s chief advisors is Brian Crowley, the President of AIMS and the biggest pusher of ‘Atlantica’. The PM has SAID- AND given money toward projects that are aimed towards the Atlantic Gateway initiative. There’s a reason why your provincial debt got added to by 300 million for a small section of highway and why Graham has made it clear that highways (at least the ‘through’ highways) are priority number one.

    The issue is that YOU guys don’t like that focus, and its no surprise, given all the reasons that are mentioned above. However, to say there’s NO focus is a mistake, its just a CORPORATE focus-which is essentially the same as in most parts of the world. And here, like in most of the world, people are starting to realize that what’s good for the Irvings, or AECL’s , or even Shawn Graham’s, is not whats in the best interests of the people.

    As for ‘green energy’, thats a perfect example because polls show that even in New Brunswick the environment is the number one concern. Yet the province can’t even fill a room with Green Party supporters, even the NDP has environmental policies but they are a no show as well. And of course even at this marginalized blog we’ve seen the reception that just about anything the conservation council says gets-and they are the only political voice that’s actually pushing green power. It would be interesting to know if the poster above who frequently talks about green energy is even a member of the conservation council. Again, with no political voice you can’t expect politicians to respond. It’s not like they read blogs and say “hey yeah, why didn’t we think of that”

  10. richard says:

    “As for ‘green energy’…”

    Mikel, I wish you would try reading posts prior to replying to them. You are creating strawmen. Both anon (5:03) and myself referred to green energy and specifically said it should be part of the energy focus. We both said that there was more to energy than refineries. You replied with more bafflegab; there is damn little point in trying to have the last word when you have nothing to say.

    NB has limited financial resources. Energy developments are on the way; you can’t stop them. The province can, however, with the right focus, use its limited financial and policy resources to ensure that these developments are leveraged to develop sustainable high-paying jobs. The forestry sector can be a big player in bioenergy and biomass; a huge range of spin-off industries can flow from that. NB just needs a government with the right focus.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if Mikel was being sarcastic or just was not aware but, for the record, Germany is a powerhouse of wind energy. This link provides an overview and a list of 60 German companies involved in the sector.

    http://www.german-renewable-energy.com/Renewables/Navigation/Englisch/wind-power.html

    Here are a couple quotes from the site:

    “With more than a third of the world’s installed capacity, no other country has more wind turbines than Germany. According to figures from the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), 18,685 plants with a capacity of 20,622 megawatts were in operation at the end of 2006.”

    Poster’s note: While you need to de-rate the capacity for wind conditions, using a 1 for 1 comparison, 20,622 MW is equivalent to about 20 new CANDU reactors (which are rated at about 1000 MW)

    As for the economic mpact, check this:
    “… the wind energy industry has developed into an enormous economic factor, with a 5.64 billion euro turnover in Germany in 2006 and more than 73,800 people employed in the sector. Services provided by German manufacturers of wind turbines include planning, construction, equipment, systems engineering, plant supervision, finance packages and training. Exports are already playing a very important and ever-increasing role in the German wind industry. The export rate lies at 71 percent and the revenue from foreign business amounts to nearly 3.5 billion euros.”

    I think New Brunswick could benefit from a piece of this action. If we were focused, we would not be just buying the damn things, we’d be looking to convert our purchase commitments into ED opportunities. Why couldn’t we be the North American headquarters for German wind turbine technology? Germans like Atlantic Canada and they like the 50% overlap of time zones we offer.

    BTW, this German government web site is a good example of promoting capability. Check out the Biomass, Solar, Water and Geothermics links. Now these guys look like they are focused on energy. It is more than being a cheerleader at an Irving or AECL press release. It is moving things to the next level and thinking a few steps ahead to promote and export.

  12. mikel says:

    The posters clearly said the problem was LACK of focus and then they “don’t have a plan”.

    What I said was that was WRONG, so how can that be a ‘strawman’? I gave ALL KINDS of evidence that that is wrong, that there is a STRONG focus. That is opposite to what the two posters state above, so its no wonder you don’t like it, however, present some evidence contrary to the facts above.

    Just because YOU guys say something doesn’t make it a fact. Just because my opinion is separate from yours doesn’t make it worth less. If you THINK they have no focus-then PROVE it. I gave lots of evidence to the contrary, if you don’t have a rebuttal or anything to back up your opinion, don’t blame me and say I’m creating straw men.

    I said exactly what you did above-that there needs to be a government with the RIGHT focus (or at least a focus that isn’t aimed at Irving or AECL).

    This is very important for people to understand, its not a case of a wishy washy government floating around without policies, they have LOTS of them, but like the posters above agree, they AREN”T what the public wants (why is it OK for you to say it but not me?)

    As for energy, one thing people need to understand is that there is NOTHING that ‘cannot be stopped’. It may be ‘unlikely’ or ‘difficult’, but who knows what people are capable of. New Brunswick has been barely making ends meet when the economy has been burgeoning, who knows what may happen now that they are talking about recessions.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if Mikel was being sarcastic or just was not aware but, for the record, Germany is a powerhouse of wind energy. This link provides an overview and a list of 60 German companies involved in the sector.

    http://www.german-renewable-energy.com/Renewables/Navigation/Englisch/wind-power.html

    Here are a couple quotes from the site:

    “With more than a third of the world’s installed capacity, no other country has more wind turbines than Germany. According to figures from the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), 18,685 plants with a capacity of 20,622 megawatts were in operation at the end of 2006.”

    Poster’s note: While you need to de-rate the capacity for wind conditions, using a 1 for 1 comparison, 20,622 MW is equivalent to about 20 new CANDU reactors (which are rated at about 1000 MW)

    As for the economic mpact, check this:
    “… the wind energy industry has developed into an enormous economic factor, with a 5.64 billion euro turnover in Germany in 2006 and more than 73,800 people employed in the sector. Services provided by German manufacturers of wind turbines include planning, construction, equipment, systems engineering, plant supervision, finance packages and training. Exports are already playing a very important and ever-increasing role in the German wind industry. The export rate lies at 71 percent and the revenue from foreign business amounts to nearly 3.5 billion euros.”

    New Brunswick could benefit from a piece of this action. If we were focused, we would not be just buying and installing wind turbines, we’d be looking to leverage our purchases into ED opportunities. Why couldn’t we be the North American headquarters for German wind turbine technology? If we were focused and had a plan, these are the types of opportunities we would pursue. Being focused is more than being a cheerleader at an Irving or AECL press release. It is moving things to the next level and thinking a few steps ahead to promote and export.

    BTW, this German government web site is a good example for NB. Check out the Biomass, Solar, Water and Geothermics links. These guys look like they are focused on energy as an ED opportunity.

  14. mikel says:

    Again guys, perhaps I didn’t explain it well, but I certainly didn’t say that Germany wasn’t into wind resources, most of europe is very heavy into alternative sources.

    What I said was that none of that exists in NB because wind power is not the focus. The focus is mining, nuclear, oil and gas.

    I don’t think most NBers would disagree with the post above (though I don’t know of any polls on the subject). However, think of it from a german manufacturers point of view, would you want to set up in NB, or in PEI, which wants to expand wind farms, has lots more experience than NB, and has an aerospace engineering base with a strong technology base?

    But I’ll say it again because it hasn’t seemed to sink in. That is YOUR focus, or a focus you’d like to see. Obviously NB COULD have that focus, ANY province CAN have any focus they want.

    My point is that you guys think that they don’t HAVE a focus, so think you may be making a recommendation to a government that ‘doesn’t have a plan’. What I’m saying is that they HAVE a plan, your ideas (and the interests of a lot of NBers) simply aren’t part of that plan.

    And there are powerful interests who don’t WANT that focus. Why would Irving, which gets paid more than market value from NB Power want wind energy? They do want it in some places, they’ve been trying to set up wind power in PEI-ever wonder why they wouldn’t want to in NB, a province that pretty much caves to just about anything they want?

    In order to change focus, you have to work within the political system, there is simply no other way. Right now that means the tory party, since the liberals have stated their focus. The tories aren’t that different, however, like any party they know they need power to do anything. The other option is to get organized and try to get that focus on the radar. That means organization and lobbying. Other than that, it’s just blowing smoke, and that’s the closest wind power development you can expect.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “There is no talk about manufacturing german windmills, because there are no german windmill manufacturers.”

    Mikel, sorry if I misunderstood this statement; guess you meant none in New Brunswick.

    We have been talking about focus. Government ED resources (150 BNB, 100 or so Enterprise employees, ACOA etc)are certainly supportive of mining, energy etc that is being led by the private sector.

    My point is, while it is pleasant that they (our ED resources)are cheering on the private sector, they need to do more to make their own mark on ED. They need a strategy, a focus, a plan. For example,they need to find out what would entice a German windmill manufacturer to make NB their North American (and NAFTA region) headquarters. If they can find such niches and have a unified voice to the Feds, maybe, just maybe, Ottawa would open up their wallet and help NB as they have helped Ontario and Quebec.

    Both levels of government would be willing to do this now if the general public were more accepting of it; unfortunately we start family fueds and self destruct. Hell, they are even fighting about who had more flood impact, Fredericton or Edmunston. This culture and mentality has to change before any government can; it is a two way street. We have to encourage and welcome focus.

  16. mikel says:

    I see what you mean, but I would dispute that. There is ZERO evidence that things function like that. There is NO evidence that municipal infighting extends past the Irving media into industry.

    Again, we can use Moncton as an example. WHen the rail yard closed and massive provincial spending, ACOA spending, and federal spending, went into building up Moncton, there was no ‘infighting’. St. John didn’t bitch and complain.

    Unfortunately, what we see again and again is the effect of a media monopoly. Irving LOVES to pretend it is pitting one city against another. Look at the example of the province’s decision to move Health administration to Miramichi. They write a few editorials to make it seem like ‘the south’ is ‘against the north’. Of course they never printed such things when the Dept of energy was being relocated to St. John.

    But when the media is owned by ONE family, then the effect is that people think that what that ONE family says-is what New Brunswickers are thinking.

    That, by and large, is rarely the case. When the province was going to the wall to bail out Nackawic, there was no cry from anywhere else.

    An LNG terminal, of course, could have gone anywhere. The province COULD have said Irving could only put it in Belledune, to help out the port. The PEOPLE of the north weren’t saying anything about that, and even if they did, it had NO effect on public policy.

    Recently there has been more talk about setting up an english medical school in Saint John. Again, Frederictonians never ‘got wind’ of such an idea and began crying foul.

    What happens is there are a FEW cases like the trauma centre that get overblown and get people thinking that this is true, when there is no evidence of it-except in the Irving papers.

    Look at another example, did St. Johners scream and cry when Molson got a plant in Moncton? Not at all, and even if they did, it made no difference on the deal. So if a ‘deal’ is made, its made.

    In fact, you can look at reports and I suspect that IF the government were talking about proactively building green projects that there would be TONS of support. Things like wind power have enormous support, and of course they benefit rural areas most, but benefit everybody overall. Most green energy is highly decentralized, which helps rural areas-and there are LOTS of rural people.

    The province has the final say so on industrial developments. ACOA just does some meagre funding, while the enterprise locations can’t get any funding for much of anything. That means its irrelevant what ‘people’ say or ‘get behind’.

    So I’d suggest that that is COMPLETELY wrong. It is the government that has the vested issue here and its pretty plain to see. People aren’t sitting back waiting to nix industrial developments of ANY kind. However, people do what GOOD developments. Take for example uranium mining. On another blog a poster was talking about a woman who owned land and was very much opposed to uranium mining ‘in principle’ but wanted the jobs.

    That’s pretty common. Again, the ‘green’ problem is not the people. They didn’t make the asinine promise of lowering the gas tax only to support a gas tax and then get hit with an income tax hike. These are GOVERNMENT decisions. The problem, I believe the evidence shows, is that when it comes to ‘green’ investments it is precisely the opposite to the above. THe PEOPLE genuinely want them, it is the government and the interests they serve that is obviously very much against it.

    Again, people are free to post evidence that may suggest an alternative position, but I see little.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Wow you are off base with your comments Mikel; I am not attacking you personally, I understand that the internal workings and in-fighting is not always public and more difficult to sense if you are out of the province.

    A good example of the internal fighting is with the NRC ITT center headquartered in Fredericton. There were delays in getting it in place. There was so much turmoil with this that they watered down the effort and put a little something in each city. It went beyond a friendly competition where communities put their best pitch forward. NRC officials wre asking (off the record) what kind of place is this? Is it really worth the hassle coming here?

    There was intense jealousy of Moncton and the ED efforts there. At first it was accepted then, as success grew, it was a souce of friction and bitterness by other cities.

    The medical school is a boondoggle. A province with the population of Mississauga can hardly afford its own school but we have to have to have two; the one already started in Moncton plus Saint John. Duality and redundancy concerns are responsible for many delays and avoidances; if there was confidence we would only have to fund one medical school, we may have had it by now.

    Moosehead and Saint John (rightly so) called foul when their competition was being subsidized to set up in Moncton. Even Nova Scotia put up protectionist measures by initially refusing to drop the extra tax on non-domestic beer. BTW Moosehead later received $ for expansion and NS eventually recognized Coors as locally brewed so all are happy now.

    However, the point is not to argue these details. The point is, David asked why the PM would not get on a plane to pursue an opportunity with NB. Part of the answer to that question is that we do not have a unified voice. If we want ED similar to Ontario’s automotive industry or Quebec’s aerospace sector, we must encourage ED resources to focus and rally behind a common cause. There are many examples of success globally and nationally that this works (e.g. PEI aerospace)

  18. Anonymous says:

    David, are PQ ED people reading your blog and stealing ideas? Interesting story regarding PQ leveraging $3.3B of ED with wind energy.
    See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/article/287662