Not much correlation

As you know I am a big believer in the importance of municipal government. They have the least amount of authority and the least amount of fiscal capacity of the three levels of government (although someone pointed out to me that municipal government is not actually a ‘level’ of government – it is not able to create laws – only by-laws that must be sanctioned by the province).

However, municipal government is closest to the action. And economic development happens in communities not in provinces or in countries. That is to say that companies making choices – which country, which province but eventually they settle in a specific community.

And how municipal council approaches economic development will have a lot to do with the economic success – over time – of that municipality.

Because of the issues mentioned in paragraph one, municipal government is also the quickest to pass the buck. To blame the ‘province’ for its troubles. To blame the ‘feds’. To wait to get things done on provincial funding.

And I realize the fiscal constraints but I have also witnessed communities get things done “with or without” the help of the province – and I like that model.

All this to say congratulations to the winners last night. Funny about old Norm Macfarlane in Saint John. All signs point up in that community but he got creamed coming in fourth. I guess the voters do not correlate the rising energy hub with Norm. I have met him on several occassions and found him to be quite strong – a good mayor at least from the perspective of an outsider. I do know he was dogged by some management issues. Maybe a Saint Johner can fill us in on why a fairly capable mayor in a city on the rise could be trounced like that.

Brad Woodside is Fredericton’s version of Monton’s Claudette Bradshaw. He will keep winning until he decides to stop. I had lunch with George Leblanc in Moncton before he announced his candidacy. He seems to be a good man and I am hopeful he will do a good job in Moncton. Moncton is in a bit of a tight spot. It needs both stable management out if its mayor and a vision for what’s next. Downtown development has not really occurred in any meaningful way in over a decade. Someone once said you can measure the economic position of Toronto by how many cranes you see in the downtown as you fly into that city. I think there has been one crane in downtown Moncton in the past 13 years.

Hopefully economic development is starting to dribble into the vernacular of councils – even in small municipalities – particularly our smaller towns and villages. It’s easy to wait on the province or blame the province and ignore the dozen things the village can do to improve its economic development position.

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0 Responses to Not much correlation

  1. nbt says:

    The turnout in Moncton and Riverview was pretty poor. I know the mayor’s race was over before it start (even in Moncton’s case), but what about the lack of participation by voters for the team (councilors) being elected under both of them. Don’t they count?

    Maybe it’s because they didn’t mention anything about economic development? lol Time for you to step up to the plate, David.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree that medium and larger municipalities can drive economic development. Providing they are able to explain it to the mass’. Most people do not understand investing into the future, it is not palpable. Most municipal politians have nothing but their community at heart, they do not serve a political master (read party politics).
    The root of all evil political parties. They elect people to serve the party not us taxpayers.
    Okay enough of that. Back to municipal elections and economic development. Here is a question for you and my answer to it, (but very interested in your feedback),

    How to kill economic development?

    Elect new Mayor, and have him say: ” We will sit down with developers and have them open up their secret contracts with the City, and if they refuse we will bring them to the courts.
    “Nanana hey hey hey good bye.”
    How stupid can this be? Just what every entrepreneur wants to hear right?

  3. mikel says:

    I’d really disagree with the above. People are VERY interested in investing in the future. Do you think people WANT their kids spread out across the world? People would LOVE to see a functioning economy where their kids were close to home. On mothers day we were talking to all our friends, all of whom were having both sets of mothers over for barbecue’s. The maritime version of that is calling home and asking which other siblings also called.

    Everybody KNOWS its ‘the economy stupid’, but its not the people who are stupid. The people have kids all over the world who talk about life in their respective provinces/countries. Every NBer KNOWS that ontario is propped up by the feds and the auto sector.

    But people aren’t stupid. They KNOW that a multi million dollar tax write off for an LNG plant that will employ ten people won’t help, and they know that turning Saint John into an energy hub will do squat for Miramichi.

    In smaller towns they know that every time they try to control their resources, its the province that gets in the way.

    And of course every NBer knows what fifty years of Irving domination has done. Every farmer’s son from the valley knows what fifty years of McCains has done.

    That’s EXACTLY why David’s soft cell never flies-and at least the people have the tangible experiences to point to, rather than the vague ideas.

    As for the scenario above, that’s simply a matter of public policy. If somebody does business with the government, that contract should be public. If they don’t like it, there are others who will.

  4. mikel says:

    I’d really disagree with the above. People are VERY interested in investing in the future. Do you think people WANT their kids spread out across the world? People would LOVE to see a functioning economy where their kids were close to home. On mothers day we were talking to all our friends, all of whom were having both sets of mothers over for barbecue’s. The maritime version of that is calling home and asking which other siblings also called.

    Everybody KNOWS its ‘the economy stupid’, but its not the people who are stupid. The people have kids all over the world who talk about life in their respective provinces/countries. Every NBer KNOWS that ontario is propped up by the feds and the auto sector.

    But people aren’t stupid. They KNOW that a multi million dollar tax write off for an LNG plant that will employ ten people won’t help, and they know that turning Saint John into an energy hub will do squat for Miramichi.

    In smaller towns they know that every time they try to control their resources, its the province that gets in the way.

    And of course every NBer knows what fifty years of Irving domination has done. Every farmer’s son from the valley knows what fifty years of McCains has done.

    That’s EXACTLY why David’s soft cell never flies-and at least the people have the tangible experiences to point to, rather than the vague ideas.

    As for the scenario above, that’s simply a matter of public policy. If somebody does business with the government, that contract should be public. If they don’t like it, there are others who will.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Norm was bounced in part because of the perception, earned or not, that he was in the pockets of the Irvings.

  6. richard says:

    “The root of all evil political parties”

    That is flat-out nonsense. The root of all evil in this case is the funding of campaigns. We have no idea who is funding the campaigns of most municipal politicians, nor what the funders have been promised in return. Municipal government, due to lack of oversight by anyone, is likely a large source of political corruption in this province.

  7. mikel says:

    Good issue above, there’s a lot of that view going around. However, I suspect that many of the same players are involved at BOTH the provincial and municipal levels.

    I think each are responsible for a different TYPE of corruption, but perhaps corruption is too strong a word in most cases.

    The IRving LNG terminal showed that both levels have essentially the same mindset. I picked up a textbook on municipal government in canada and it stated outright that it was largely run by developers. That it is that true it becomes ‘theory’ shows just how true it is.

    Campaign donations are definitely a problem, in the states at the state level governments are increasingly not letting ANY donations run campaigns. They forbid them and give each candidate a stipend.

    Party politics doesn’t help, but I certainly isn’t responsible for ‘all the evils’. There are too many of those in the system to even list them all.

  8. Geeks on Ice says:

    The issue with turnout IMO has to do with the poor messaging from the candidates and poor media coverage.

    All candidates said the same, there was no councillor running in my ward that diffirentiated themselves, thus not creating a compeling need to turnout. Not to mention only one showed up at my door…

    How many campaign signs and pamphlets would say the following?

    “A strong voice for Ward 4″
    “let me be your voice”
    “Strong Leadership”
    “Accountable”
    “I’m going to lower taxes”

    Hey, I’m all for lowering taxes and fighting for your ward, but isn’t that a given? How do you plan to lower taxes as a councillor with limited powers? What’s your stand on our city’s green policy, WIFI access, transit, arts, Economic Development initiatives, zoning developments, the casino…

    The result for me was that I voted for an incumbent and whomever had the nicest sign… LoL

    A sad reality indeed
    Another peeve was media coverage… There was nill on election night and even the blogsphere was non-existent.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Municipal ED efforts seemed to have evaporated with the introduction of the Enterprise networks.

    The EN appear to be in no man’s land; sort of a BNB responsibility, sort of ACOA and sort of the municipality.

    You are bang on with your column; accountability, targets and good reporting would solve some of the mystery.

  10. richard says:

    “The IRving LNG terminal showed that both levels have essentially the same mindset.:

    I’d say that, provincially, the ‘mindset’ is simply to get as many jobs as possible created as soon as possible (i.e in time for the next election). Other than that, I don’t believe that their statements around LNG, Lepreau, uranium, etc are anything more than rhetoric to cover their real desire: jobs, jobs, jobs = re-election.

    There is no grand plan from this government; they’re just too weak-minded and have not a clue what to do.

  11. nbt says:

    Municipal ED efforts seemed to have evaporated with the introduction of the Enterprise networks.

    Wow!! Finally someone said it. More importantly, what are the successes of these so-called unaccountable experts within these central planning organizations which render these weak and vulnerable municipal government’s useless and dependent (on them) by preying on their scarce and limited resources, not to mention leaving them on the hook each fiscal year. I mean honestly, have any of their two cent studies become reality or helpful for that matter? Would they not be better off clearing a vision without the interference of these pseudo experts (who end up handcuffing them)?

    Geeks makes a great point about the thin election rhetoric on the pamphlets. Could this not be said about many of the ED studies and reports as well. At least we can throw out the candidates we believe to be incompetent, can’t say the same about the soviet style entrenched ring NBers call Enterprise NB.

    Has my hatred for corporate welfare and Trudeauesk regional development agencies come out in this post???? I hope so. lol

  12. mikel says:

    It’s not exactly true about jobs, there’s no doubt for potash and for NEW investment in resources the idea is to do anything for jobs, however, the jobs are secondary.

    As David frequently points out, in any other region the sucking sound of people fleeing the province would be practically a regional emergency. In NB its rarely even brought up. When the bathurst mine was closing Lord didn’t even blink for the miners.

    In forestry, there are 40,000 small woodlot owners, more than there are working for all the leaseholders combined, yet that didn’t stop the axe hitting silviculture and policies certainly are not being advanced to create more jobs there.

    If the province were even remotely interested in jobs then there would at least be some conditions tacked onto Irving plants being built-they simply don’t care.

    And as we’ve discussed before, unlike Nova Scotia, New Brunswick doesn’t even attach tax credits per number of employees-thats how little they care.

    As for the Enterprise system, there is a real dearth of information out there. It MAY be all those things above, but it may also be helpful in a province where so much is rural. It’s not like Tide Head is going to have an economic development staff. And we have seen some proposals come out of them, like the gas park mentioned before-only to be quashed by the province.

    THe more I’ve been reading about other areas the more problematic and centralized NB seems to be. That seems to be a real problem in other areas as well-look at education and health. And again, those are political, not economic problems.

  13. nbt says:

    As David frequently points out, in any other region the sucking sound of people fleeing the province would be practically a regional emergency.

    Very true. But again, if government remains top heavy and inefficient in New Brunswick where friends are being rewarded because they remain close to the party in power, then democracy will never really work for the average citizen will it?

    Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t go on in other provinces and countries, but in a weak and dependent economy like NB, it seems to show more because it’s practically all we got.

    I would like to see some form of PR brought in to the NB legislature, not to mention, a ban of corporate welfare once and for all. These two issues, I believe, would change quite a bit on the ground in our province.

  14. mikel says:

    As said, that goes on practically everywhere-at least in north america. However, the ‘dependancy’ that dissuades is not the public one-hell, if that were true nobody would care about Venezuela and no oil company would want to go near Norway.

    What’s never talked about is the dependancy on the large corporations. That, more than anything the province does acts as a deterrent. Corporations like to have the governments ear, in place where its so obvious that somebody already has that ear corporations will avoid it like the plague.

    However, that’s also partly irrelevant. As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, growth is occurring in knowledge industries, and NB is seriously lacking in the education department.

    That has nothing to do with democracy, just like corporate welfare has nothing to do with democracy-technically PR doesn’t either but that’s another story. I doubt PR would have much effect in New Brunswick, anything is a step up, but the two big parties are already so similar that there are few areas where they really conflict.