Sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik

Three quick items this morning:

1. I got an interesting newsletter this morning in my inbox called: THE POLITICAL GRIST MILL Vol. 1 No. 7 May 11/08 A New Brunswick Political Newsletter. There wasn’t a link but maybe you can google it (or whoever sent it to me can provide a link). It’s a satircal look at things but I enjoyed it. I take umbrage with one line “We shouldn’t give a rat’s hind leg what Westerners think about our transfer payments.” While this sounds nice in a Clint Eastwoodian kind of way, transfer payments are heavily influenced by politics.

2. My TJ column today will likely generate nasty emails. It’s about accountability in economic development. If BNBers take offense, I apologize but if you read through the lines on this I think you might just agree with me.

3. On the way to/from Halifax yesterday I heard three mayors talk about what they wanted to do with their cities in New Brunswick. None mentioned economic development. One vaguely talked about that “Holy Grail” of local economic development – a convention centre (tongue firmly planted in cheek). But on the whole, it seems like our mayors don’t have ED top of mind.

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0 Responses to Sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik

  1. Gawain says:

    Your TJ article was right on the money.

  2. richard says:

    “about accountability in economic development”

    Doesn’t your premise imply that these development agencies are actually responsible for the developement (small or large) that occurs during their tenure? I find that to be a stretch. I just do not see much evidence of that. Are there any good data to show that econ development has anything to do with the activities of econ dev agencies?

  3. David Campbell says:

    No, economic developments aren’t responsible for the ‘development’ in a generic sense. But they can be partially responsible for a small portion of that development and that is what they should be measured on. Richard, your comments seem to indicate that I support Soviet style central economic planning. I do not. I do, however, think that governments and community leaders do things (either de facto or deliberately) that influece economic development (good or bad). I just think we would be better off recognizing this and then determining how much effort we collectively (through our governments) should invest in economic development.

  4. mikel says:

    Soviet style central planning is VERY much in evidence, its just that the planning comes primarily from the corporate sector as opposed to government. And it is no less ‘rigid’ (in fact moreso) than a communist party. It certainly isn’t ‘the market’ that is directing New Brunswick’s foray into energy and resource giveaways. The government is giving it away at lower than market value in order to be economically viable.

    For Richard’s point, I think he MAKES Mr. Campbell’s point FOR him: there IS no good data available! That’s exactly the issue here. Until there is data then NONE of this can be adequately discussed. I’ll add that one of the main themes of the labour movement earlier last century was simply to find out what the hell was going on in the economy. If there is no data on whether an economic development agency played any part in a development then we can’t measure its effectiveness.

    Of course that effectiveness is a central concern. About a year ago Mr. Campbell pointed out that Enterprise Fundy (I think it was) had developed a proposal to develop an industrial park powered by local natural gas.

    That’s a POLITICAL problem, since it was quashed by the province. It cannot be measured by dollars and cents, but it certainly has merit as a policy proposal. If an Enterprise website has a website that a company looks at, and then the company sets up there, does it count?

    I would agree that its ‘right on the money’. Every department should have all its statistics laid out. How many small business startups did they aid? How many questions did they field? What exactly did they spend their time doing. That doesn’t just go for ED, but for EVERY govenrment department.

    Finally though, as a reminder, the analogy was off as companies prospectii have been clearly found to be no more reliable than the vague words of ED departments, in fact they are often outright lies. When companies like Enron can LOOK like they are making billions when they are bankrupt, then thats clearly not a category you can point at.

  5. nbt says:

    Soviet style central planning is VERY much in evidence, its just that the planning comes primarily from the corporate sector as opposed to government.

    We onl;y wish it came from the corporate sector, mikel. The central planning comes mainly from a bunch of shifted bureaucrats (close to government) and party hacks/flacks and officials turned higher priced consultants.

    The only difference??…the books aren’t open and Enterprise NB (and their subordinates) are not accountable to taxpayers…they just spend our dough on their friends.

  6. mikel says:

    There are hardly ANY ‘energy consultants’ in Fredericton. Which ‘party hacks’ had the idea of turning St. John into an ‘energy hub’? Irving wanted a tax break to build natural gas, wants coal effluent to make their wallboard, wants another oil refinery. You think that was some consultant in Fredericton that came up with that?

    All the provincial government did was come up with the 2026 garbage to try to make it more palatable, just like the ‘prosperity plan’ and ‘5 in 5′.

    What ‘consultant’ pitches spending all NB’s money on the highway system? You think its some party consultant? You DON”T think its construction companies like the massive one in Miramichi that has an untendered contract to ‘manage’ the TCH north of Fredericton and got a massive subsidy for this bridge development up north?

    That’s ALL corporate driven. And forget BNB, try to find out how much it costs to pay the private companies that manage the highways, or find out how many loans Irving has from the province, or hell, just find out how much money Irving has-most of it garnered through NB operations.

    The other stuff, like Caissie’s or some petty cronyism is nothing compared to what drives provincial policies-and federal policies.

    Where NBT is confused is thinking that these are two different groups of people, they are not. Graham’s father works for Atomic Energy of Canada, there’s your nuclear connection. There’s a reason why guys like McKenna get put on boards of companies like Carlyle, and why guys like Lord end up multi-millionaire’s after less than a decade in politics.

    There is, of course, cronyism in politics, nobody denies that. But just look at the big deals-nuclear (not being owned by the province mind you, the province is just assuming the risk, it will be a private venture), coal, oil and gas and highways. Even education has largely been commercialized, Irving has natural gas ads on the front of textbooks for grade schoolers and the province has announced even further privatizations with ‘community schools’.

    One of the big suppliers of educational materials is Spielo, of course the govenrment always has ‘consultants’ that they can pass the buck to, however, decision making ALWAYS rests with politicians-who are answerable to donaters, and we know who most of them are.

  7. richard says:

    “Richard, your comments seem to indicate that I support Soviet style central economic planning. I do not.”

    Heaven forbid! I’d just like to see some good datasets re the performance of the econ dev community. I am all in favor of communities doing what they can to promote responsible growth, but I am dubious wrt the consultants who seem to offer one-size fits all solutions. They seem like the economists / investment advisors who get one guess right, then trade on that for a decade.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the above dissertation on politics, corruption and influence. You are quite right that the world works on relationships and if you are fortunate to have a relationship with government, you can work it to your advantage (funny how we refer to B2B relationships as collaborations or partnerships but B2G relationships are referred to as corruption).

    However, if you are suggesting that our energies should be redirected from ED and focused on cleaning up government and removing these relationships that lead to apparent unfair advantages, we better be prepared for a long battle with minimal success. We can choice to learn the rules of the game or spend energy trying to change them.

    The rules of the game are pretty transparent; politicians want to look good so they can get re-elected. Some may be motivated by financial gain, but most are in it for recognition, power and re-election.

    Government corruption and influence is not unique to NB and it is unlikely we are going to do very much to significantly change it. Yes, some governments can do a better job than others but the fact remains you do not get elected unless you have friends that support you and as soon as you are elected, those friends remind you who elected you and who can get you re-elected. So, rather than get frustrated by things we are highly unlikely to change, let’s better understand the conditions and work them to our advantage. If there are serious ED projects that make sense for NB, and these projects need some sort of government support or endorsement, let’s channel our efforts into influencing the government to support these projects. We simply need to make sure it looks good for them and it will help them get re-elected.

    We are too quick to eat our own for breakfast; instead of crying foul or tearing down someone else’s success, let’s step up to plate with original ideas we think are better; otherwise, get ready for more frustration.

  9. mikel says:

    That was a very interesting comment above, but keep in mind that this is a blog, not a lobby group. Nobody is ‘doing’ anything, its just people sitting around talking.

    If it were a political party then I’d agree that discussions should be ‘more proactive’. Although, to be fair, David has picked many such policies in the past and if not championed them, certainly given them support.

    But understanding the political arena is critical to ‘how things work’, which is why I keep posting that these ‘policies’ are NOT coming from government-but from those who fund them.

    The reasons WHY politicians do one thing or another is irrelevant. There are 58 guys in the legislature, there are more than 20 that are almost as irrelevant to policy as you or me. Even in the liberal party there are maybe 20 at the most whose actions are important. As we’ve seen, many cabinet ministers don’t even read the files of other cabinet ministers-don’t even know what it is they are supporting.

    And its not a stretch to point at ONE guy as being the main guy. As mentioned, he spent a lot of money and influence to get there, so he’s certainly not picking policy out of his hat.

    So politics isn’t really the issue, since the whole machinery of the political system has almost ZERO to do with the actual policies that get passed. Most of the liberal policies have just been a continuation of tory policies anyway.

    That brings us back to implementing policy, and thats’ why I’ve told David before that with a blog, even a POPULAR blog, he can’t expect much. Look how much trouble parents are having with this education business, and STILL can’t get a government to back down. Now imagine you’ve got a policy that goes against Irving interests (as the resource debates do), imagine trying to get THAT some attention at the legislature. Good luck. It takes a LOT more than blogging.

  10. Anonymous says:

    “..keep in mind that this is a blog, not a lobby group. Nobody is ‘doing’ anything, its just people sitting around talking.”

    I disagree. Your consistent anti-business posts, targeted mostly at the Irving group of companies but others as well, promotes a negative business environment that is determental to the objective of this blog; to promote economic development in NB.

    This Irving bashing is nothing new or innovative; it has been going on for decades. What has been suggested is taking a different approach rather than joining the crowd of bashers. If you (we) feel Irving has unfair influence in the NB economy, why not talk about facilitating the development of new businesses that can compete for the resources you (we) suggest Irving monopolizes.

    Irving is laughing all the way to the bank with people merely complaining about their domininence; if we want to make a difference, we need to encourage new businesses to set up in NB. That is worth talking about.

  11. nbt says:

    All the provincial government did was come up with the 2026 garbage to try to make it more palatable…[…]

    They didn’t come up with it, they just took the advice of an unaccountable former bureaucrat turned executive (thx to our money btw). No wonder we’re in trouble.

    Again, it must be the people who decide our fate in NB, not a bunch of former political flack and bureaucrats. Once these guys figure that out, we’ll be fine.