As you know, in recent years, I have become a big believer that we need to have far more discussion in the public square about economic development and the role of government and communities in fostering economic development.

There are a number of good university-based institutes that are studying issues related to development in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. Think of the Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada Studies at UNB or the Rural and Small Town Programme at Mount Allison University.

But there seems to be a derth of study and analysis of the most basic, fundamental problem that has been at the heart of Atlantic Canada’s economic woes for a hundred years. That is the fact that this region has witnessed chronically low levels of business investment (domestic and foreign direct invesmtent) – for decades.

Here are some of the current study themes at the chair in Atlantic Canada Studies:.
*How Atlantic Canada Invented the Welfare State
*Community Stability & the Role of Migration in Rural Areas Experiencing Demographic Decline
*Immigrants, Temporary Migrants, Work, and Rural Community Well-Being
*Cultural Diversity and Health in Rural Atlantic Canada

And there are dozens more at these various institutes and very few are focused on that huge matzah ball that is business investment.

It’s almost like we want to dance around the issue – talk about effects – analyze dozens of derivative areas – without ever talking seriously about the fundamental problem.

How about a symposium on these topics?
*Getting the fundamentals right – the role of infrastructure as catalyst for new business investment.
*What are the medium and longer term effects of attracting FDI to stimulate economic development in rural economies? Case studies from Alabama and Ireland.
*Environmental technologies – New Brunswick’s next ‘call centre’ level growth engine?
*Why manufacturing is on the decline in New Brunswick – and models for growth.
*Attracting venture capital – the good, bad and ugly.
*People follow investment – getting the sequence right when looking at immigration and repatriation.
*Using energy as a competitive advantage for the attraction of business investment.

Or even more specific academic level analysis of trends such as:
*FDI into New Brunswick – a 20 year view.
*Why we need more Bricklins – the case for targeted industrial development.
*Has the 25 year policy of fostering small business creation in New Brunswick led to more entrepreneurship or more people with lower earnings and without pensions?
*The long term effects of out-migration – the loss of human capital.
*Why New Brunswick is not an export-intensive economy – debunking a popular myth.

I’m not trying to be nasty here. Is it because these academics are mostly historians? Or social scientists? Is an economic development track not compatable and even integral to the discussion of virtually all of these broader issues?

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0 Responses to

  1. richard says:

    “Is it because these academics are mostly historians? Or social scientists?”

    Or is it because the economic discipline is in such disarray and so discredited that the talent pool no longer exists to staff these positions? Economics as a discipline has become so entrenched in politics that independent economists (the ones that accept that facts are facts and are ready to modify hypotheses accordingly) are an endangered species. Instead we have partisan hacks in ‘think’ tanks (AIMS, Fraser, etc) and academia (e.g. Watson at McGill) that propagandize irrespective of the data case supporting their positions. Their yammering has done considerable damage over the past two decades; so much so that I wonder if tax policies that discourage their activity are not required.

    Economic analyses of the topics you raise is very important, but we aren’t going to get that from the economics community.

  2. mikel says:

    Those are papers for economists, those institutions are not “AIMS”, they are exactly what they say they are. Not to be nasty but FDI is YOUR mantra, not everybody else’s. I’ve mentioned before about mentioning studies from CCPA and fair enough, you say you don’t like them so you don’t talk about them. Likewise, these institutions are not set up to do what AIMS does, what you do, and what corporate canada wants-which is try to justify a view of reality in merely economic terms.

    For a symposium, those are not hard to put on. Contact the business school at U de M, get them to set aside a room, contact all the profs you like, and you could probably even be a featured speaker. Things like that are remarkably easy to do.

    For the studies themselves, again, thats YOUR interest, so why not present a paper? AIMS would certainly feature it, they have studies that don’t even pass the muster of a peer reviewed economics journal. You must have tons of stuff lying around from your work, even feature it here. You ‘maybe’ might have enough stuff posted on your blog already, but I’d suggest it be a little more rigourous and you don’t get more ‘peer reviewed’ than the folks here (meaning criticism).

  3. nbt says:

    The academia world is good for the mere fact that the information offered up by these institutes may be used or discredited. Simple as that.

    As you always said, throw enough up there against the wall and something is bound to stick. They do it too, just with greater attention to detail and ideology.

  4. Vincerolly says:

    In fact, significant high-quality research was performed on the fundamental challenges facing the Canadian economy by the Science Council of Canada (SCC) and the Economic Council of Canada (ECC)before they were both phased out in the early 1990s. The SCC even undertook a detailed analysis of the factors supporting economic development in a program it called the Technology Engine. And a significant expenditure of effort was expended in Atlantic Canada. The results, outlined in a number of reports and monographs, have been held up as best practice models in Ireland, NSW Australia and other countries where the blueprints have been applied.

    More recently, the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology (NABST) wrote comprehensive assessments of innovation capability, with important sectors focused on the Maritimes as well as sector studies that, in total, created a set of more than 20 documents that are still used in OECD and TEP studies.

    Many of the topics you have elaborated on have been the subject of intense scrutiny. These documents languished because there was no political will on either side of the House to foment action and in any event, there was no force in the private sector to propel these issues forward. There was no sense of urgency and a distinct shortage of support for the need to create — and support — excellence. Even though the evidence that we now live in perilous times is thick on the ground, we could well ask whether that will exists today, whether we are able to overthrow the burdensome mantle of complacency or even if we have the drive to relentlessly pursue that excellence and sustain that trajectory, and whether there are political figures that are willing to draw their own blood to support the necessary sacrifice.

  5. mikel says:

    Interesting post above, just to add to the point about implementation of policy, here’s part of the problem from wikipedia:

    “The board was established in 1987 by the government of Brian Mulroney, and was chaired by the Prime Minister.[1] It was dissolved by the government of Jean Chrétien in 1995, and replaced by an Advisory Committee on Science and Technology. The National Advisory Board’s findings were made public, while the Advisory Committee reported to the government in secret.[2]”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yes, secrecy is useful for political leaders who would otherwise need to be accountable for their inaction.

  7. richard says:

    vincerolly, that’s very useful information. Would these studies be available as pdfs?

  8. Vincerolly says:

    Richard, incredibly, when the SCC and ECC were disbanded, virtually all documents and research information remaining in the Ottawa offices were destroyed. The SCC Technology Engine and sector studies were performed in the late 1980s and early 1990s and there are to my knowledge no pdfs available. However, I have many of these documents and have made arrangements to have them scanned. I’ll keep you appraised of developments.

  9. richard says:

    “virtually all documents and research information remaining in the Ottawa offices were destroyed. “

    Good bloody grief!! Sounds like the Avro Arrow.

    Its great you have copies; perhaps David or someone else could host the pdfs for all to view.

  10. David Campbell says:

    I have always wanted to develop an online library of ED-related stuff particular to NB and the Maritimes. Maybe this would be a good time to start. It would be nice if it could be a paying gig.