Who is Margaret Conrad?

Have you ever read a book or an article or watched a movie and as the words unfolded on the page or the screen you could just sense that this was going to be a phenomenal work of art? Even before you finished the first paragraph?

I picked up a free copy of the October Literary Review of Canada at the Ideas Festival and just started reading it this morning. There is an essay in there from Margaret Conrad entitled “History Does Matter” and it is the perfect set piece for people that want a deeper understanding of the fundamental economic challenges facing Atlantic Canada.

She starts us off with juicy tidbits like this one:

“My favourite is a statement by Barry Cooper, a political scientist based at the University of Calgary, who argued, in 2002 as a matter of fact that “stagnation and decadence remain the most prominent features of pre-modern communal life to have survived into the present” in the Maritimes”.

So we were lazy and decadent 200 years ago. Don’t forget that the University of Calgary ideas are mentioned a lot more these days in Ottawa.

“Missing from the narrative is any genuine national policy, such as the TransCanada pipeline, the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Auto Pact, to put Atlantic Canada squarely in the black. Instead, the region gets what Donald Savoie calls ‘guilt money’ – equalization…..”

Nectar from the vine. Salience in its finest essence. Of course, I am biased based I say the same thing on this blog – but you never read this stuff in something like the Literary Review of Canada.

No one ever – ever – in the national discourse – certainly not at the U of Calgary will ever even talk about the fact that the federal government spent what today would be billions on the St. Lawarence Seaway which cut off Atlantic Canada as the major trade route into central Canada. The Port of Montreal is a Top Five port in North America and Atlantic Canada’s ports wither on the vine. I wonder if U of Calgary ‘thinkers’ would have a different view if the Federal government annexed Alberta north of Edmonton and diverted all that oil revenue somewhere else. That is not too far removed from what the St. Lawrence Seaway did to the long term effect on Atl. Canada. Would Halifax be Boston? Would Moncton be Hartford? Who knows?

The Auto Pact too was a juicy little federal deal. Add in the billions since in federal incentives and you have by far the largest export industry in all of Ontario. Name me one industry in New Brunswick in the top 10 exports that was directly influenced like that by federal policy. There are none – don’t bother looking.

The TransCanada pipeline? Ditto. Good moniker for it, though. I guess we should be lucky the feds didn’t cut off the telecom network or the TransCanada highway network west of the St. Lawrence.

The complianing Maritimers. Why don’t they take their gravy and shut up?

Anyway back to Conrad. The hits keep coming. You should read this lady.

“Had we rejected Confederation – or if we did so now – would we be in the enviable position of Iceland, with its high standard of living?”

Nice.

“With the exception of the 1930s, out-migration has been endemic to the region since Confederation, a condition, that, had it occurred anywhere else in Canada, would have been a signal for emergency measures to staunch the flow of human capital. If anything gets my dander up, it is the view, implied in many national debates and policies, that sustaining healthy, vibrant communities in Atlantic Canada is less important than it is in Quebec, Ontario or Alberta.”

Sweet nectar from the vine. Exactly. Ontario is right now getting just a taste – a slight morsel – of what this region has gone through for 100 years and it is reeling. Demanding billions in aid, equalization and sympathy. Fascinating stuff.

Margeret Conrad is Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada studies at the University of New Brunswick. I have to admit that she does take it in a direction I don’t go. She blames the EI reforms in the 1990s for hollowing out the region’s smaller communities.

If she would have just ended the piece by stating the real reason why this region has chronically underpeformed – a long term underinvestment by the private sector – then I would become an enternal devotee. She had me at “University of Calgary” but she could have locked me up for life if she had gone that extra step.

You see we need to have national policies that bring Atl. Canada in. R&D policies, industry policies, those large scale funding programs that all but shut out places like New Brunswick. Natural gas pipelines? Yes.

Certainly we can’t put the genie back in the bottle on the St. Lawrence seaway and I wouldn’t recommend it if we could but I do find it ironic that as the Feds announced they would be putting a few bucks into something called the Atl. Gateway they announced a bigger pot for something called the Continental Gateway. On a related note, the Port of Montreal said it needs another billion to double its size. Wonder where much of that dough will come from?

We need more Conrad. More Savoie. Then we need solutions

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0 Responses to Who is Margaret Conrad?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dude, your spelling, grammar and syntax are getting worse by the day. Would it kill you to at least perform a spell check before posting?

    It’s not professional and I suspect you could do better.

  2. David Campbell says:

    The whole thing with the blog is I can get ideas out without spell checking. Sheesh. I prepare reports for a living and run them through serious spelling and grammer checks. If you want ‘professional’ pay for it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    One of those dummies who knows nothing but spelling,usually a mental glitch.Some are expert in math,music,etc.
    But can manage on their own,usually.

  4. richard says:

    "statement by Barry Cooper, a political scientist based at the University of Calgary"

    This is a good example of money talking. The Depts of Polysci and Econ at UofC are staffed largely by those with a hard right perspective, because that is what the oil money in Alberta has demanded. His ignorance of history should not be a surprise; if there is one thing econ and poly sci depts have in spades, it is the lack of appreciation for data-based analyses. Their opinions, for them, are facts.

    You point out that the feds are going to pour billions into Montreal. I am not sure we can expect to see much from Ottawa until we see a strategy and a realistic plan from Graham. Not that useless crap about flat taxes, but an R&D strategy. He needs to tie that into whatever spending plans the feds are unveiling. Then he can go to Ottawa Con MPs) and maybe they will listen.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “(…) the Port of Montreal said it needs another billion to double its size. Wonder where much of that dough will come from?”

    The answer to that question is easy. It will come from the pockets of us, the Alberta taxpayers. And we still have to hear their cries about dirty oil…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Richard is right; you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

    Quebec focused on aerospace and created an industy propped up by billions of federal dollars. The same for Ontario with the auto industry. Canada’s entire environmental policy is manipulated by Alberta to support their oil riches.

    What does NB do? Smile for the photo ops while Ottawa builds community halls and funds sewar systems. We have say thanks, but that is not good enough.

    We need an ED strategy. We need to focus. We need to persistently lobby Ottawa. There has never been a better time to do it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Canada’s entire environmental policy is manipulated by Alberta to support their oil riches.” (anonymous 4:38 PM)

    Never heard so much nonsense. You can say a lot of things about the oil industry in Alberta, but the statement above is ludicrous (disclosure: I work with both the oil and environment industry in Alberta).

    In any case, you need to keep in mind that Alberta’s oil riches support not only the equalization payments going to NB, but also hundreds of families that have people working in the oil patch.

    I totally agree with the second half of your comment, but don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Okay, perhaps I am assigning too much credit to think Alberta is influencing national environmental policy. However, the facts are that the oil sands and Nanticoke (coal plant in Ontario that the tree huggers kept open to block nuclear expansion) give Canada a couple top ten polluter sites. Couple that with the fact that, so far, Alberta environmental policy appears to have gotten it wrong since the southern (populated) portion of the province is running out of fresh water and it does raise questions.

    That said, the point of this blog is NB ED so focusing on that, consider the above post reference Ontario and Quebec gifts from Ottawa and:
    – federal oil and gas deals to Newfoundland (now a have province) and Nova Scotia
    – extra conservative seats NB rewarded Harper with
    – the economic crisis which has provoked the strategy for infrastructure investment
    – the renewed interest and federal funding for AECL and greener energy solutions.

    If NB cannot secure Lepreau II funding now (and I would argue Lepreau II and III), then we might as well give up all hope of any ED in NB.