The wheels on the bus go round ‘n round

There are a few old grizzled veterans around like the 80+ year old Hal Fredericks and the younger but knowledgeable Donald Savoie that truly understand the scope and scale of economic development efforts in this region going back 40 years or more and can also make salient points as to why we haven’t kept pace with the rest of Canada.

I read an article in Progress magazine quoting Frank McKenna as saying this region has made tremendous advancements in the past two decades.  In many ways he is right and I am glad that he has morphed into the Cheerleader in Chief for the region.  But he doesn’t say that compared to everyone else we are actually losing ground.  Unemployment is down. This is true but it is fuelled as much by increased out-migration as job creation.  If population decline leads to a lower unemployment rate – that is a bittersweet outcome.

Constantine Passaris up at UNB is another old grizzled veteran.  He has an interesting commentary in the DG today.  In it he quotes from 1982 former Premier Hatfield:

I recall a conversation I had with Premier Richard Hatfield in 1982 at which time he poignantly observed that the federal funds flowing to our province as a result of equalization were not a handout but a financial dividend that New Brunswick had earned for joining Confederation.

Let’s put aside the fact that a party that is supposed to be built around ‘conservative’ values seems to be the champion of federal welfare.  My confusion with the PC party in New Brunswick is well known and gets exacerbated every time I debate my family members – mostly devout PCs.  I argue that the PCs should be the party about self sufficiency, about government cost control and about economic development.  But that is an argument I seem to be losing.

But apart from politics, Passaris also talks about his involvement way back when with the New Brunswick Development Institute which rightly concluded in 1985 that “our provincial government should wean the provincial economy away from federal transfer payments because they were proving to be insufficient and unreliable.”

Passaris concludes:

At the end of the day, self-sufficiency is not the impossible dream, but an imperative for a prosperous New Brunswick. It is about empowering New Brunswickers to gradually remove their dependence from federal fiscal transfers and the political mood swings of Ottawa.

But I’m not satisfied with those trite motherhood statements anymore (although I am guilty of them in my columns as well – I don’t want to be the total Scrooge of economic development).  I’d like to ask Passaris why we haven’t been able to wean ourselves off transfers over that 24 year period?  I’d like to ask him what went wrong?  Why have we gone from a relatively strong population growth in the early Hatfield days – when he was cutting his teeth on economic development issues – to a population decline today?

I’d like nothing better than to get that old brain trust – throw in guys like Stephen Wheatley who I believe was involved with the Bricklin file way back when -in a room and ask them to tell us why we failed.  Why when Canada was booming – adding three million people to the population – New Brunswick actually slipped into population decline.  Ask why government spending has to grow at three times the rate of inflation.  I think we have to ask hard questions of the leaders in the past in order to make the tough decisions for the future.

But I guess I just slipped into the motherhood mode myself, didn’t I?

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2 Responses to The wheels on the bus go round ‘n round

  1. Anonymous says:

    Having lived in the past I can assure you NB has progressed, and a lot, but Easterners have always been more pragmatic, I think is the word in attempting to keep up with the finer language people.
    My drift is, NBer’s would be more inclined to avoid the numerous money making projects, or scams, in our words, therefore not creating that bubble that is about to burst, and which will leave the people less affected than say Ontario or Quebec, or BC. Did you know that a Vancouverite spends nearly $5000 a year on coffee, which creates a lot of jobs,and there are numerous examples like this, where a sensible person would never spend 15$ a day on coffee!! Hatfield , hate to say, had things right and NB boomed under him, and would have boomed more but his shorts got too tight.
    Just look at the ethanol scam, an expected Potato chip scam,etc.
    All things that the old people could not see succeeding, so I say NB is better off.
    And our condolences to Mckenna and his MDI investment, and the embarrassing position of the Bank he is a member of.lol
    So exactly, self-sufficiency is not a dream, the dream is ,HOW self-sufficiency you expect to be safely? Cause coming down hurts, and millions are going to find out.
    I’m not one of them. er, I think!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here is a perfect example of NB , Now, and always was. And it looks like it involves the same company that became billionaires from our resources, unfairly, with government help in the past 30 years

    judge2525 wrote:
    Posted 2009/02/25
    at 8:15 AM ETGraham says that six out of ten cars in Boston operate on gas that is refined here in Saint John. Then how come I can drive to Boston and buy this gas for 20 cents less a litre after it is trucked clean down there.We sell our point Lepreau power to New England cheaper than we can buy it here and thats after we pay for the power plant to be built and our number 1 quality lumber still goes to the States and we have to buy the garbage we are told is number 1 even tho it is a poor grade 2. Mr. Graham, give your head a shake because the United States will keep raping our resources as long as we keep selling to them cheap so you don’t have to worry about anything but your own job next election

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