One of the first things I remember when I moved to Moncton to work for the Greater Moncton Economic Commission was a long talk I had about the ‘rivalry’ between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the area of economic development. Essentially when two neighbouring provinces have underperforming economies for decades – the idea of one of them getting ahead of the other is far more distressing than a further flung province like Saskatchewan or Alberta.
In this mindset, you would rather Manitoba land a big project (like RIM or Molson, etc.) than your neighbouring province. We have continuing evidence of this.
Now it is rearing its ugly head in the area of energy. The Premier of NB warned Nova Scotia yesterday not to steal NB projects (essentially) and Peter MacKay said he would “go around” New Brunswick to get the power to the United States.
I have said that we should have a regional energy strategy – assuming all parties can agree to work on one in a non-acrimonious fashion. The Lower Churchill Falls project should involve the Maritimes. Wind energy projects should have some cooperation. A new nuclear plant could easily be a joint project. Don’t forget that Emera owns Bangor Hydro already.
But let’s resort to the time-tested approach of beggaring thy neighbour on this stuff. Why not let Quebec swoop in and land the best deal with Maine. At least Nova Scotia won’t get one up on us. At least New Brunswick won’t make us look bad.
I know there is lots at stake here and I know that people will say that I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. Fair enough. But I have to believe that if the three or four provinces were working on a joint plan that all could agree on – in the end there would be a plan that all could agree with.
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick should be the oldest and best friends – not jealous neighbours that can’t stand the thought of one or the other getting slightly ahead.
I will go further and say that we could solve our collective economic development challenges a lot easier as a team than as solo players. If all four provinces went to Ottawa and told the powers that be that ACOA should be far more proactive on attracting investment – I think it would happen. If they lobbied to transform ACOA into an IPA with offices around the world selling the region for global trade and investment – I think it would happen. But in that case – there is a potential – a slight potential – that one province may get incrementally further than another. Heaven forbid.
So it won’t happen and cooperation in the Maritimes will remain a superficial effort at best.