I had never met NDP stalward Yvon Godin until Saturday. I actually had a good conversation with him about the NDP win in Nova Scotia and what it might mean for the party in New Brunswick and I asked him why the NDP gets such a bad reputation in the area of economic development.
Later, during the keynote speech, I got a partial answer to my latter question. The presenter made a thoughtful speech on the need to re-orient our economic development and put business back in the centre as opposed to the current model where government is at the centre. This is a theme that I have been exploring recently so, for me, it was timely.
The message was clear. We need to have strong government support for economic development but ultimately it is about businesses having the confidence to invest in New Brunswick.
The speech was greeted with great enthusiasm until Godin got up and took the mic. He launched into what I am told is his canned “woe is me” speech and mistook the speaker’s comments to mean that government had no role to play.
I won’t go into all the details of Godin’s comments but suffice it to say he has built a political empire exacerbating North/South tension, pitting government against business and playing the fear card. That, of course, is an opinion based on his five minute diatribe but those around my table confirmed this suspicion.
There are many thoughtful and smart people such as the head of the Conseil Economique and the head of the Association of Francophone Municipalities in New Brunswick that are seriously looking at models to rejuvinate the Northern NB economy – with industry as the backbone of the recovery and government playing its vital role as enabler, facilitator and supporter. I fear that Godin and this attitude is a major barrier to the region’s growth even though I understand where he is coming from.