It’s a classic New Brunswick story – or at least the way we like to tell stories in New Brunswick. Hassan Arif has an op/ed piece in the TJ today talking about Hatfield’s legacy. He starts by ripping the Bricklin project using words like ‘fiasco’ and ‘worst case of corporate welfare’, etc. Then he launches into a long and flowing soliloquy about all the great things the former Premier did on the social front even going to far as to say he was more liberal than most Liberals.
It’s a touching retrospective on a man I don’t know much about. Once I had a long talk with a guy who knew Hatfield who said he had a passion for economic development – at least in the early days – and wanted to use cheap power as an industrial attraction tool.
But we don’t hear about that stuff, do we. It’s all about social development in this province. The heroic efforts to make societal change while the economy sputters along.
As I have pointed out here, the economic picture in NB relative to the rest of Canada was probably better back then compared to today. I am sure that would be hotly contested by some but immigration was higher, population growth rates were relatively strong, etc. Some day if I get some time I’ll look at the spread between education, income and other measures today compared to the 1970s. I frankly have no idea what that research would reveal.
One thing is for sure. The Bricklin thing scarred NB in ways we have never really explored. I have said publicly that I appreciated Hatfield’s attempt with Bricklin. We spend $600 million a year on seasonal EI payments to pay people not to work in New Brunswick and journalists and pundits are going to dredge up the $25 million given to Bricklin 30 years ago?
At least he tried.