Fightin’ for the status quo

One of the things you have to admit about the NB Power/HQ situation is that a lot of people will fight tooth and nail against something.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we saw the same level of passion about doing something to move the province ahead?

For those that love the status quo, here is what you are fighting for:

Employment Growth (1999-2008) – Annual Employment Figures – Industrial Aggregate

 

1999

2008

% Change

Canada

12,055,809

14,817,695

22.9%

Newfoundland and Labrador

164,238

191,013

16.3%

Prince Edward Island

51,417

61,069

18.8%

Nova Scotia

339,301

396,080

16.7%

New Brunswick

277,414

312,732

12.7%

Quebec

2,870,890

3,378,855

17.7%

Ontario

4,754,729

5,704,709

20.0%

Manitoba

458,304

562,486

22.7%

Saskatchewan

356,058

435,300

22.3%

Alberta

1,229,369

1,776,624

44.5%

British Columbia

1,512,490

1,942,693

28.4%

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 281-0024 – Employment (SEPH), unadjusted for seasonal variation, by type of employee for selected industries classified using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), annual (persons).

Even I had to check and recheck these numbers after hearing both Premiers Lord and Graham talk about leading Canada for employment growth.   As the Dire Straits song goes “one of them must be wrong”.

Here is the manufacturing employment data:

Employment Growth (1999-2008) – Annual Employment Figures – Manufacturing

 

1999

2008

% Change

Canada

1,946,466

1,673,904

-14.0%

Newfoundland and Labrador

16,484

15,158

-8.0%

Prince Edward Island

5,387

4,915

-8.8%

Nova Scotia

40,548

34,285

-15.4%

New Brunswick

39,455

31,124

-21.1%

Quebec

556,888

452,537

-18.7%

Ontario

911,304

751,492

-17.5%

Manitoba

63,300

61,635

-2.6%

Saskatchewan

25,154

26,942

7.1%

Alberta

112,582

137,164

21.8%

British Columbia

174,884

158,106

-9.6%

Despite all the huffing and blowing in Ontario, manufacturing employment has dropped more in New Brunswick than in Ontario.  Obviously  the absolute drop in Ontario is far greater and hence we get billions in bailouts and a whole new Federal development agency but the point is still valid – relative to the size of the economy, New Brunswick’s total manufacturing employment decline has been the worst in Canada.

So keep fightin’ the good fight – kill the NB Power deal, rant against the evils of big business, and all the righteous causes you are so passionate about and you’ll keep the status quo – and you’ll keep this kind of pathetic economic performance.

I’ll give you two examples and these are really independent of NB Power.  There was a lady who posted a major rant against Shawn Graham a few posts ago – just tore him a new one.  Because it is rare to see a lady post here – at least with a name – I googled her expecting to find she is the riding president for the PCs or something.  The first Google hit was essentially the same rant on the Facebook site (it’s nice that people can reuse their content over and over again) and the second was an article in an Alberta paper talking about her and that her kids have had to move to Alberta.  In that article she stated something like we must do something now to reverse this trend of our kids moving away – there are no jobs and no opportunity (I am paraphrasing her because I don’t want to reveal her name – I am not singling her out).  The question is why isn’t she and thousands like her equally passionate about moving the province forward?  Why isn’t she demanding that her MLA demand that BNB camp out in Toronto, and Raleigh and Delhi until we can pry global investment out of those places and bring good jobs here?

The second example is our friend Mikel – who will spend hours researching comments made here to trash any good or potentially good idea that is put forward – all while sitting from his perch in one of the most successful economies in North America.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if he spent those hours trying to figure out how to attract global industries here?

It’s always easier to destroy than create.  Spock told us as a matter of cosmic history it is always easier to destroy than create (Star Trek 2).    We see lots of that in New Brunswick.

The one thing I ask of all those blood boiling crusaders on the NB Power file – win or lose that battle I hope you find a way to channel that passion to things that might actually move us ahead over the next 20 years.

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34 Responses to Fightin’ for the status quo

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree that an effective economic strategy is long overdue. One that takes proactive action rather than reactive measures. One that invests in the future rather than bailing out the past. One that blazes new trails rather than fighting old fires.

    The NB Power deal would be a different discussion if the talk was about using the proceeds of the sale to invest in industries that have a sustainable ability to create jobs and wealth. Using the rate relief proceeds to subsidize heavy industry power rates with no commitment from them for expansion and growth is not a smart economic development strategy.

    I much rather see the rate relief we are receiving (in lieu of cash) used to help transition communities to sustainable industries. Ones that can be globally competitive. Ones that invest in technology and productivity. Ones that will not be looking for handouts from taxpayers everytime they meet with adversity.

    It is time for New Brunswick to positively influence its future rather than poor money into resurrecting the past.

  2. mikel says:

    I agree with the above, and I’ll clarify for David-the main reason I’m in the facebook group is that it looks like THIS group may for the first time be creating some kind of springboard to challenge the status quo. THAT is the whole point. The status quo for years has been bending over backward to accommodate dying industries and industry giants with WAY too much political power. David doesn’t seem to understand that this move to sell NBPower IS the status quo. I would almost suspect that David is secretly writing the anonymous posts like the above, because that is what I THOUGHT would come from this blog, given Davids constant criticisms of resource industries.

    However, there is a political point here to make. I DO enjoy taking apart reports, its fun, but in this case its also important. The main reason is that I’m HOPING this will be enforced as a referendum, in which case people need all the information (and lots of people at Facebook are linking to this website-with a few plugs by me I might add) they can get. There’s a new facebook group that is aimed specifically at trying to force a referendum, they are meeting in Fredericton this weekend. I’ve emailed them and with kelly Lamrock’s recent statements about ‘town meetings’ I’m trying to help set up at least a mini referendum in at least one riding-perhaps Kelly Lamrocks. I know that’s ‘low level intellectual debate’, but oh well.

    I’ve BEEN trying for years to help ‘move NB ahead’, so no fear there. For David its mainly academic, I’m more interested and active in the basic rights of people, and I”ve flogged my website at tenantsact.org virtually every chance I can get, as well as selling a CD in Fredericton to try and raise money for the charities there. And I’ve also mentioned that ANY time ANY organizations get together I’d do what I can to help, I think I’ve offered that quite often. Want to challenge the ‘quo’ of the liberals and conservatives-anything I can do to help I would. And just to smooth the sour grapes, I DID do the music for David’s podcast once upon a time, and even tried to help out any way I could. So lets cut the personal bull.

    Obviously most of my time is taken up HERE. Contrary to Davids view, we don’t live in a country of provinces, we live in a country of individuals. Somebody living in poverty in Toronto has more in common with somebody in poverty in St. John than they do with somebody who has money in Toronto. Here in waterloo region we have virtually the identical problems as NB-there is a 20% rate of poverty, most of my friends have been unemployed for over a year. The poor continually get shut out, while most services cater to RIM and Open Text, even though most of their hiring here has frozen-they are growing elsewhere.

    It’s FAR from wine and roses here, more people in NB have a family doctor than in Ontario. Much of our medical system is privatized, and services are getting worse, not better. I was in New Brunswick recently and by any standards it looks no different than here. I see young people all the time who can’t afford college stuck in dead end jobs, while our local MP sends around flyers bragging because they are tearing up perfectly good roads to repave them-that’s their ‘economic plan’. In downtown London, just 45 minutes away, the police will stop you if you are walking downtown and drive you out, because you WILL be mugged. So lets not pretend this is a numbers game. If you have money in New Brunswick, you’ve got a pretty good life, and just because some numbers go up, doesn’t mean lives are getting better. There ARE ways to grow the economy, but debt has nothing to do with it.

  3. Don Dennison says:

    Anonymous(why so shy)raises the right questions. If the HQ deal goes through, what are we going to do with the new opportunities it opens up. Rather than obsessing about residential rates (which are actually low now but threaten to rise dramatically under the status quo), we should be thinking about what industrial oportunities are created by a long term power arrangement and start planning for them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There are some different perspectives on status quo. Is it:

    Continuing to direct all our economic development efforts at struggling resource based industry?

    Allowing economic development building blocks like NB Tel and NB Power to disappear?

    Falsely hoping other governments will look out for NB interests rather than taking charge of our destiny?

    Having “economic policy” that amounts to government action that serves political purposes?

    BTW, this data does not seem to correlate to cheap power rates. Take a look at Quebec (lowest rates) and PEI (highest rates). This is fantastic data to illustrate the need for effective economic development policy in NB but I think you tainted it by associting it with the NB Power situation. Take a look at Saskatchewan or PEI who are known to have good economic development efforts.

  5. RKA says:

    I find the “status quo” argument is misleading as in there are only options – the MOU or do nothing. There’s been no mention of exploring other options – ever. Why not follow the model outlined in this story:

    Dignity, hope and a few extra bucks (Daily Gleaner – Nov 20, 2009)

    They say two heads are better than one, but 2,500 are even better.

    More than 2,500 people weighed in with input for the Poverty Reduction Task Force in the past few months, and the results are utterly astounding.What citizens told the task force was helpful, but not so astounding. It’s the fact that the government took their good advice that is astounding.
    Last week, Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock, Premier Shawn Graham and Opposition Leader David Alward presented a united front in announcing sweeping changes that will affect the province’s poorest citizens.

    Taking this approach (crowd sourcing) would, by it’s very nature include ED planning wouldn’t it? Had they done this in August would we see the hue & cry from the people who are fighting for (not) the status quo?

  6. RKA says:

    I find the “status quo” argument is misleading as in there are only two options – the MOU or do nothing. There’s been no mention of exploring other options by this government. Why not follow the model outlined in this story:

    Dignity, hope and a few extra bucks (Daily Gleaner – Nov 20, 2009)

    They say two heads are better than one, but 2,500 are even better.

    More than 2,500 people weighed in with input for the Poverty Reduction Task Force in the past few months, and the results are utterly astounding.What citizens told the task force was helpful, but not so astounding. It’s the fact that the government took their good advice that is astounding.
    Last week, Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock, Premier Shawn Graham and Opposition Leader David Alward presented a united front in announcing sweeping changes that will affect the province’s poorest citizens.

    Taking this approach (crowd sourcing) would, by it’s very nature include ED planning wouldn’t it? Had they done this in August would we see the hue & cry from the people who are fighting for (not) the status quo?

  7. Anonymous says:

    @mikel
    “I’m trying to help set up at least a mini referendum in at least one riding-perhaps Kelly Lamrocks.”
    > And the value of it would be… (???) In fact, I would go as far as saying that the value of a province-wide referendum would be nil. If even the “well-informed” people commenting in this blog cannot agree on the merits of the deal, why should the decision be left to the average Joe? Governments are elected precisely to do that: make decisions (easy ones and hard ones). If New Brunswickers don’t like what the Graham government is doing, they will have a chance to kick them out in the next election. That’s what democracy is about.

    Now, some people are saying that the Liberals were elected for their promise of not selling NB Power. I was living in NB at the time and that was never one of the election issues at the time. In fact, there were no major issues discussed in that election. Except the fact that NBers were getting tired of Bernard Lord and the Conservatives (as they will get tired of the Liberals pretty soon – that’s the way politics works). And even if the Liberals said that they would not sell NB Power, why couldn’t they change their position after learning more about the state of the company? Besides, the world has changed a lot in the last few months. That should be enough for everyone to reconsider their positions.

  8. mikel says:

    The value of that would be that the people who PAY for a resource should be the ones who decide its fate, simple as that. There are groups trying to force that province wide plebiscite, but Kelly Lamrock opened a door by fudging on his support and saying that he wanted to bring it to his constituency.

    I wouldn’t bother trying to convince somebody of the merits of democracy, that’s something people have a hankering for or not, but ‘kicking out’ a Premier AFTER the damage is done is nowhere NEAR the definition of ‘democracy’.

    And if people missed it, the CBC has been showing over and over the video and audio of Shawn Graham stating that Bernard Lord COULD NOT sell NBPower without ‘taking it to the people’. The irony here is that the ‘logic’ is somewhat backward in New Brunswick. That’s because, funnily enough, Bernard Lord TRIED to sell NB Power. Shawn Graham stated that the liberals would NOT sell NBPower, yet in contrast to the point above about democracy-most New Brunswickers did NOT vote for Graham. More NBers voted for Bernard Lord. So in a bizarro world we could state that Graham DOES have a mandate to sell NBPower because the party that wanted to, actually got more votes than him!:)

    However, like a lot of people in various organizations and facebook sites, we (I) are not interested in ‘how politics works’ because the simple fact in Canada is that politics DOESN”T ‘work’, except against the interests of most of the public much of the time. That is the whole point for the mini-referendum, in the absence of a government initiative that would actually provide a democratic decision – which was Graham’s position before, then there needs to be somebody ELSE providing that democratic option.

    The choice of Lamrock’s riding is convenience and strategic-he made the statement and of all the liberals has more of a democratic bent to his riding, having the ‘democracy project’ where he picks 101 members of his riding and ‘consults’ with them. This is taking it to its next logical step, one that a few other politicians have taken, namely, a riding wide referendum.

    IF somebody thinks the value of a referendum is ‘nil’, their of course entitled to their opinion. However, the above scenario about the view of politics is the reason behind the rapidly falling voter turnout, AND the rise in online activism, AND the disenchantment with politics in general. That’s what needs to change, and this provides both a tool to address that, AND one to address the NBPower deal. There are risks to both sides of course, THAT is the nature of ‘democracy’. Of course at this point its all in the preliminary stage, a lot of things can happen between now and March. Liberal members could come out of the shadows, there is currently talk of court action which may FORCE either a referendum or an election.

  9. Rob says:

    ? Besides, the world has changed a lot in the last few months. That should be enough for everyone to reconsider their positions.

    Your model is logical, however the only people who do not get to change their minds seem to be the voters. Governments can and should react when the situation changes. However, I believe that the people ought to have a chance to react to the changed situation as well. Our electoral decision is locked in for four years, but the politicians we elect can change their minds as soon as the ballots are cast. An election in September would close the barn door about 6 months after the NB Power horse left the barn.

    There’s no reason we could not have an election in February, with the NB Power deal being the obvious ballot question. I’m cautiously supportive of the NB Power deal, and I believe that this deal could win an election.

  10. richard says:

    “In fact, I would go as far as saying that the value of a province-wide referendum would be nil.”

    Hopefully the Facebookers can do referenda better than they do demos. I wonder how the question in the referendum will be phrased. Some possibilities:

    Do you want your power rate frozen for five years, or would you prefer a 3.5-5% annual increase?

    Is Shawn Graham REALLY the DEVIL, and do you believe that the numbers 666 appear in the MOU watermark?

    Do you want NB to become a colony of Quebec?

    Pretend that NB Power is in great shape. Now, do you want the sale to go ahead or not?

  11. Bill says:

    I wrote a long-winded comment on the weekend that I decided not to leave since it was more or less redundant. But I wrote a blog post on Nov. 1 that ended with, “… perhaps the largest issue at hand is the ongoing one of New Brunswick being very good at knowing what it doesn’t want to do but not having a clue or any inclination regarding what it DOES want to do.”

    So I agree with what you say. And while it may be overly optimistic, I hope if nothing else comes out of this issue we can get everyone thinking about what we want and ways to achieve it. I think NB does like status quo. The problem is, there is no status quo since the world keeps changing and if you aren’t changing with it, you fall behind.

  12. Paul says:

    @anonymous

    While I realize mikel is quite able to defend himself, I think your premise that politicians make decisions and we get a chance at election time to straighten it out is not quite right.

    There are lots of people, special interests, and lobbyists trying to influence public policy all the time. While I And I don’t think a referendum is the answer, I also get a little annoyed by the folks who post here, like the anymous guy who don’t give the “average joe” enough credit. Seems abit paternalistic to me, and dead wrong.

    I think something of this magnitude, that it is irreversible, and it was something clearly stated in the Liberal Platform in the last election, whether it was on your radar or not should either be a free vote in the legislature or an election call seeking a mandate.

    There is lots I support in the deal personally, and certainly don’t have any feelings on whether HQ owns it or not, but I think it’s a little disingenous to say, they won the election, let them sell it, and wait til the next election. This is not a tax or toll that can be removed, this is a forever thing, and unless there was a free vote in the le

  13. Paul says:

    @anonymous
    While I realize mikel is quite able to defend himself, I think your premise that politicians make decisions and we get a chance at election time to straighten it out is not quite right.

    There are lots of people, special interests, and lobbyists trying to influence public policy all the time. While I And I don’t think a referendum is the answer, I also get a little annoyed by the folks who post here, like the anonymous guy who don’t give the “average Joe” enough credit. Seems a bit paternalistic to me, and dead wrong.

    I think something of this magnitude that it is irreversible, it was something clearly stated in the Liberal Platform in the last election, whether it was on your radar should require either free vote in the legislature or an election call seeking a mandate.

    There is lots of things I support in the deal personally, and certainly don’t have any feelings on whether HQ owns it or not, but I think it’s a little disingenuous to say they won the election, let them sell it, and wait until the next election to “have your say”.

    This is not a tax or toll that can be removed, this is a forever thing, and either Shawn Graham should have been upfront months ago and said he was looking at alternatives.

  14. For the literal thinkers out there I will reiterate that the chart does not imply that all of our economic problems stem from higher cost industrial power rates. My point is that we are quick to fight to save NB Power and even quicker to all but ignore the broader challenges.

  15. Rob says:

    mikel, can you provide links to the group looking to organize a referendum?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I do not understand why the Liberals are so afraid of a vote on NB Power. It would be an easy way out for them and close off this marathon debate.

    My prediction is people would support the sale. The status quo in NB is to support governments who promise pennies in taxpayers pockets regardless of more important responsibilities such as education or economic development. Think tolls. Think auto insurance rates.

    So Graham set this up nicely I have the chance to avoid a $3 per month increase on my power bill and will sacrafice anything for it. Unfortunately, the status quo is, most people in NB will go for it.

  17. mikel says:

    Another example of the above was the commmittee on legislative democracy. That was also a multi million dollar public ‘debate’ where hundreds of people took part. The result was that pretty much the ONLY recommendation taken was the fixed election date, which Lord then broke. The year before that was a similar forestry planning public ‘debate’ where hundreds took part and for awhile Lord stuck to SOME of the recommendations, but as soon as the economy went south virtually all those went by the wayside.

    So for those wondering why people dont’ vote or pay much attention to politics, there you have it.

    The reality is that SOME New Brunswickers have been trying to not ignore the ‘broader challenges’ at all, they are called ‘environmentalists’. They’ve been trying to close down the thermal plants for decades and get the province to ‘go green’. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them, and like David they have been complaining about people accepting the status quo.

    People have been ‘quick to fight to save NB Power’ for the simple reason, well, everybody KNOWS the reasons. Richard is trying to be funny, but not succeeding, although there is a BIT of truth in that we are talking about a BIG population, and people get information from different sources so its very true that all kinds of stories get thrown around-although plenty of them show up here as well. Again, I go to the lowerratesnb site and see NO mention of what is going to be a ‘fair profit’ to HQ, and that is what will determine the variable part of your future energy costs. How do YOU decide what is a fair profit for HQ to make off what used to be YOUR assets? Any takers?

    Currently, there was an unfortunate occurrence at the protest (which contrary to Richard’s opinion was quite successful by any standards), where Charles Leblanc interviewed a woman who made the outlandish statement that if Graham weren’t ‘siphoning’ off profits that the debt could be paid off in eight years. And there have been a couple of people now at facebook who are trying to make an issue of it-although again, contrary to Richard’s view, most people at the facebook site are quick to point out wrong data.

    The problem, of course, is having a fair referenda, and getting ‘objective’ information to the people. That’s why its helpful when government is involved, even though they will be clearly biased in this case. However, when good information is given people and they are given time to digest it, there is nothing wrong with their decision. The question would simply be whether people agree or not with the sale of NBPower to Hydro Quebec, since that is the question that will face legislators.

    There is no lack of people who have little use for democracy, and its no surprise that the business class is usually at the forefront of that, but IF people can’t make decisions such as these, then there is little point in having ANY kind of democracy-parliamentary or otherwise. During elections people are expected to make critical decisions on the issues, if we admit that they are incapable of that, there really is no point to elections AT ALL. That would actually save a fair bit of money.

    Democracy is still pretty new to Canada, so it takes people awhile to get used to the idea. There are always people wanting referenda for the simple reason that they THINK most people agree with them. And most people tend to think that while ‘they’ can be trusted to be ‘reasonable and objective’, they don’t tend to think the same about others-thats actually pretty standard, particularly in Canada where our divisions run pretty deep. However, even though I disagree with a number of people here, I would tend to trust to their free and open vote rather than a political move by a Premier who simply can’t be trusted (by any standards if you think Danny WIlliams can’t be trusted, that puts Graham WAY out in left field).

  18. mikel says:

    Rob, the group is on facebook, there are no links as of yet. Their meeting on the weekend picked a couple of guys to put up a website. My ideas should not be assumed to reflect on them-so far they are still doing the ‘lets have demonstrations and a website to lobby the government’ tactic. The facebook site has set up a website at http://www.savenbpower.org

  19. richard says:

    “However, when good information is given people and they are given time to digest it, there is nothing wrong with their decision.”

    Referenda often give ‘wrong’ decisions, despite the information available and time to digest; there are many reasons why. We saw one recently where the fine citizens of Maine decided not to give some of their fellow Mainers certain basic rights. That vote was based on fear and prejudice. The referenda experience in the US is far from always positive; at least 6 states now find themselves in significant fiscal difficulty because of referenda that spiked needed tax increases. That happens often because those who vote in referenda tend to be those the most motivated (usually those ‘against’). Those less motivated, or less interested, are less likely to vote. Not sure how that is an improvement of the democratic process. I guess one of the main reasons for referenda is that they give spice to the lives of people like mikel and others who live to keyboard. Perhaps they could get together and hold some fundraisers to cover the cost of the referendum. Certainly, it is just a cheap shot to label those not in favor of referenda as anti-democratic.

    My preference would be for a parliamentary solution. If Graham can be forced to call an election then so be it. If not, well that’s how it goes. Sorry, I don’t buy the ground-shaking argument that the issue is so big an election must be called – I just do not see it as that big a deal.

    “unfortunate occurrence at the protest”

    Actually there were a number of unfortunate occurrences at this small gathering. Mikel wasn’t there so he has to rely on media reports on the event. When some MLAs went out to speak to the mob, they were booed and preventing from speaking. Democracy in action! Kettle, meet pot.

  20. Danny says:

    Premier Predicts Failure of N.B. / Hydro Quebec Power Deal

    Premier Danny Williams is predicting that the proposed sale of N.B. Power to Hydro Quebec will fail. And he’s optimistic that this province will get an opportunity to do a deal with New Brunswick once that happens. On VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms this morning, Williams said he will continue to raise concerns about the proposed sale. The premier noted that this province is willing to pay Hydro Quebec whatever the going rate is for use of their power infrastructure.

  21. Anonymous says:

    @richard
    “Sorry, I don’t buy the ground-shaking argument that the issue is so big an election must be called – I just do not see it as that big a deal.”
    > That’s exactly my point. I don’t see it as a big deal either. Mikel, since it’s obvious that you enjoy Google, could you please give us a few examples of jurisdictions where selling a utility was as big a deal as in New Brunswick? You would be surprised about the results of your search.

  22. Anonymous says:

    @richard
    “Sorry, I don’t buy the ground-shaking argument that the issue is so big an election must be called – I just do not see it as that big a deal.”
    > That’s exactly my point. I don’t see it as a big deal either.

    Mikel, since it’s obvious that you enjoy Google, could you please give us a few examples of jurisdictions where selling a utility was as big a deal as in New Brunswick? You would be surprised about the results of your search.

  23. RKA says:

    @ Danny
    On VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms this morning, Williams said he will continue to raise concerns about the proposed sale. The premier noted that this province is willing to pay Hydro Quebec whatever the going rate is for use of their power infrastructure.
    ——————————————
    Can you please clarify which Premier and which Province ? If you mean Williams then he’s suddenly done a 180.

  24. mikel says:

    For Richard’s comments, there are actually considerable studies showing that it was NOT referenda that led to any budget problems. However, take a look at Canada’s financial position and the position of most of the provinces, and you’ll see how black that kettle is. For more information on that, check out the iandrinstitute.org.

    And again, you live in a province which is the only one where roomers and boarders can be evicted for virtually any reason-they don’t even have basic rights, so again, its somewhat hypocritical to talk about Maine.

    It’s obvious Richard doesn’t see it as a big deal, again, that’s why nobody is going to invite him to any protests. However, for LOTS of New Brunswickers, in fact for more than we’ve ever seen organized in one place, it IS a big deal (so what about THEIR basic rights?).

    As for elections, again, thats not the best way since an election has to choose a party for dozens of issues, however, there is a planned election next fall, so its not like thats an issue at all. There is certainly no reason why a deal NEEDS to be done by March. But like I said, its usually people who ‘don’t care’ or who see government pushing an agenda they like who are usually the most anti democratic. Again, you live in a province where the sitting Premier got fewer votes than his opponent in basically a two man race. Where the sitting Premier is now pushing a policy that he expressly said he wouldn’t before becoming Premier. And is pushing it even despite the most vocal opposition seen in years. So Richard is going to have a tough time selling that as NOT being ‘anti democratic’. Again, democracy means ‘rule of the people’. So what else CAN you call it?

    Selling a utility is ALWAYS a big issue. In Nova Scotia there were protests on the streets of Halifax, however, thats all pre-internet so google is no help. Go check out the Halifax chronicle though.

    In BC they are STILL involved in the BC Rail deal which is in front of the courts and has the potential to show outright criminality of both the RCMP there as well as two successive governments.

    Apart from Nova Scotia no province has ever unloaded its energy utility. In Ontario Harris tried to do it but was met with such massive protests that he backed off…and he didn’t back off of much, there were protests against virtually ALL his policies. But with Hydro it was looking very much like all the regular folks like we see in NB protesting were going to go to Toronto and lynch him. Seriously, it was ugly, and they backed down. Again,thats all pre internet, so perhaps the anonymous poster above can point to a case where selling off a utility WASN”T a ‘big deal’. I haven’t seen it happen in a long time, so google isn’t much help.

  25. Rob says:

    “In Ontario Harris tried to do it but was met with such massive protests that he backed off…”

    The same thing happened in the early 90s when Clyde Wells tried to privatize Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. That deal was also supposed to reduce the provincial debt. Wells eventually backed down when public opposition was too fierce to ignore.

  26. Samonymous says:

    One of the things you have to admit about the NB Power/HQ situation is that a lot of people will fight tooth and nail against something. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we saw the same level of passion about doing something to move the province ahead?

    You mean like engaging the public (and strengthening democracy) instead of a 1001 consultants in black suits acting on the behalf of citizens. It may sound cliche to those that have the usual modus operandi, but ignoring the public on key decision and trying to continually do an “end around” by handing down top down decisions will not suffice. Wanted: a government that represents the people!

  27. richard says:

    ” there are actually considerable studies showing that it was NOT referenda that led to any budget problems. ”

    No, there are not numerous studies. Please read before you post a rebuttal. Nor are budget problems the only referenda issues at point here. As as self-described defender of the people, you’d think mikel would be more interested in the ramifications of tax referenda defeats on the poor. Its always the lower classes that get shafted when budgets are frozen; mikel thinks that is ok. Its also ok by him if Mainers deprive gays of their rights. Democracy or mob rule?

    ” in fact for more than we’ve ever seen organized in one place,”

    Please don’t make stuff up.

    “Again, democracy means ‘rule of the people’. So what else CAN you call it?”

    More empty rhetoric. Graham won the election; he controls the legislature. That’s the outcome of the plurality-wins democratic process. You don’t like it, then move back here and try to change it, but that is what we have today. There are a number of issues where Graham has backed down in the face of protest, perhaps he will here too. But, barring an uprising from his MLAs, he controls the LA until the next election.

  28. mikel says:

    Again, go to the website I listed, there are numerous articles there and a lengthy in depth study of the California example. Even the TABOR legislation has failed in most of the states where it was a referendum.

    Like I said, in NB residents in boarding houses don’t have basic rights- at our website we have a flash audio of a disguised voice of somebody who talks about a friend who was evicted for talking to the wrong person downtown, they stated that they didn’t want to give their name becuase THEY would be evicted. Even in Maine if gay people were being evicted with no cause there would be HUGE protests. So comparing the ‘right to be married’ with the right to not being thrown out of your ‘home’ seems a little disingenuous.

    In Canada, of course, it wasn’t even our form of government that gave gay people marriage rights, it was the courts. So Canada certainly has no pedistal to preach from.

    And Richard can just go look at the latest comments from the government about New Brunswick’s WAY below average treatment of the poor to see how bad that is-that is now being ADMITTED by the government itself.

    If Richard knows of a bigger organization for protest then post it. There are now close to 27,000 people at the facebook site, and most media now admit there were close to 1000 people at the protest. In a typical riding nomination, where a party chooses a representative (you don’t), there are ‘maybe’ 400, I remember one that had only 200.

    A ‘plurality wins’ is NOT a ‘democratic process'(as is pretty obvious from the points I made above). It’s a ‘parliamentary process’, and the two are VERY different. But I think its fairly obvious that the whole point of my involvement here is to ‘try and change it’, however, I don’t need or plan on moving back there, there really isn’t any need, and since my income is here, I’d just end up as one of those boarders who have no rights. This is not an issue that just applies to NB, but to most of Canada, and is particularly acute at the federal level. However, you can join fairvote canada and discover that of all provinces, New Brunswick has had the most UN representative elections in Canada-and thats with pretty much only two parties!

    Its always ironic that when it comes to big social changes, even if anti democratic, the cry is that ‘the status quo is unacceptable’, but when it comes to forms of government its always ‘thats the way it is what are ya gonna do?’

    But its very true budget issues are NOT the only referenda issues here, in fact budget issues pale in front of concerns of basic rights, which again, is why there is so much emotion on this issue, and why its important not to treat this in simple economic terms. We are talking about a publicly paid for utility that was begun three generations ago. That New Brunswickers have built up with their tax dollars, and to simply have a politician who didn’t even get the votes of a majority of New Brunswickers suddenly say “look, I think it could be cool to sell off this utility”, apparantly even without discussing it with his own PARTY, is literally a slap in the face to any sort of semblance of ‘responsible government’.

  29. richard says:

    “there are numerous articles there and a lengthy in depth study of the California example”

    There are not numerous studies at that website. The one I could find there concluded that state ballot initiatives that rejected tax hikes lead to significant reductions in state revenue. As a consequence, debt-burdened states downloaded service costs to cities (as per Mike Harris), Wealthy cities raised some taxes to preserve middle class services, but poorer cities were unable to do so. Net result has been a massive reduction in services to the poor and working class.

    These ballot initiatives have resulted in worsening conditions for those with lower incomes. By the main, these initiatives are supported by neoconservative and libertarian groups who see all govt spending as bad. They have the money to propagandize and win these referenda. There is little or no evidence that ballot initiatives like these are beneficial to society or to democratic processes.

    “and most media now admit there were close to 1000 people at the protest.”

    A few hundred at best; a poor turnout given all the hype, but then perhaps 50% of the Facebookers are non-NBers for all we know. Or perhaps they are just keyboard commandos.

  30. mikel says:

    It says it right on the home page “Did Voter Initiatives Paralyze the California Budget”. The conclusions is that voter initiatives were a small measure in the California budget (compare that with Enron and you’ll see where California’s money went).

    Are you SERIOUSLY arguing about initiatives that rejected tax hikes in a province where taxes have DECREASED? Are you seriously arguing that the massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest NBers, that Moodys cited as the reason for NB’s credit rating discount because of governments inability to meet costs-are somehow GOOD because they came from a central office but that democratic initiatives where people simply rejected tax hikes (forget lower taxes) is BAD?

    In the US ALL states are ‘debt burdened states’. The US is deeper in debt than any country in the world. So lets take Colorado as an example. Several years ago the state was one of the few to vote in TABOR, which is a way to restrain governments growth by only allowing tax increases to correspond with inflation and growths in population. After that spending was curtailed, yet when the recession hit, it was quickly found that government would need more resources. So in ANOTHER referendum voters overturned TABOR in order to increase government spending on services.

    Now, compare that to New Brunswick, where the recession hit and the government ignored it, where massive new spending has been asked for YEARS, where the poorest don’t even have basic housing rights, and you are arguing that somehow NB’s system is BETTER? Well, again, everybody has a right to their opinion.

    And as for keyboard comandos, we have anonymous Richard from who knows where who SAYS he was at the protest but disputes the counting of virtually everybody who was there.

    As for evidence of ‘benefit to society’ that’s ridiculous. There are HUNDREDS of examples of that, again, go to iandrintstitute, go to switzerland and start reading of the actual ballots initiatives. There is simply no argument here, particularly for New Brunswick, which a good percentage of people view simply as Irvings fiefdom with a monopoly press and one of the laziest legislatures in Canada, with far worse social spending records than most of the hemisphere. Even David used to tout the study that had NB ranked lower than ALL but I think TWO US states.

    So come on Richard, before taking pot shots at people how about giving your name and who you actually are. Otherwise, nobody should believe a word you say (especially when the data shows otherwise).

  31. I’m not disagreeing with you here, but I do want to point out that employment growth statistics that end in 2008 are useless. Since then we have had a recession and many unsustainable industries – particularly those in Ontario – have experienced significant job losses.

    Similarly, in a later post, you compare industrial power rates to residential rates across political regions – and include Ontario’s very low rate. This rate is very low because it includes the special rates northern lumber and paper industries receive. But that results in a misleading depiction of industrial electricity rates in Ontario overall. So – again without disagreeing with you – I feel a need to call you to task for misrepresentative statistics.

    In the half-year or so I’ve been following this blog, I’m noticing that this seems to be a trend. I think many (not all) of the points of view you offer here are sound. But you undermine your own case with faulty data, and this same faulty data seems to lead you to positions which are, in my view, unsustainable.

  32. mikel says:

    David doesn’t have all the time in the world, but that’s hardly HIS fault that job numbers stop in 2008. He IS right about job growth, so far as it goes, and thats not ‘misrepresenting’ those facts, but data has to stop somewhere. It’s ironic though that these industries are called ‘unsustainable’. We’re now at a point where if a corporation isn’t getting the massive haul it can get from an area with slave wages, organized crime, no environmental regulations, and cheap crappy quality, they are now ‘unsustainable’.

    Lazy Boy closed its ‘factory’ here in Waterloo, not because it wasn’t making money, but because it could make MORE money by shipping into canada from cheap labour regions. That doesn’t make the industry unsustainable, in my mind it makes the COUNTRY unsustainable.

    And the reality is that most Ontario pulp and paper mills are IN those areas with the cheap power-although its true, not all, and there is more to industry than pulp and paper. Auto makers are HUGE users of power, and they are ALL located in southern ontario, so power rates hasn’t made them pack up and move north.

    I did make a call on that chart, but I do a LOT of research, and you can often find more than one set of data for specific ‘facts’, so making mistakes can be inevitable. My data came from the government, not sure about David’s. David’s position has always been stated pretty clearly, so I think the above needs to specifically point out data thats faulty, otherwise its just a smear.

  33. richard says:

    ” Otherwise, nobody should believe a word you say (especially when the data shows otherwise)”

    The data do not show otherwise. You are confusing an assertion with data. If you would actually look at the studies that have been done re Prop 13 and elsewhere (a few even exist at the site you keep citing but you apparently stop at the assertions that support your POV) you can see them.

    “Are you SERIOUSLY arguing about initiatives that rejected tax hikes in a province where taxes have DECREASED?”

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here. I have never said that NBs tax cuts were a good idea. Are you trying to say that they would have been rejected in a referendum? There is no way to know that.

    “arguing that somehow NB’s system is BETTER”

    Never said NB’s system was better; I said that the parliamentary system was preferable to running things by ballot initiatives. The problem with state-wide tax-related ballot initiatives is that as I said they tend to attract those that reject taxes. Consequently, states where such initiatives are common have run into significant fiscal problems. The effect has been hardest on the poor and working class. Several states have experienced this over the past few years; California’s problem is more long-term (and preceeds Enron). When fiscal issues are turned over to ballot initiatives, you are giving more power to the minority of wealthy persons who control media and taking power away from the middle class.

    As I have said before, I do not believe the critical issue in NB with respect to governance is the mode of governance as such, but the lack of transparency in govt operations and the lack of a press that is more interested in good governance, and less interested in corporate propaganda. The latter cannot be replaced by blogs or other social media but can be partly addressed by improved hard copy media plus development and distribution of good data analysis.

    “where the recession hit and the government ignored it, where massive new spending has been asked for YEARS”

    What heaven’s name are you talking about?

    ” There are HUNDREDS of examples of that”

    Yes, there are hundreds of initiatives. But there is no evidence that they have created societies better than those where initiatives are less common.

  34. mikel says:

    That is semantics Richard, they are BETTER societies because they are more democratic. Your ‘assertion’ about ‘what the problems are’ in a parliamentary government is very much at the heart of what a democracy is. The US is NOT a ‘democracy’, but it does have far more of the basic tools of democracy. And a basic part of voting is having relevant information. However, IF you don’t consider the tax cuts a ‘good idea’, are you saying that the problem in NB is that nobody knows about the tax cuts and that the media never talks about them? Virtually everybody knows their taxes have been cut, and the CBC had several stories on it. Your usual ‘assumption’ is that if people KNOW a certain fact, by definition the government will be better. That’s hogwash. People DO know about the tax cut policy, that doesn’t mean they agree with it.

    As for referenda, that is not true about taxes. The only city in canada to have referenda is Rossland, BC, the FIRST referenda they had was to increase taxes to pay for a new water system. This very year in Maine people voted in support of a bond issue to increase spending on highways, and TABOR failed. That allows the legislature to increase taxes-whenever it wants in fact. NO direct democracy has ever said “the people decide EVERYTHING”-then people wouldn’t have time for anything else.

    Richard needs to back up his data. Colorado has citizens initiatives, New Mexico does not. There is no evidence that the poor are worse off in Colorado than New Mexico, and worse off because of votes people have taken. I’d argue the reverse.

    A parliamentary system DOES ‘run things’, its the composition thats the question. Citizens initiatives are one form of direct democracy, and its inclusion does three things-it makes the legislature more attentive to the publics needs, it makes information necessary and therefore more accessible (the government becomes more objective), and makes it more democratic.

    Those are ALL just Richard’s opinions above, they are not supported by fact. In fact the chief complaint about democracy has ALWAYS been that since the people without means are more numerous than those with means, they will vote for measures that will decrease the inequality. Aristotle says it outright, that you can’t have inequality AND democracy.

    As Richard admits, we simply dont KNOW how NBers would vote in referendum so can’t say anything conclusively, what we DO know is that New Brunswick’s parliamentary system has produced all those problem Richard talks about-hardships for the poor, lack of media, lack of accountability, which do NOT exist as badly in the states with some tools of direct democracy.

    So Richard says that direct democracy will lead to people voting for lower taxes and worse conditions for the poor-but NB ALREADY has those. So thats no argument. With at least a citizens initiative, what we would see is that unpopular decisions would be challenged by people, and access to government demanded. THat’s at least SOME democracy, but again, the US is NOT a democracy, which is why I usually refer to Switzerland. However, in the US you can simply find out whether it is ‘better’ by asking those who live there. Most states with initiatives have shown not much difference in tax policies than states without them. Thats mainly because of the stranglehold that their federal government has over most of their finances. Actual decisions are limited.

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