I think David Alward’s idea to legislatively reign in spending increases is a good one particularly since spending growth under the Tory government he was a part of grew by almost three times the rate of inflation. Government outspending the private sector is a decidedly non-partisan issue.
In addition, employment growth in publicly funded sectors – public administration, health care and education is up over 18% over 10 years (2000-2009) while private sector employment growth is a tepid 5% over that time frame.
I think the case for spending restraint in the public sector is strong but without a credible economic development plan it’s problematic. As I have said before, government spending serves two purposes: 1) beefing up public services and 2) to make up for anemic private sector economic activity. We need to see the private economy starting to add significant new employment.
David Alward needs to give us a credible economic development platform. As Don Desserud says “This is the light side of a platform.” It is feel-good to talk about democratic reform and transparency and even talking about restraining government spending doesn’t bother the masses until they see it hit them directly.
I think one of the problems with the Lord government was the lack of a weltanschauung for what they wanted to do while in power. The 200 days of change was a flurry of promise fulfilling but beyond that it was just about spending NB’s share of the federal surplus. I have said before many times that if the Lord government had crafted policies and efforts that led to one or two more “call centre” style sector development efforts, New Brunswick would have led Canada in economic growth. We had fiscal wriggle room, we had good will among corporate Canada and we had an economic development infrastructure just aching for McKenna-style leadership on economic development.
I worry the Tories will fall back to Lord’s “made in New Brunswick” economic development model where all we get is small business tax cuts and ‘red tape’ reduction. That failed before and it will fail again. That model is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how economies grow.
But there are still a few months until the election and a few Tory friends of mine tell me a plan is forthcoming. I hope so.
A pile of folks said bringing down the Hydro-Quebec deal was “a great day for democracy”. I think it would be a great day for democracy if a New Brunswick government put a serious economic development plan on the table.