Searching for David Cameron

After reading the piece on Lise Ouellette this morning in the TJ  it got me back on theme I have written about before – what is a Tory in New Brunswick?

It seems to me that a fundamental opportunity would be for the Tories to take up the empowerment of local regions within New Brunswick mantle – a la the Finn Report but I have heard many Tories argue against the principles of that report.

David Cameron got elected talking about transforming the way government is done in the U.K. by pushing decision making and authority down to the local/regional level.  

The argument in New Brunswick has always been that we are ‘too small’ and you can’t have all that ‘duplication’ and that is why – take a stab at it – 95% of all government decision making is done in Fredericton.  Even municipal funding is primarily controlled by the province.

A city manager of one of the big three municipalities in the province once told me he hadn’t seen a single official from the provincial department overseeing local government in three years.   I won’t say which city or which government but I think you get the point.  

While that seems like a relevant point – that scale matters and that is why everything is done in Fredericton – the reality is that people live in communities.  Economic development happens in communities.  Schools are in communities.  Hospitals are in communities.

When I went on my cross province interview tour last year for a project I was struck by just how quick everyone from Saint John to San Quentin was quick to blame Fredericton (and secondarily Ottawa) for their problems.  It seemed to me that it has become easy and convenient to do this.

I’d like to see the Finn Report debated, maybe tweaked and then brought into power.   What do we have to lose?  When the county system of government was scrapped back in the 1960s, Northern New Brunswick’s population was growing at a healthy rate.  Now it’s in fairly steep decline.  We have equalized government service delivery, yes, teachers in Tracadie now make as much (within a range) as teachers in Moncton but we have extracted any control over the destiny out of these areas and placed it in Fredericton. 

The hope is that a beneficent leader will come along and save us (whomever us is). 

I think it is worth a try.  I don’t want a situation where the government sets the Acadian Peninsula apart like a seperate administrative district such as Northern Ireland.  We still need the horsepower and capacity of the provincial government in Fredericton to work for all areas of New Brunswick.

But we need to find a way to have the local community put skin in the game.  They need to feel like they own it and they have some control over their destiny.

And I think that’s at least partially the message of Lise Ouellette.

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6 Responses to Searching for David Cameron

  1. Susan Holt says:

    I’m glad to see you touch on Local Government and the Finn Report in your blog David. When the Fredericton Chamber exec met with the Liberal, PC, NDP and Green teams recently, Local Governance was one of the 7 topics we asked them to address (http://bit.ly/9nWrgp), specifically calling for a re-examination of the Report and encouraging the parties to bring Finn’s recommendations forward. I worry that this issue is a tough one for the electorate to embrace, but would love to see public dialogue on the topic!

  2. richard says:

    “would love to see public dialogue on the topic”

    The only public dialogue to date has been hostility to the idea, mainly on the basis that taxes for those now in LSDs (where we have no govt and no mechanism for advocating for our area) will go up. And they will go up. Trouble is, they are going to go up either way as GNB lacks the fiscal capacity to continue to subsidize rural NB to the extent it is now. People have little idea of what their taxes pay for, either on a provincial or federal level, and have little idea what these services actually cost. Seems to me we need to start with more information delivery; perhaps some fact-based dialogue would start after that.

  3. mikel says:

    We talked about this before, and Canada’s poor government model is to blame. In the US and Switzerland, even increasingly in China, local governance means just that. Essentially in Canada we have municipalities that are just managers. Very little taxing power, and most decisions can always be trumped by the province anyway.
    So there really is no quid pro quo. The other problem is that media problem where there is really no place to have a ‘dialogue’ or debate. The electorate isn’t going to get on board simply because they have little say in the matter. Where they DO have say, the Irving media ignores the issue, and even the CBC ignores it. Under the liberals we saw two referenda on it, and the turnout was so low that its clear people had no idea about it, rural areas actually have good word of mouth and its often easier to get information out. The Irving media was so bad they even had an editorial complaining about the fact nobody knew about the referenda! And thats after ignoring the issue for weeks.

  4. mikel says:

    By the way, I’d seriously debate your comment about WHY David Cameron got elected. Like canada they use the antiquated FPTP system and Cameron only got one third of the vote. Much of the campaign centred on the theme of “only the conservatives can beat Labour” and the current government had been VERY unpopular due in large part to scandals (expenses) and the war in Iraq.
    Apparantly his ‘big society’ speech had to be ‘launched’ twice because it illicited so little interest the first time. Local groups agreed it wasn’t a bad idea, but much of it was well known to have already been initiated by the current Labour government, and most local groups argued that they weren’t prepared for such responsibility because it likely was a code word for axing funding for these issues.
    It’s always dangerous to say ‘why’ a politician wins a race, even locally let alone in another country. There are far better examples of what you are talking about in South American countries where there are almost literally ‘democratic revolutions’ taking place-Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina. In Canada, the whole question of municipal authority rests on one issue-property tax.

  5. Not to parse words, but I said he got elected “talking about transforming” – I didn’t say he got elected because he was talking transformation. There were a whole lot of things going on in that election.

  6. mikel says:

    “David Cameron got elected talking about transforming the way government is done in the U.K”

    So what you were actually saying was that at the exact point of his election he was talking about transforming the way government is done?:)

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