I spent the last two days in Fredericton talking to folks in government, pundits, consultants, etc. and it seems clear the new government is in study mode. You can almost smell the sawdust burning as you walk in the soon-to-be-redundant Centennial Building.
But I got the sense there is some genuine optimism – and not just from the political folks. I guess change brings opportunity and people sense the new government just may make some inroads into these stubborn public policy challenges that are dogging NB.
I don’t think the new government needs to promise the moon or set outrageous targets. It’s better to underpromise and over-deliver than to over promise and under deliver – if you’ll parden the cliche.
But that doesn’t mean I endorse inaction or some kind of organic slow moving process in the hope that it’ll turn out in alright in the end. We will still need to see some very tough decisions made. There hasn’t been a government since Robichaud that didn’t see its share of picketing in front of the legislature. There will be people outraged. There will be vested interests getting their sacred cows tipped over. There will be interest groups feeling they were shortchanged. If someone isn’t pissed off – the government will have failed miserably.
Someone used the term ‘sclerosis’ to describe what happens when things just happen for long periods of time without some effort to flush or dramatically reduce the plaque that builds up. I like the visual imagery. One Wendy’s double cheese burger won’t clog your arteries but five per week for 10 years will.
It is time for a flushing of the system. A refresh. A rethink.
Consider economic development. I have talked about this in the past but there are at least 13 separate organizations in New Brunswick doing ‘economic development’ and that doesn’t include the employees at the municipal level directly doing economic development. Not that long ago I started counting and got to over 600 people employed directly in economic development in New Brunswick – and I gave up counting.
It’s a vast and winding labyrinth of organizations – most with well intentioned and professional staff but the system has become sclerotic – it is relatively rigorous and unresponsive. There is very little coordination. Very little alignment and, in some cases, outright acrimony between organizations and individuals.
I think a broad review of this effort with some serious changes at the end should be considered. The provincial government cannot directly change all the federal -and even municipal – efforts but it certainly could build a new map of effort and find ways to ensure better alignment of effort.
Change brings opportunity but it comes with a window.