The lost Harper-Alward transcript (an exercise in wishful thinking)
From somewhere off in the distance…
“Mr. Prime Minister, it’s New Brunswick Premier David Alward on the telephone”.
PM: Groan. Put him through.
Alward: Hello, Mr, Prime Minister. Thanks for taking my call.
PM: Hey, David, do you want my help selling shale gas to your citizens? I think with my charm and wit, I could convince them…
Alward (interrupting): NO, I mean no, Mr. Prime Minister, I know you are busy and shale gas really isn’t our top concern these days.
PM: You’re telling me. Geez, David, I see you only mustered a 0.1% GDP growth last year and no net new employment growth since 2006! If Alberta had those numbers I’d be back living in Calgary talking about firewalls. Is there anything I can do to help?
Alward: That’s why I am calling. A number of your plans are going to hurt…..
PM: Alward, let me stop you right there. I know, I know. A distant cousin of mine from Dorchester sent me a long list – hundreds of federal jobs cut, zero increase in transfer payments, millions cut out of other programs, proposed changes to EI and Equalization that will hit NB harder than most. I heard it all.
Alward: Exactly, but we have a new plan in New Brunswick for economic development centered on innovation. You spend billions each year on R&D and virtually nothing in New Brunswick. Think you might be able to direct a little more down here?
PM: Whoa there Davey boy, I just cut the main program that was used for health research in New Brunswick and we are cutting the NRC down there – so don’t expect much help from us on the innovation file. You gotta pull yourselves up by the bootstraps. All this cutting of federal spending will be good for you. Haven’t you read all the good work from the boys at Frontier and Fraser? I can’t get enough of that stuff.
Alward: Errrr, okay. We have this new agency, Invest NB, and we are really serious about attracting more international investment to the province. Can you instruct the hundreds of international trade and investment officers to work with our folks at Invest NB?
PM: Ooops. Another problem, there. We just closed our DFAIT office in New Brunswick and moved it to Halifax. In addition, our guys in the foreign offices like to sell our biggest assets – you know, Toronto, etc. Besides, we have ACOA down there giving money to small and medium sized businesses. What more do you want?
Alward (exasperated): Mr. Prime Minister, New Brunswick is heading into a major economic crisis. We need the federal government to partner with us to work our way out of this. You are championing Alberta oil around the world. You are relaxing environmental assessment to expedite Alberta pipelines – why cant you see your way clear to help us work on a New Brunswick economic development plan?
PM: Look, we put a billion into Hibernia and guess how that worked out (voice from somewhere is heard saying “Psst, Mr. Prime Minister, Newfoundland is now a ‘have’ province”). Harrumph, Alward check that last statement. Look at all the help we are giving to Newfoundland. We’ve even agreed to pony up for the Muskrat Falls project. Some of that should spill over to New Brunswick. Hey, and how about that shipbuilding in Nova Scotia – just send your surplus workers to Halifax. Problem solved. Aren’t you glad you called?
Alward: Mr. Prime Minister. Canada is a vast country and each of its provinces have very different economies and are facing different challenges. Why can’t your government tailor its support to our focus areas? If you really want us off Equalization and EI, shouldn’t we work together on a solution that leads to greater economic prosperity here?
PM: Look Alward, you have lots of people sitting around on EI. When we bring down the hammer, they will move to Fort McMurray. Problem solved. Aren’t you glad you called? By the way, I’ll send you the list of 718 reports provided to me by think tanks telling me that if we scrap EI and Equalization New Brunswick will flourish. Isn’t that what we both want?
Alward (resigned): Thanks for your help, Mr. Prime Minister. Long live the Queen.
PM: Cheer up, Alward. I have a Senate seat with your name on it should the unfortunate happen in two years….
Alward: Gee, thanks.