For those of you that follow this blog, you would have noticed spirited debate between myself and ‘anonymous’ following a blog I wrote last friday. Now, we don’t know who ‘anonymous’ is but we do know that he is male, most likely an ex-New Brunswicker, well read and fairly articulate.
If you read his stuff, it sounds good. Invest more in education. In research. In small, local businesses. Shun the global, greedy, trans-fat-national corporations who are only looking to turn New Brunswick into the third world of North America.
His comments are anything but novel – in fact – they representing the prevailing thought when it comes to economic development in this region. People espousing this ideology are a dime a dozen – or, as the British would say, two a pence.
For example, this ideology is remarkably similar to the one put forward by the Canadian Auto Workers union while it lobbys intensely for billions of foreign investment into Ontario’s auto sector. Atlantic Canada, says the CAW, needs to support its SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). The NDP has a similar approach – but you need to add in massive income support programs. Programs that if they were implemented in Ontario would cripple the national economy.
But it’s not just the left espousing Anonymous’ model. The universities say the same thing. ACOA has been following a policy of SME support for 30 years and the Liberal’s Rising Tide economic development strategy for Atlantic Canada makes the attraction of foreign investment a secondary priority. In fact, only those crazy Mayors (the group of Atlantic Canadian city mayors) have boldly stated that we need to attract massive foreign investment. Those wackos called for Atlantic Canada to be the fastest growing region of North America.
I will reiterate the basic tenet of my blog. We need massive foreign investment into new greenfield operations and into our local businesses to provide the capital and jobs required to move this economy from a position of vulnerability and dependence on other Canadian taxpayer good will to one that is self-sufficient and a healthy contributor to the Canadian economy. A strong New Brunswick economy, fuelled by global business investment, will generate the need for more and stronger SMEs, it will free up capital and resources for new research and it will force us to be proactive about the labour market and education.
And for those espousing the same, old tired methods of the past – I say that hasn’t worked – give my way a try for just 10 years or so. If it doesn’t work, you can go back to the SME supporting, EI dependent, declining industries approach that we currently use.
I will say one thing, however. I enjoy this type of debate. I have said, and continue to say, that we need to debate these issues in the public square. We need folks from all walks of life in New Brunswick to spend some time mulling over and thinking about matters of economic development. The government frames its priorities based on what it perceives to be the priorities of the people. And as long as collectively we place economic development at the bottom of the priority list – so will the government. But when we demand, collectively, that the government, after 30 years of decline, do something about the economy, it will or it won’t get re-elected.