I posted a blog a few weeks ago postulating that in front of every good economic development program you will have politicians and behind it you will have a few good civil servants. I got some blowback for this position but I will stick to my assertion.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Politicians tend to be lawyers, teachers, etc. It is rare for an economic developer to get in the game (Camille Theriault was a former economic developer). So, to think they will be able on their own to craft a successful economic development programme is silly. So, they tend to rely on one or two of their most trusted advisors when it comes to economic development policy.
I think the best politicians look for the best ideas – not just restricted to the 3-4 people they talk to over drinks at the Cool Camel (not so veiled reference to a former Premier). And in some cases, you have really bright civil servants that understand these issues intimately but that have been stifled or supressed by the weight of the bureaucracy.
I stumbled, by accident, on this guy yesterday. He was a 39 year old civil servant in the late 1950s in Ireland. He co-authored a white paper on economic growth for Ireland (sound familiar to the current mandate of Graham’s new committee). This paper concluded that Ireland had to become a magnet for inward foreign investment and outlined a series of steps on how to make this happen. Politicians latched on and here we are – almost 50 years later.
The old fart, I think, is still alive. Anyway a few years ago he wrote a book on that time and I am currently trying to track it down.
The bottom line? Graham and Byrne need to find the Whitacker (s) for New Brunswick. Kevin Bulmer (now at ACOA) was the architect of the call centre initiative in the early 1990s. There are a few other visionaries scattered around the province (inside and outside of government). Find them. Cajole them. Come up with a white paper for New Brunswick. Not another crappy Prosperity Plan with weird targets and no funding or effort to achieve them. A real document that outlines clearly the state of the union, the vastness of the challenge and the steps needed to achieve the objective (one step, I would assume, would be getting NB firmly planted on the global foreign investment landscape).
Just another document to justify the same old same old won’t suffice.