It’s just plain sad

I have been reading the various media stories – mostly the T&T but also the CBC – and the unbelievable spin they are putting on the story of the upscale residential cluster being proposed for around the Sussex region.

The journalists have tried on just about every possible negative theme they can muster. The project will involved cutting down one of the last ‘mature’ forests in New Brunswick. An MLA has an economic interest in the project. The jobs will be low wage. On and on. They are critical of the ‘Irish investors’. They are skeptical of the whole project. They are quoting government officials disclaiming the project all over the place.

It is truly unbelieveable. More forest is cut down every couple of days in New Brunswick than this entire project and basically shipped out of market with no value add. And somehow this very small project – in the overall forests of New Brunswick is an environmental disgrace. The jobs will be ‘low wage’. The richest areas of British Columbia and Alberta are building the exact type of projects for the nouveau riche in Calgary. New Brunswick has virtually no nouveau riche at all and this project would actually bring their money here. To New Brunswick. Investing here. Paying property taxes here. Then there’s the skepticism over the ‘secrecy’. This is the most juvenile and silly argument of all. Developers always negotiate with landowners and other partners without public involvement. That happens inside the borders of Moncton. Just because someone won’t talk with Al Hogan’s lackey about the project means that it is somehow a bad deal for New Brunswickers?

I would have thought the media reports would ooze excitment. Here is the potential for an exciting new project that will bring hundreds of millions in new investment and ultimately considerable new taxes to the province. And all the media can do is criticize?

I am amazed. There can be no doubt. We went from a ‘sense of urgency’ around economic development in 1990 to complete apathy by 2000 to downright hostility in 2007.

It’s borderline surreal. If someone proposed a smoke stack heavy industrial plant for that area the hew and cry would be out of this world. Someone proposes a light footprint, quiet residential community for rich Europeans and that is also savagely attacked. What the cripes does Al Hogan and the other elites want? I don’t blame the fourth generation Steeves who wants to protect the wilderness down there. I blame the folks who should know better.

If you want to turn the whole province into a forest, keep up with this attitude. Economic development is a topic I have studied in great detail over the years and one thing is sure. It takes a long time. Not months. Not years. Sometimes not even decades. But eventually you get to the dubious distinction of being the poorest area in North America as measured by income, net worth and standard of living.

And instead of a collective outcry demanding better. We get this crap.

So much for that whole bootstraps thing. Somebody took them off and hung them behind the door.

And the Pols keep talking about ‘self-sufficiency’. That’s the surreal part. In 15 years, I have never seen such a hostile atmosphere for economic development. At the government and political level. The only group that keeps soldiering on diligently are the Enterprise groups trying to get blood out of stone.

Belledune is one thing but this is something other.

Mark my words. Any project. Any project will have opponents. Politicians and community leaders used to know this and were able to balance the public good against the interests of individuals or lobby groups (or in this case the media which has become one of the most vestest lobby group of all).

New Brunswick might lose this project. I sincerely hope not. But I suspect that the developers and proponents are just as amazed at the response in New Brunswick.

And I’ll end with the same point I made in the previous blog. It doesn’t really matter if this group is a sham. Worst case scenario the lumberjacks get to keep the ‘mature’ forest for another day until Irving coughs up the dough and they sell it to be cut into the 2x4s shipped directly to projects just like this in the U.S., Quebec and beyond.

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0 Responses to It’s just plain sad

  1. Anonymous says:

    You miss the main point. Part of it is crown land, but part of it is private land.

    Not every project would have critics. If they had suggested virtually anywhere in northern new brunswick people would have cheered.

    Again though, good points about media, interesting that it didn’t sound like that when the LNG terminal was getting ‘given’ all for what, far fewer jobs than this would provide.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Effectively creating a sense of urgency is the most significant barrier to this government’s/province’s self sufficiency objective. Without debating the details of this example, your point is broadly applicable. The general population of NB shows apathy towards progress and change. There is a fantasy that the government has an infinite amount of money available and will be able to continue bailing out non-competitive businesses, propping up bankrupt communities and duplicating services and initiatives that even the most prosperous provinces can ill afford. We cannot continue on the existing path if we want to maintain a reasonable standard of living in NB. Significant change is needed.

    It is most disappointing that the present government, while smartly identifying the SS issue, has done little to communicate reality. Highlighting the mess, landmines and challenges that the previous government left behind is petty politics. NB’s challenge is much bigger than that. We are destine to become the welfare state that was pre-maturely described if we don’t bring about significant change. For that, people need to understand what lies ahead.

    In NB there is a small minority that recognizes the challenges ahead. This is not adequate. And, ironically, that minority population tends to represent some of the most probable people to leave for greener pastures. If we do not act soon to create a sense of urgency, we will reach an irreversible tipping point where our destiny is cast in stone.

    Before discussing actions for SS, we need to have the courage to talk about the depressing projections with our current trends. Declining tax base, smaller government, less government services, longer medical wait times, limited school services; all the things people expect to be improved but a situation of declining resources to address them. We need some tough love. We need a wake up call. We need a taste of reality to create a sense of urgency for change.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That’s all debatable. For example, even the SS task force says quite clearly that most people recognize the problems the province is facing.

    Many people make the mistake of seeing ‘apathy’ where it isn’t apathy at all, but disgust. It only takes by the time of voting age to discover that no matter what people think is important, government will do whatever it wants, usually at the bequest of the interests it serves.

    And of course you also have to realize that most people certainly don’t trust government to implement the change necessary, more than half didn’t even vote for them.

    However, to turn to this case the criticisms are all valid. The point at the media would be why they don’t have the same perception when an Irving company is involved (although we KNOW why).

    It’s quite acceptable criticism to ask why information is not forthcoming, and to question a deal when the ‘spokespeople’ won’t talk about it. It’s quite acceptable to ask whether crown land should be used for this purpose, and whether these are the jobs that locals want.

    All of that is acceptable, the problem is that the same criteria is never applied to Irving businesses. Getting the maximum value for resources should be prime consideration in all issues.

    However, the problem is what ‘tough love’ actually means. As Mr. Campbell freely admits, while NB’s population gets smaller, federal transfers are getting bigger, so from a certain perspective, thats GOOD news.

    So for ‘tough love’, lets look at that. Would you trust a government to dish out ‘tough love’ when its first acts have been to raise the tax credit on dividends, something which only benefits 15 to maybe 25% of the population?

    Then ignored public opinion to dictatorially announce a school location change. Then increase taxes, where the second smallest increase is that 10% of the population with the highest incomes?

    Since David has a consistent message I’ll add mine. Would you trust a government to dish out ‘tough love’ where corporations pay the lowest percentage of tax to the provincial budget in the country?

    Where hundreds of millions have been added to the debt for a 150 km stretch of highway? Where federal investment for harbour cleanup wasn’t applied for so that 135 million of federal govenrment could go to that 150 km stretch of highway?

    Are THOSE the people you would trust to dish out ‘tough love’? That many people DON”T is not a sign of ‘apathy’, its a sign of common sense.

  4. David Campbell says:

    I have been picking on Al Hogan at the T&T but I am starting to think you may be right about the Irvings. LNG and wood sector bailouts are hailed as key to New Brunswick’s success but this project is attacked from a highly cynical stance. Hmmmm….

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that’s almost as good as Charles Leblanc finally going after elected officials rather than poor Dan Brussieres!:)

    I wouldn’t have thought it would be so tough to convince somebody that the guys who write the cheques are actually calling the shots! It will be interesting since like I said, this isn’t the north, this is prime Irving territory where their license is. In fact, that might be an issue, since the crown land is licensed, what is the procedure for government approving a venture like this?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Campbell;

    I do hope your blog stirs up enough thinkers and doers in this province to show that this project is a must for the Elgin area as well as for the entire province. Please, do keep us informed.