Evaluating federal government economic dev. priorities

It would be nice if the federal government would come out and list the sectors that it will be dumping serious cash into over the next few years (as the ex-CTF man shouts “Don’t tase me, bro!”). But unfortunately, they rarely come right out and say this stuff so you have to piece it together.

So, here is my reckoning of where the federal Tories are spending billions on economic development, based on recent media reports and press releases.

We know there’s a billion+ dollars in direct subsidies for biofuels development.

We know there’s a big pile of cash for the aerospace sector (as they have revamped and relauched the TPC program which basically funds Montreal’s aerospace sector).

We know the auto sector is a ‘key’ priority. The new Industry Minister says the sector is crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity.

We know they are focused on biotech.

They have piled more cash into the clean technologies sector.

Pop quiz. Name one commonality among all these sectors. Time’s up.

None of those sectors have any traction at all in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick has the smallest aerospace sector of all ten provinces.

New Brunswick has no biofuels production at all – there is one plant in the works – but the Federal funding will likely go primarily to projects in the west.

New Brunswick has no biotech sector at all – Nova Scotia, PEI and Saskatchewan have built interesting biotech/life sciences sectors – but NB nada. The new cancer research institute in Moncton is interesting but by any measure, there is virtually no biotech/life sciences activity here.

Auto sector? Come on.

Clean tech? There is a little bit of this going on here but when I looked at all the projects funded by the Feds over the past five years, I think only one was in New Brunswick.

But I guess we should be thankful that Stephen Harper was done to announce new tourism infrastructure funding. Those $9/hour seasonal jobs will come in handy.

My thinking, as you know, nowadays is about alignment. Maybe the province of New Brunswick should try to focus its development in the areas where there are actual Federal funding programs.

Just a thought.

However, prying Federal dollars for auto, aerospace or even biotech in New Brunswick would be difficult if not impossible. These sectors have entrenched lobbies and strong channels into the funding programs. Coming in as an interloper would be hard.

Imagine for a moment the Feds ever putting a nickel into an auto plant in New Brunswick or working with the NB government to attract Boeing here? Or how about attracting a 1,000 person pharma plant here?

Anyone inside the system has a big grin on right now because that won’t happen in our lifetimes.