1,517 blogs spread over there years.
Over 6,000 comments.
300+ graphs and charts.
I started with my first blog on October 28th, 2004. You can read it here to get a sense of what I was trying to do. I think, political context aside, the message is still on the mark.
So, for my little stab at profundity, I will tell you what I think is the most important learning from the past three years.
Here it is:
It is far more easy to get money from the Federal government for non-economic development related activities than for economic development related activities.
If you want funds to top up EI, no problem (thanks Stephen!). If you want more health and social dough, no problem. If you want to twin a highway, no problem. If you want more Equalization, no problem.
But if you want money to invest in economic development, problem. Federal spending on direct economic development in New Brunswick is down – and down significantly – in the past 10 years as a percentage of total program spending (and on an absolute basis).
Money to help bring an auto plant here? Fat chance.
Money to support a serious data centre strategy? Fat chance.
Money for more R&D to bring NB up from it status of having the least R&D in Canada? Fat chance.
Federal government jobs moved here to support economic development? Fat chance.
Federal dough to build serious cluster strategies for the province? Fat chance.
Now, even my right wing readers will see the unfairness of cranking up economic development spending in other provinces (for example the recent hundreds of millions for Centres of Excellence, the billion+ dollars for biofuels in the West, etc.) and down in New Brunswick – one of only four provinces with almost no oil & gas revenues.
Why this is uniquely important at this juncture is this issue of Atlantic Gateway. The feds are likely going to throw $500 million in to Atl. Canada under this umbrella over the next five years. The province of New Brunswick has a very tight window of opportunity to figure out what it wants from this initiative. It will likely default to twinning the SJ -St. Stephen highway.
I say it should push for a major inland port and a serious strategy to get the rail infrastructure from Halifax into New England working effectively. I don’t even know what that means but if that cargo coming through Halifax could go directly to markets in the U.S. eastern seabord it would be far more relevant to all of the Maritime provinces than the system in place today.
But further than that, I think the province should trick the Feds. The next $70 million Equalization cheque – instead of plowing it into health care, how about a strategy for data centres? Or animation industries? Or financial services back offices?