Spending money

I don’t know much about how government decides how to spend its money. I study it probably more than most – but I still don’t understand the mechanics of how money is spent.

For example, it seems relatively easy to get money out of the Feds for highway construction (I see that Premier Graham is looking for more federal dough to twin the Saint John-St. Stephen highway) than for R&D. It seems far more easy to get money from the Feds for health care spending than for economic development projects. It seems far more easy to get money from the Feds through Equalization than through economic development programs.

Maybe it is an issue of limited funds and the province deciding where they want to put their lobbying efforts. For example, the TJ is reporting that the Premier is in Ottawa looking for more money for highways and a natural gas pipeline (arguably the latter could be considered economic development, I guess). I, on the other hand, was blown away when the Feds announced hundreds of millions of dollars last week to fund research and development “Centres of Excellence” across Canada – and none in New Brunswick. Why weren’t we in there pushing for the R&D?

I am evolving my position on highways. I used to think that having a kick arse, four lane highway system all over New Brunswick was key to our economic future. But I am revising my position. Maybe the highway system will just make it easier to drive through New Brunswick or to move on down the road.

In other words, beyond highways, you need a strategy for economic development.

My new thinking on this is simple. If the Feds will give us a few hundred million more for R&D, I’ll trade in my Passat for a horse and buggy.

In other words, when somebody says “Mr. PM, we spend less on R&D in New Brunswick than any other province including Newfoundland”, he can respond but we give them piles of dough for highways.

I don’t like that trade off.