Deja vu all over again

Good exposure this morning in a CP article (and others) for New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham descended on the country’s financial hub Wednesday to promote the Maritime province’s burgeoning energy sector, calling New Brunswick the “next Alberta in the Canadian economy” in a bid to lure back both businesses and bodies.

You can’t say that Graham doesn’t like to overstate things, can you? We will be ‘self sufficient’. Our post-secondary system will be a ‘model’ for the rest of North America. Our education system will go ‘from worst to first’ and now we are ‘the next Alberta’. Hmmm. As I have said before, I’d settle for ‘worst to a little less worse’ and ‘the next Manitoba’ or something like that but that’s just me.

But I do think these guys should learn from the old gang. Under McKenna, these little junkets were just about political points. The real dealmaking, the hard selling, etc. was done behind the scenes and, in fact, deals that had been in the works for months and even years were announced to be the ‘result’ of such a junket.

During the Lord tenure, the junkets themselves become the ‘result’ and I hope that hasn’t carried over into this new administration. Graham and Byrne making speeches to polite applause – will get New Brunswick nowhere. It’s just PR effort. I am not discounting PR – I’m just saying that if that is it, they will achieve little to nothing.

There is no substitute for hard work. For product development, for building a sales funnel and winnowing it down over time. For driving passion throughout the BNB team and across government.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that a Graham/Byrne junket to talk with their own team and fire them up might do more good than a Bay Street junket. But that’s just me.

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0 Responses to Deja vu all over again

  1. mikel says:

    You are making the assumption that that work isn’t being done. Do you have knowledge of that? Just as likely is the fact that the arena has changed. McKenna did the work of selling call centres, that was about his only success and it was possible because of the new telecommunications push and NBTel just happened to be state of the art at the time.

    Those days are gone, the ‘carrot’ no longer exists and so the ‘hard sell’ is that much harder. We know that it does exist, you’ve given us the Nova Scotia examples, but those too are pretty few and far between.

    But to make a comparison as far as ‘sales’ goes, Graham is already doing a fantastic job by those standards. The bridgebuilding enterprise in the Miramichi, and the potash deal near Sussex are two BIG examples and in the first year when relatively little was done int he legislature.

    The reality is that its getting much harder to sell. There is no more NBTel, thats been swallowed up and now we see a good example of the costs of ‘maritime unity’. NB no longer has a potential edge over the other atlantic provinces. That blends in well with your comments about the trade mission. In this Lord looks FAR smarter, partnering with Manitoba helped share the costs and generate interest, and each had a different market. Industry doesn’t set up in a ‘region’, they set up in a province, even in a municipality, so partnering up with other atlantic provinces could very well make things harder.

    But here I think you are off track, New Brunswick IS making the legislative effort, unfortunately the benefit for the population is secondary, if it exists at all. By saying ‘NB is the next Alberta’ can mean TWO things: that NB will be ‘rich’ from its resources (unlikely since it has little), and two, NB will ‘do whatever it takes’ to ensure resource extractors make pots of money-even at the detriment of its own population.

    Sadly, NB has a history of doing that, apart from having a vast resource itself, NB is ALREADY ‘Alberta’. Of course everybody knows that contrary to NBT’s constant thumping the only reason Alberta is in its situation is because it sits on an oil mine.

    It’s true that usually such remarks by Graham (and wasn’t ‘worst to first’ the line LORD used?) are just pointless hyperbole, but in this case, its unfortunately accurate. Of course we know he’s only HALF right, resource owners will maybe make money, but the province won’t necessarily be on the road to ‘self sufficiency’, but I think everybody knows that that line, if not for show, is at least secondary.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Actually, Lord was a “worst to third” kind of guy. His education plan called for NB to be in the top three provinces within 10 years and his R&D plan called for NB to be in the top three as well within 10 years. I believe the same holds for the Prosperity Plan. I’ll take top 6 or 7.

  3. nbt says:

    Isn’t this their third junket of this king in North America?? The other two (I think?) were the Atlantic premiers in Alberta (tar sands) and a lone provincial visit to NYC. Both of which New Brunswick came out empty handed (I believe Nova Scotia and Newfoundland struck a few deals after the Alberta junket just weeks after — where they received some outsourced contracts).

    Anyway, back to your point of “worst to a little less worse”. I believe you’re right on the money here David, in fact, Graham is irresponsible in his comments about being the next Alberta because not only does NB not match up to them economically, we don’t show similar voting patters (they have had conservative governments preaching low taxes in there for quite sometime now).

    I think if Graham wants to be realistic about things, he should look at semi-conservative states like Tennessee or Arkansas that have a fairly high rural population, not to mention, they vote for both Democrat and Republican governors. He should not be comparing himself to non-tax and spend resource rich states or provinces.

    Take the former governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, as an example. He inherited a dismally funded education system, last in per capita spending amongst all states (with a shortage of textbooks at all school levels and a low literacy problem to boot). And the economy wasn’t that much better off.

    Anyway, in his first two years in office, Bill was able to approve a 40 per cent funding increase, including $1,200 dollar annual pay raise and a 67 per cent increase for special education. And guess what? That only propelled his state into the middle of the pack on education funding, not to first. But it was an improvement in his mind and one that wouldn’t have been accomplished had he threw out such platitudes as “worst to first” without a solid plan to get there. In my mind, I believe such unrealistic goals do more to damage the overall psyche of a province or state, then it does to lift it out of its economic or educational doldrums.

    As for the economic side (Clinton’s so-called strength), he was able to take a declining state and make it competitive once again. He broadened the state’s efforts beyond simply recruiting new industries, to include the expansion of existing cutting edge industries and aid to small and medium business (which included a policy to help farmers market products home and abroad). He also increased his states presence abroad by adopting a European office in Brussels and he took Arkansas on its first European mission to the far East – To Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong. And because of that, they became successful in attracting new industries, with increased investments over previous years of 75 per cent in 1979 and 64 per cent in 1980. Again, it didn’t vault them into first, but it was an improvement. And one I strongly believe wouldn’t have happened had the unrealistic PR campaign of “worst to first” been part of their repertoire.

    Anyway, let’s hope that the freddy brigade drop this nonsense from their rhetoric soon. If not, we’ll be looking at similar results once again, or should I say, lack of results once again.

  4. mikel says:

    First, I said something similar to this at Alec Bruce’s site, but essentially the ‘aim’ seems to be political, but not in the way anybody thinks. You would be hard pressed to find a single New Brunswick who actually does think that Graham or ANYBODY will propel NB from ‘worst to first’.

    However, it does two things. For the apolitical types who are always a potential danger should they get organized it makes provincial politics such a joke that its hardly worth paying attention to. There’s far less idealism in ‘canadian idol’.

    However, it does do something else which is important in a two man race-and that is that it makes Graham look like an ‘idealist’. We’ve seen those types of comments in all kinds of blogs and media, its a way to ‘get credit’ where credit is not due. An idealist would actually advance some idealist policies, but this way he ‘gets credit for trying’. His ‘heart is in the right place’.

    You can see this kind of stuff at charles leblanc’s site, where he’s always given Lord grief because he didn’t come out and laugh at protestors like the liberals do.

    In politics, its all about ‘qualities’, not ‘policies’. So Graham is seen to be ‘shooting high’ (and aiming low).

    As for the comparison stuff, thats stuff the province shouldn’t be doing at all, thats stuff the media should be doing, and not by stupid statements like that, but by actual policies. So again, if you want to be ‘worst to first’, its a pretty easy benchmark. Here in Waterloo region the government spends $10,000 per student. I think the last figure I saw for NB was ‘maybe’ half that. But if you really want to go from worst to first, simply fund at that level. Obviously there are other things involved, but when you only pay about half as much on education then you have to be advancing some other pretty radical policies, and I’ve certainly never heard of any.

    But to NBT’s point, that’s a little bit silly and he knows it (and thats why I referenced it above). Alberta sits on oil, thats the only difference. Who is in power is irrelevant, in NB there is ‘technically’ still a conservative government advancing low taxes, the difference is that a dysfunctional voting system put in a Premier who got less than his opponent in a two man race.

    Alberta is no stranger, next to NB it is the province with the most unfair voting representation. In Alberta, the difference is that, for whatever reason, Albertans have largely tuned out of provincial politics at a higher rate than New brunswickers. It could be age, or immigration or any number of other reasons, but voter turnout is less than half of NB’s.

    Plus, of course, policies are no different. When governments can afford lowering taxes (or want to starve the public service so that it looks like it ‘needs’ privatizing) then they do so. In fact, contrary to what Albertans want, their provincial government is VERY miserly. Norway has almost no poverty or housing problems, thanks to their oil. Alberta has the lowest minimum wage in the country and homelessness and poverty are pretty much on par with the poorest have no province (in fact in PEI its far more rare to see a homeless person).

    By the reasoning above, Graham should be doing MORE. But again, people are not stupid, setting up an office in France or god knows where means another posh lifestyle for another political crony. David ASSUMES that such a package would include a gung ho team to ‘sell’ the province, but again, they need something to sell.

  5. nbt says:

    As they say in Texas mikel, “you’re all hat and no cattle.” Even though I disagree sometimes with David, I’m glad he’s not as bitter, hateful and out of touch about our prospects.

  6. mikel says:

    That makes no sense dude.