Think, think, think

I have to admit a little nostalgia for kiddie movies. I used to watch several a week with my kids when they were young. I particularly liked Winnie the Pooh – who used to bang himself on the noggin and say “think, think, think” when he needed to remember something.

I am reading Richard J. Gwyn’s new book John A: The Man Who Made Us and enjoying it so far. I don’t read enough Canadian history as I should.

Anyway, Gwyn spends a little time on the rise of Scotland during the 18th Century. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

The Scottish Enlightenment was a remarkable period in 18th century Scotland characterized by a great outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments rivaling that of any other nation at any time in history. What made it even more remarkable was that it took place in a country which was among the poorest and was thought to be among the most backward in western Europe prior to that time, in addition to having a substantially smaller population base and infrastructure than many other major western European nations.

Reading this stuff just reinforces my belief that New Brunswick needs to spend a lot more money and focus on researching economic development issues. Wouldn’t it be neat if some of the best ideas for regional economic development eminated out of New Brunswick over the next 50 years?

We get so stuck in our own little worlds, haggling over little issues and the world just passes us by sometimes.

I think the public and private sectors in New Brunswick should fund a non-partisan think tank on economic development. Not your standard academic fair where you get a paper published every three years on the use of goat milk to stimulate rural economic development in Botswana (although that is important). No, as I have outlined on these pages before, I am talking about a serious policy support research institute that is pumping out research on the best global models for dealing with regional economic disparities, attracting global biz investment to poorer regions, fostering successful entrepreneurship in a place like New Brunswick, etc.

I would tack on a robust economic monitoring and benchmarking effort and take a broad view. Ideally, the stuff published in New Brunswick would find applicability in Wales, Maine and underperforming parts of Germany, France, etc.

Just throwing more crap around to see if anything might stick.

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0 Responses to Think, think, think

  1. mikel says:

    There already is one-Atlantic institute of Market studies. For economic development, there are studies all over the place, you can find them easily enough online, and at universities.

    It doesn’t take FUNDING, in fact you could start doing it tomorrow and posting a link to some such study and bobs your uncle. It doesn’t take money, it doesn’t take a new government bureaucracy.

    THe problem of course would be the same as it with this blog and other places where such things are occasionally discussed-there is a media monopoly, and there is no method for affecting pre-determined government policy.

    For example, although this will make NBT happy, Graham is now stating that they are on board with lowering capital gains taxes and corporate income taxes-in fact he told Toronto to ‘keep watching’ and that it would be in the spring budget.

    And again, we can go back to a familiar posting here, where we KNOW that corporations only contribute 3% of the budget already. There is virtually NO evidence that such a move will improve investment, although the richest people in NB will be VERY happy to hear it.

    However, apart from writing a letter to the editor there is little anybody can do about that. No doubt when they do that the unions and poor will make some waves on what little media there is, and no doubt there will be the big comeback that they are ‘just being negative and not helping’-then the government will go on doing whatever it wants.

    You are ASSUMING that if there were such a think tank that they’d have political clout (and perhaps thinking that they’d agree with you hmmm?:). Unfortunately, if you look at WHO has money in the private sector, and with the government putting in the rest its pretty obvious what kind of studies would come out-they’d look a lot like AIMS.

    However, for something constructive, I know you didn’t like their last big study, but the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives pretty much does exactly what you are talking about. And far from the propaganda you may have heard, they are not ‘partisan’, in fact they often quote AIMS studies and even link directly to them.

    However, the CCPA does NOT have any branches in New Brunswick-they have one in Nova Scotia so we see lots of studies at their website on Nova Scotia economics, but none on New Brunswick. Once again I can’t explain this, NB has lots of universities and students doing stuff, but like in other areas of social policy NBers don’t seem to trust national organizations (or something, I really don’t have an explanation for it).

    However, if you are interested, then I don’t think its that hard to start a chapter. And you wouldn’t even be doing the studies, all that individual would have to do is the ‘bureaucratic’ side of it and contact all the political science and economic professors in the province (a form email would do that). There is your ‘instant’ think tank, which I believe is ALL publicly paid for.

    New Brunswick is one of the only provinces which never has an alternative budget, but again, that could be a media thing, stuff like that may well exist somewhere, I just can’t find it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is good crap but it is missing a key element;public will.

    There seems to be no sense or urgency, no drive, no enthusism for economic development. Instead, we are motivated by negativity and will rapidly assemble to protest advancements by McCains, Irving, Gannog who are a little too successful for us, therefore they must be guilty of some unfair influnce on government.

    Countries and provinces (even municipalities), who in the face of adversity, have turned things around to be economic leaders in specific areas have faced some crisis that united people to embrace change and welcome success.

    I am afraid that the key to NB’s prosperity may be to experience further decline until we reach a point where we unite to progress our economy and energy is not wasted defending our successes. Sadly, we are not there yet and only a few visionaries are proactive enough to realize now is the time to do something before we are further behind.

  3. mikel says:

    Keep in mind everything is relative, go watch ‘sicko’and see how well we have it compared to the richest country in the world (relatively, I know Dave has a good beef about waiting times). And yes, lots of people move away, but at least bombs aren’t going off and there is videoconferencing and good long distance deals. I’ve had more long conversations with my folks now than when I lived close by, and see them almost as much as a sister who works 45 minutes from them.

    And again, the rich in NB are FABULOUSLY well off, just take a look at those homes in Fredericton. One thing about NB is it really is beautiful, and apart from St.John its relatively pollution free. If you are rich in NB you’ve got it made in the shade.

    Even middle class has it pretty sweet. The poor definitely aren’t as well off and don’t have nearly the services, except maybe in Fredericton. But no changes that I’ve ever seen discussed here will ever help the poor anyway, so that ‘urgency’ is not going to be shared by them.

    People are very good at protesting when they feel directly affected, but ‘economic development’ is kind of a gray area. What exactly are people going to protest and how? For example, what would you put on a placard?

    We know what a LOT of people put on them, and the above poster wouldn’t like that because he seems to think that the wealthiest families are somehow maligned. They may be publicly, but thats because everybody knows about Irvings LNG tax deal, which WAS ‘special treatment’, in fact EXTRA special treatment. And we know that Ganong has water practically given to them.

    In areas of business they have extreme respect. I know of people who revere the Irvings even though they’ve clearcut forests right next to their cottages. Hell, old KC has himself a graven image in the middle of Buctouche. I don’t think these people are nearly maligned as much as some think (except maybe when they deserve it).

    But people aren’t stupid, again, we now know the LNG gas pipeline that Irving is setting up won’t even benefit the people of St. John for pete’s sake, so why the hell would they opt in for the dangers of LNG gas?

    When somebody actually comes up with an economic proposal in people’s interest then you may find a way to get them involved.

    The Irving papers had a story about a guy trying to get a television industry set up in the province, I’ll bet that guy gets more support than he knows what to do with. The beasejour health centre quickly passed their benchmark for private investment.

    THere is TONS of support for such things. People aren’t clamouring for things because there isn’t one major thing to clamour for, and because there is no media to clamour through. Business interests are already VERY well represented. For Dave’s pet project, I’ll grant that it’ll be a strange site to see a crowd with signs reading “More Foreign Investment”. That would be unusual, but perhaps he should try it.

  4. John Ackerson says:

    I agree all too well that we have a strong media bias in New Brunswick.

    I’ve written letters to the editor at the Telegraph Journal that have been published, but others have not.

    This of course is understandable. It would be impossible to have all one’s letters published, but the letters that aren’t published, probably hit too close to home, I am fairly certain.

    Take as an example, the Telegraph’s sudden, unsubstantiated support in a recent editorial, for the proposal of a 2nd nuclear power plant for our province.

    Often in their editorials, they will ask for others, including the city of Saint John to treat their citizens to a respectful openness of dialogue, and not make important decisions behind closed doors without public involvement.

    In response to their editorial, I sent what I believed was a thoughtful letter reminding the Telegraph that the editor and staff had failed to follow its own advice. They too, had not bothered to keep open lines of communication with their readers.

    There had been no public forum, or debate, or survey, in the paper leading up to their sudden editorial in support of said 2nd nuclear plant.
    There had been no in-depth articles exploring the merits, pros/cons, or other associated costs, most likely through transfer payments, or delayed tax collection structures, etc.Of course, forget any mention of environmental, or health related matters, save for industry spin.

    Instead, there had been the beaming face of Dr.Patrick Moore on the front page, who is highly paid by the nuclear industry to lend his less than trustworthy, and ex-Greenpeace star power testimony to the plant’s proposal.

    The Telegraph through their editorial is in fact, contriving to create a political climate for our province’s politicians, and industry leaders to safely side with the project, without any fear of media reprisal from the paper.

    If the large, privately owned media won’t stand up, but ironically, even becomes the instrument that willingly sabotages the process of asking uncomfortable, and “tough” questions, (sabotages the original ideals of democracy) then who will? Who will ask those questions? Write a column in the newspaper attacking the newspaper itself? I don’t think so.I can’t really see that happening. Take this concern to CBC radio? Create a groundswell of public resistance?

    Anyway, as an alternative, any well meaning citizen would propose the following: a net-metered, interconnected, alternative energy solution for the short, as well as the long term, both residential, and industry.

    We have the wind, we have the tides, we get sun, we just need the political will, and I think we already have a lot of public will, many people are jaded because of how they see the real world operates. The only exception I see to this, is the two degrees of separation from a certain employer here in our province.

    I agree with what Ralph Nader has to say on the subject- that there is a large, systemic failure between the profit driven alliance of individuals working in government who are looking forward to the day when they may retire from public office and go to work in the private sector, and paid lobbyists, and corporations who hire them, and whose agendas are often seriously out of whack with the common good of most, everyday people.

    But what to do about it is another question entirely. After all, these same, inherent problems of greed, ego, and corruption have been with us since the days of the Roman Empire…
    Oh, yes…the Egyptians used slaves too.

  5. nbt says:

    For example, although this will make NBT happy, Graham is now stating that they are on board with lowering capital gains taxes and corporate income taxes-in fact he told Toronto to ‘keep watching’ and that it would be in the spring budget.

    Why would that make you or I happy? He is the only premier last year to raise taxes, and for that, he has received a nomination at the annual TEddy awards on wednesday for having the worst fiscal record (a scoop for ya). Let’s hope he wins.

    Plus, I see he may even raise personal income taxes even further in he spring, breaking a verbal commitment to hold the line on taxes for the rest of his first mandate.

    Not exactly impressive,

  6. mikel says:

    I didn’t say anything about last year, I said he’s said what he’s doing this year about those two taxes and since you are always talking about lowering taxes I assumed that would make you happy (or happier).

    I seriously doubt that if he does that then he will be raising PIT, not after what happened last year and not if he’s lowering corporate taxes. I don’t know what a Teddy Award is, but anything is possible, but I think the Irving press would crucify him after how they went on about raising taxes last year and then when the surplus came out.

    The price of minerals is still high so they reallly should have at least as much dough as last year. I doubt very much that he would have made that big announcement telling business and ex pat NBers to ‘stay tuned’ only to announce higher PIT. Again, I think they SHOULD-on the wealthy and very wealthy, but I doubt that will happen, it sends the wrong message. Don’t know where you heard that, but I seriously seriously doubt it-I’d put money on it, not unless they have some very specific project in mind.