Does the federal election matter?

From the perspective of economic development? A colleague of mine sent me an email suggesting that it doesn’t matter one way or the other who wins the federal election. He further suggested that the Feds role in economic development in New Brunswick was marginal – at best.

It’s hard to argue with him at least up until a point. Almost all of the big federal programs to fund and leverage private sector business investment are barely active in New Brunswick. Go down the list: Sustainable Technologies fund, biofuels fund, Technology Partnerships Canada, the Auto deal with Ontario, etc. Even the national trade gateways strategy (billions) will only lead to more roads paved in New Brunswick.

Then there is the issue of research and development. The feds spend dead last in New Brunswick per capita on R&D – by a wide margin when compared to most provinces.

There is ACOA but some have questioned its direct impact on ED in New Brunswick.

There are no more joint initiatives (that I know of) between the feds/prov directly leading to leveraging private sector business investment.

But maybe the point is that we need MPs that will try and change this? Maybe we need MPs to put the national government to the test and try and figure out why NB is the least supported province in Canada for ED funding (I don’t have a numeric figure here but I am sure of this).

If I was advicing any prospective candidate (even Green or NDP) I would ask them to take this theme to Ottawa. To push hard on these issues. If somewhere down the road, we actually see Stephen Harper or Stephane Dion in New Brunswick announcing funding for a $1 billion private sector manufacturing plant or software development studio we would have achieved success.

I know that a contingent of you cringe when I talk about this – the gravy train. You want businesses to stand on their own. You want some mythical place that doesn’t exist. Alberta served up some of the most aggressive and costly tax/royalty breaks to stimulate oilsands development. In addition, Alberta has taken advantage of the biofuels gravy from the Feds and its among the biggest users of the agricultural subsidies. I know, I know. Farmers can’t control the weather. They can’t control world grain prices and they are faced with other country subsidies.

(I guess the New Brunswick manufacturer has control over the price of the Canadian dollar, isn’t facing billions in incentive program competition and directly controls trade policy but that’s another blog isn’t it?)

Anyway, I can’t believe that even the most militant member of the CTF would oppose NB getting at least its share of the federal gravy train. Sure, they can adamantly oppose gravy but shouldn’t they feel aggrieved that NB doesn’t get its share? Or maybe the fact that NB is cut out is considered progress.