An age old problem when it comes to economic development is the issue of local versus provincial (and in come sense even federal). In other words, who has the mandate? Who has the responsibility for economic development?
I have constantly heard bucks passed all over the place on this. When asked about the plan for Moncton, former BNB Minister Betts once said “Go ask Moncton”. At the same time, when I publicly commented that ACOA wasn’t investing much in trying to attract business investment to the region I was told harshly that was a ‘provincial’ responsibility.
After studying this for almost 20 years I now believe the buck stops in the local community. Companies don’t locate in provinces, they locate in communities. People don’t relocate to provinces, they relocate to communities. That doesn’t mean provincial level economic development is not needed. In fact it is the opposite. The reality is that in a small province it is almost impossible for communities to take on the full suite of economic development activities that are needed to generate long term success. We must coordinate much of this at the provincial (and I would argue regional) level.
But the provincial effort should reflect the local realities. And, with the exception of Saint John’s energy hub concept, I continue to see a divergence between the development efforts at the city level and the provincial level. Something as similar as targeted industries. There is significant misalignment between the targeted sectors in many of our regions and the province.
The provincial effort should reflect local strengths and efforts. I have said that the Enterprise heads should sit on an advisory board that advises the BNB Minister so that the provincial efforts would truly reflect local realities. But that doesn’t happen and in fact the old McKennaesque paternalistic relationship between provincial and local continues.
In a way that is too bad. It comes down to turf protection but I come to it from the unique perspective of having the wide angle view of it. In the international context, Canada is considered the insignificant one and looked at condescendingly particularly by the USA. Within Canada, New Brunswick is looked at condescendingly. I remember not that long ago being in Ottawa and having several high level bureaucrats just slamming the Maritimes. In Fredericton, there is condescension towards the municipalities and the large municipalities have condescension towards the smaller or northern NB towns and within large municipalities there is condescension between neighbourhoods.
Come on. Don’t measure yourself by your position in some faux chain of command. Don’t measure yourself by looking at areas that are more poor than you. There will always be someone smaller and always be someone bigger (at least almost always). None of that matters. Get your self esteem and sense of self worth not from comparing yourself to someone who is better off but by actually doing something worthy yourself.
In fact, if you believe Maslow, you would get more satisfaction from helping someone not as well off as yourself.
Think that through, economic developers at all levels, because it matters.