From the TJ today:
The Atlantic premiers called on the federal government to top up their capital budgets with new dollars and to accelerate Atlantic Gateway funding to improve the region’s ports, rail lines and roads. The message was crafted during a meeting Monday of the premiers, where the main focus was on jump-starting the region’s sagging economies. Specifically, the provinces want as many federal infrastructure dollars as Ottawa is willing to send east, in the hope that construction projects can “drive the economy” during a looming economic recession.
You know what amazes me? Public make work projects have been the backbone of New Brunswick’s economic development over the past 15 years and politicians still haven’t figured out that they are not the structural economic development that is needed in this province. The bridge to PEI, the TransCanada Highway expansion, the Lepreau refurbishment – on and on – these projects involve large scale public funding for short term economic stimulus. The long term benefit of these infrastructure projects is not a foregone conclusion. In fact, the number of trucks on the Moncton-Fredericton highway out of Atlantic Canada has been declining since we twinned it.
Infrastructure is important but not as important as long term sector development efforts.
I would have went to Ottawa and asked for a long term commitment to economic development. If I was acting on behalf of New Brunswick, I would have went up there with three or four clear industry sector development plans including R&D funding, education investments, people attraction efforts and business attraction targets and put a price tag over 10 years on each plan (let’s say $250 million each over 10 years). Then, I would have asked the feds for long term funding partnership on these efforts. Highway funding is important but it is not directly economic development and politicians still haven’t figured this out.
By the way, between ACOA, BNB and other economic development efforts, more money than this has been spent over the past 10 years in New Brunswick. I am just talking about focusing it in on specific sectors and specific development efforts.