This is creepy. I understand the political need for the Opposition to hammer the government but to attack the ROC contract and say:
To add insult to injury, it was revealed last week that the government hired another Liberal-friendly consulting group (based in Fredericton) to “think outside the box” and try to find ways to help the north. Instead, the government should have directly invested those dollars in empowering our northern communities and offering rewards and incentives for innovative entrepreneurs.
This is fundamentally what I dislike when politics intersects with economic development. MLA Madeleine Dubé made these comments in her column today. Regardless about how you feel about this whole ROC controversy you can’t deny that it involved brining in four economic development experts with decades of collective experience. You can’t deny that they went out and talked to a pile of global firms about the potential of locating operations in northern New Brunswick.
And M. Dube wants to offer “rewards and incentives for innovative entrepreneurs”.
There are two salient points here:
1. It is clear that the Conservative critic for BNB is still stuck in that old mindset that we will be able to reinvigorate the northern NB economy by giving out as much money as we can to local entrepreneurs. Despite the fact that has been tried for decades and hasn’t worked. You cannot replace a pulp mill and its 600 high paying jobs with doling out grants to a few local small firms. We must find large anchor economic development projects.
2. The second point is even more important. We must de-politicize economic development. This is absolutely critical. Frank McKenna, like him or hate him, spent a pile of time trying to convince global firms to locate in New Brunswick and he was having some success. Premier Lord came in calling for a “made in NB solution” to economic development and totally reversed McKenna’s efforts. He then ended up with more new call centre jobs than McKenna but those were as the result of an initiative that was in place far before him. So, instead of sitting down with his economic development officials and giving them a simple mandate “find me the next call centre industry or two or three”, he went back to the tired old model of trying to squeeze business investment out of a dried up lemon.
Any company in the north with a good business plan, global markets and great talent as well as their own money should be supported. That’s a given. But it has not been and is not enough.
Ireland figured out that it needed to attract significantly more global investment and increase trade in order to achieve economic development in a 1957 white paper appropriately entitled “economic development”. Government changed hands multiple times but both sides agreed on the broad principles of economic development and the path didn’t vary for 30-40 years.
New Brunswick bounces around every 8-10 years or so.
We have got to get agreement on the fundamental of economic development – outside politics – and when governments change hands we continue on the same broad path to economic development.
There are many things that governments can argue about but the basic tenets of economic development should not be one of them.
We must de-politicize economic development or we will never get anywhere in this province.