For me, reading Donald Savoie is a bit like listening to Diana Krall. When I hear Krall with that throaty, entrancing voice I get tingles. When I read Savoie talking about regional development, ditto.
His piece in today’s G&M has some salient stuff:
Recent developments only confirm what Atlantic Canada has long believed. National economic policies and programs cannot possibly apply in a country as large and diverse as Canada. Some countries do have genuine national economies, but Canada has a collection of regional economies that are different from one another in both important and unimportant ways. Atlantic Canadians, more than anyone, have paid a heavy price for Ottawa’s attempt to define a national economy and for the policies that sprang from it.
That is sweet nectar from the vine. What Dennis Miller calls the soup bone quote. Savoie seems to be a bit of an optimist (considering he is the master chronicler of 140 years of Maritime Canada’s economic underperformance):
But there is now a promise that things can be different. For the first time, Canada has a symmetrical approach to regional policy and a growing recognition that our national economy is, in fact, a collection of distinct regional economies. Regional perspectives can now be viewed as being on an equal footing in Ottawa, at least from an analytical and administrative perspective. It is hoped that measures will now be defined to promote the economic potential of Canada’s regions, rather than to combat regional disparities.
18 thoughts on “Donald Savoie & Diana Krall”
” National economic policies and programs cannot possibly apply in a country as large and diverse as Canada..”
I hope Savoie is right and that change is coming. However, I’d note from my personal experience that at least one federal department (AAFC) has gone largely in the opposite direction over the past 4 yrs. AAFC’s research branch has gone from being an organization that set regional priorities to one where extreme centralization has set in. Where is the evidence for Savoie’s belief that the opposite is happening? In any event, a ‘symmetrical’ approach doesn’t help us much, given that the approaches of current federal and provincial regimes are based on tax-cut fantasies rather than reality.
I always suspect Savoie gets up, takes a ‘puff’, then sets to work. Good for him, because with all he knows, staying ‘upbeat’ is as surprising as Mr. Campbell’s ability to continue blogging for years in the face of…well, the wind.
The rationale here is that now that southern ontario has a regional development agency that ALL regional development agencies will ‘work together’ or ‘get respect’. Is that really ACOA’s problem? I’ve posted before that the Perimeter Institute here in Waterloo got more money last year than ALL research institutions in NB put together. And that’s without any ‘regional development agency’.
So I’d agree with Richard, under the conservatives things have gotten even MORE centralized than the liberals, who ironically were far less dictatorial in program administration than conservatives. If Ignatieff’s ‘rail corridor’ gets built, it won’t have anything to do with a southern ontario regional development agency-which will essentially be a ‘porkhouse’ for politicians and designed to simply overrule any local issues that come up with the railway. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t had any experience with the Conservation Authorities here in southern ontario.
As he mentioned, regional development policies are good for slow growth regions. Can’t say I disagree with that. But in good times (times of growth/economic stability)…no way.
“I always suspect Savoie gets up, takes a ‘puff’, then sets to work. Good for him, because with all he knows, staying ‘upbeat’ is as surprising as Mr. Campbell’s ability to continue blogging for years in the face of…well, the wind.”
That’s quite funny, and true mikel. 😉 I suspect if his social life improves or the Nationals start winning baseball games, his content will be affected. Other then that, nothing seems to deter Mr. Campbell.
As for this point: The rationale here is that now that southern ontario has a regional development agency that ALL regional development agencies will ‘work together’ or ‘get respect’. Is that really ACOA’s problem? I’ve posted before that the Perimeter Institute here in Waterloo got more money last year than ALL research institutions in NB put together. And that’s without any ‘regional development agency’.
You’re absolutely right, mikel. There are so many projects which receive government funding that are worthy of our tax dollars. Your example of the Perimeter Institute is noteworthy.
On the subject of health, no Canadian would protest the fact that taxpayer dollars were being used to fund cancer research. However, appropriate departments, in this instance the department of health, should fund such a project, not through ACOA, Wed or any other regional development agency’s ‘catch all’ approach.
It is no accident that major funding programs are designed for central Canada, that tax policy and trade policy is developed for central Canada, that all crown corporations are headquartered there and that 8% unemployment is great performance in NB but a national crisis in central Canada. The votes reside there and therfore the gravy train will travel there directly with no stops in NB.
We are not going to change the fact that the Feds think about Ontario and Quebec first (with a side helping of Alberta depending on who the PM is).
So, all the more reason to present Ottawa with a concise, logical and realistic economic development plan for NB and consistently beat that drum. Forget the convention centers and highways that mask the needs of true economic development; they will do that stuff whenever an election looms. Let’s get our plan detailed and rationalized (eg energy, biotech, environment, aquaculture) and start making the pitch.
That ‘drum’ is already being beaten-its highways and the ‘transportation corridor’. Energy is in there as well, unfortunately, energy isn’t a high labour growth industry. Of course aquaculture is in there as well.
However, the point above may refer to Graham’s consistently stating to Harper about the ‘self sufficiency’ plan. Unfortunately, while he kept stating ‘we need funds’ to get self sufficient, there was NO mention I could find of exactly how that money would be spent.
But one thing people should keep in mind is that it is NOT provincial governments driving funding, it never has been. The Perimeter Institute has nothing to do with the province of ontario-this is where Irving COULD have had a big impact. The PI, as well as about half a dozen other research institute’s are quasi-private, having gotten money from the two guys from RIM. THAT is what gets the feds, and provinces attention, it is GRASSROOTS organizations. Sudbury got off its ass and went to three other levels of government as well as the private sector to build a state of the art cancer centre-as soon as the ball got rolling, money came pouring in, and it gets hard for the feds to STOP funding, since its cancer.
In New Brunswick, everything is ‘get the province to do it’, even at the local level. That’s partly what leads to all the bickering, cities themselves never go out to set up initiatives, so the province has to pick and choose.
The above makes a good point, but it’s comes from an elitist perspective, in that, it’s an argument that can only be made when in power (when in control of the purse strings) not with the people of New Brunswick (ordinary citizens). What I mean by that is, if that argument were central to all our problems and set backs, it would have been made (many years ago) by our elected officials.
Unfortunately, you never hear or see a politician on the campaign trail advocating for increase powers to economic development agencies or more accountability to them (at least not in out neck of the woods), what you see is politicians dolling out unnecessary money (taxpayers money) to win an election or buy votes while keeping the corporate welfare system intact.
Anyway, instead of crying about how we’ve been shafted by the feds in favour of central Canada (which we’ve been doing for years) and demanding more cash to central government agencies or as the above suggest a better “economic development plan for NB” through those old agencies, I believe the argument that should be central to all NB elected officials should be for them to make our democratic institution more representative (and proportional), more responsive (and accountable) to NBers of all stripes. Don’t get me wrong, I thinks it’s reasonable and noble to bang that drum over and over again regarding economic development and a plan for it, but it is essential that we [re]connect with people within our democracy (the people) first, especially if it is evident that their disenfranchisement is part of why the economy is suffering in the first place. Just me anon.
Well, if you think that elected officials are slow to bang the drum on economic development,then you can just imagine how slow they are to get behind ‘changes to political institutions’. VERY few political changes come from the ‘top down’, and even then not without strong support. It’s been almost a twenty year struggle in British Columbia to introduce proportional representation-no doubt its coming, but its a slow and hard struggle for the thousands of grassroots volunteers.
In New Brunswick virtually NOBODY is talking about proportational representation or changes to institutions. People get ****ed off at government, that happens all the time, but to go the next step further to making changes to institutions, well, start holding your breath. Just as example, in the very NEXT year after Canada’s Senate was established in 1867 came demands-and virtually expectations, that there would be fundamental changes to it. That’s over a hundred and fifty years yet there have still been few changes to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was posting at all the web forums and online presentations back when the conservatives were talking about proportional representation and was getting ready to start calling and mailing when they announced the referendum. But liberals may be more ‘centrist’, but they have NEVER been more populist. If there weren’t so much momentum in BC, the liberals would have quashed that referendum, and conservatives are usually more comfortable with referenda (so long as they know which way they will turn out).
But that, again, is now a worldwide cry-to make governments more ‘democratic’. It’s also dangerous, as you can see how media treats those who actually HAVE been responsive to the majority of their population-like Hamas was and Chavez still is. I even remember watching The Agenda where they were talking about ‘great politicians’ and how Danny WIlliams ‘would be’, but that ‘people are scared of him’ (apparantly everywhere but Newfoundland).
Unfortunately, that seems to have been Bernard Lord’s attempt to make New Brunswick seem as ‘up to date’ as all the provinces which were (are) making representative changes. We know the Irvings don’t like it, but there aren’t even any organizations set up on Youtube, Facebook, or anywhere else. If you recall, Chavez was overthrown with a gun to his head, it was the population who rose up and got him a second chance. While those at the top can start things moving, it takes organizations to keep them viable-as New Brunswickers have found out.
“especially if it is evident that their disenfranchisement is part of why the economy is suffering ”
Sorry, but I don’t buy that. I don’t see much evidence that the drivers of Ed have much to do with disenfranchisement. Are citizens of AB more enfranchised than those of NB? They have more money, but not because of anything they have done, but because of oil and the opportunities it has brought.
NB has squandered opportunities, to be sure, but is that because of a diminished level of enfranchisment? NB needs an economic kickstart but I don’t believe that we can count on an enlightened populace to get us there. While I believe NB could use a good dose of transparency and democratization, we will need more than that to get the ball rolling. Graham has had his chances to show that he can lead, and he has failed. Unfortunately I see no sign of a suitable replacement anywhere.
“The Perimeter Institute has nothing to do with the province of ontario..”
PI is really a product of RIM, which in turn is a product of scientist/entrepeneurs. They see the value in research institutions. The Irving outfits, on the other hand, have no such relationship to R&D. They focus on relatively short-term ROIs. Indeed, you could argue that their approach has so dominated the province and become so ingrained that it helps to explain our failure to look beyond the next pothole-filling project. Just another reason why, IMHO, finding a way to bring in some other big players with a different mindset is so important to NB.
Again, I’d agree with Richard IF leaders were the ones to make changes. McKenna, for all those efforts, made all sorts of changes that never stuck because the population wasn’t behind him. The Perimeter Institute is NOT a product of RIM, it is a product, if anything, of the University of Waterloo, where the original professors were working. The owners have money-so do Irving. Lazaridis is now trying to buy an NHL hockey team, but that hockey team is not ‘a product of RIM’. Irving CAN invest in R&I IF it wants, but again, as Richard says, their dominance is one of the reasons why NB is ‘stuck in gear’.
I don’t agree with the cynicism though, as I’ve said numerous times it is ONLY the motivations of populations that have made changes-particularly in nominally democratic countries. It is pretty obvious that the liberals lowered taxes this year because otherwise there is virtually no way they’d be re-elected. Danny Williams and Hugo Chavez couldn’t be who they are without an active and supportive base.
In NB it is difficult, but if you follow the legislature you’ll see that its FAR more likely that politial change will come from the grassroots, hardly a week goes by without a protest of some sort. The problem is that organization takes work, and between government and Irving its hard to not **** off a potential employer. IF I thought there was a hope in hell that any other player could show up to counter Irving that would be one thing, but there is little evidence of that. Other companies have shown up in mining, yet they operate no differently. Other ‘competitors’ have shown up in forestry, yet operate even worse than Irving. So again, there is simply no evidence that a ‘white knight’ from elsewhere can or will make any impact.
It does have a ‘bit’ to do with mindset, the province is a small bilingual province, deeply divisive along linguistic lines, with regional disparities of its own-and three major urban centres. It’s a small province reliant on natural resources with a massive conglomerate that pretty much controls its economy. Those are the ‘facts’ that people live by, and people that live under those specific conditions will make different decisions than people who live under different political conditions.
Are citizens of AB more enfranchised than those of NB? They have more money, but not because of anything they have done, but because of oil and the opportunities it has brought.
You just proved the point I was trying to make, Bill. That being, grassroots democracy is just as important (if more) then decision made by old political parties who happened to be in government. Yes, I won’t disagree with the fact that Alberta has oil. where you fall short with your argument is in your knowledge (or lack thereof of political institutions in Alberta).
Anybody who has been a part of (or witnessed) the changes brought on by Preston Manning would be aware of his important presence in Alberta. Yes, I realize he didn’t form government, but he was able to give Albertans a voice in the federation (something they had never truly had under Trudeau and Mulroney). By a “voice”, I mean he empowered and enfranchised many westerners into the political process, As well, he was able to persuade provincial & federal governments to adopted legislation which favoured Albertans and westerners (i.e. provincial legislation to elect senators as well as pressure on the feds to cut spending and balance the books). So again, as I said above, it’s not all about a handful of ppl making econmic decisions from the top, it is more about doing the right thing and bringing in more ppl (at the ground level) into the process. That is what makes regions stronger, not begging for cash with more of the same plans).
In NB it is difficult, but if you follow the legislature you’ll see that its FAR more likely that politial change will come from the grassroots, hardly a week goes by without a protest of some sort.
mikel, protests are always a part of a healthy democracy. However, an increase in special interest groups and protest is also a telling sign that not only governments, but political parties have failed to properly address the problems of it citizenry. They are no longer responsive to their needs.
I remember when Shawn Graham first entered office and spoke at the Canada 2020 conference in Montreal (2006). The first words in his speech addressed the need for a “peoples government” (be more responsive to it’s citizens) and economic “self-sufficiency”. After he was finished, a former Alberta Liberal MP (and NBer) Ann McLellan asked him if NBers were getting “fatigued” of these types of processes where politicians raise their expectations, and if it was dangerous to do so politically since people will have their hopes and expectations shattered if you don’t deliver. I believe Shawn Graham’s response was, “government’s were born to die.” Nice.
“By a “voice”, I mean he empowered and enfranchised many westerners into the political process”
You’re confusing Pressie with his dear old Dad, who actually laid the groundwork for Preston. You are also confusing Ed with enfranchisement. Its oil, not Preston, that gave clout to Westerners. Its oil that gives clout to Pressie. Who do ya think is paying for Pressie’s Manning Centre for the Enabling of Crackpot Ideas? Oil. You will find plenty of ABers who will tell you that they have less to say over what happens in AB now than ever before.
“Danny Williams and Hugo Chavez couldn’t be who they are without an active and supportive base.”
They could not be who they are without OIL. OIL – the explanation for all things.
And on more pressing NB affairs, Michaëlle Jean and Charles Leblanc to receive honorary degrees from UdeM. HaHA…not that Charles Leblanc!
An interview of hottie Michaëlle Jean by Chuckles – now that would be something.
That’s just silly Richard, oil has nothing to do with it. Saudi Arabia and Iran have oil, so why aren’t they even more populist and democratic than Newfoundland and Venezuela. Brazil also got a populist govenrment elected, so did Bolivia, and neither of those countries have oil. Switzerland is the most ‘grassroots run’ democracy on the planet, not only do they not have oil, they have almost NO natural resources, yet have created a society that addresses the needs of its population.
For Alberta BOTH the comments are true, but they are talking about two differnet things. Federal politics and provincial politics are two very different things. The Reform Party definitely got its legs from Preston, although that is far easier to do when you have an organized population that takes politics seriously. There is nothing like feeling jilted to get active. The same is true in Quebec. However, it should be pointed out that simply because grassroots ‘build’ a party that doesn’t mean they can’t get shafted. The ‘new conservatives’ got rid of Stockwell Day’s Citizens initiatives pretty quickly. It’s interesting to note that citizens initiatives and referenda were ALSO part of the party constitution of the Parti Quebecois-right up to the point they got elected. Then it was the first thing to get dumped. Many in the party call THAT the ‘night of long knives’, since it came from their own party.
Protests are NOT a part of a functional democracy, it is only our messed up idea of democracy that thinks it is. In an actual democracy people have the power to CHANGE legislation, and thats what they do. Protests are a part of ‘freedom’ of course, and people should be allowed to protest, but a democracy means people actually MAKE laws, they aren’t simply subject to them. That tells you just how far we are from actual ‘democracy’, and shows why Graham is such a pinhead.
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