Premier Alward seems to understand the challenges facing NB on both the economic and demographic fronts. I could have written his speech and it wouldn’t have been much different (including the reference to Frank McKenna).
However, using substantially different language, former Premier Graham seemed to ‘get it’ as well.
And going back to Bernard Lord, after ignoring demographics until the 2001 Census showed the first drop in population in New Brunswick since its founding, he seemed to ‘get it’ as well – setting up a Population Secretariat (however, his disinterest in economic development was a problem).
As I showed in this blog with that 1996 report, even Frank McKenna and his advisors understood the longer term implications of demographics and the underlying economic issues.
But none of them really made any substantial progress on addressing either demographics or economic development.
It’s always easier to spend money than to make it and that has applied to successive governments. Making it in this context is economic development.
I sound like a broken record but we were told that twinning the Fredericton/Moncton highway would lead to ‘economic development’. Has it? We were told that cutting taxes would lead to economic development. Has it? We were told that opening up New Brunswick to natural gas (circa 1999) would create enormous economic development opportunities. Has it? The universities will say that dramatic increases in post secondary funding will lead to economic development. Is this true? Or will it just ramp up the incubation for Ontario and Alberta’s workforce?
I’ve moved in my thinking to a parallel model where on one track you try and get the long term fundamentals right – tax policy, infrastructure investment, education -things that are foundational but not enough on their own.
On the second track, we think about specific efforts that can help grow specific high growth potential industries here.
In other words, we don’t leave it to chance.
Just like most successful jurisdictions.
To be fair, many of the big winners in recent years have been lucky rather than overly smart – Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Wyoming, etc. Finding treasure under your feet requires some smarts but not nearly as much as competing on brains.
In the end, we need leaders – and increasingly that means more than government – that have the guts and strive to foster change.
If change was easy, it would be easy. How’s that for profound?