There are a few points I want to address this morning based on conversations over the past week.
The first is on the elect-ability of the NDP. I was having a conversation with a colleague who is a devout NDPer about the Broadbent Mulcair feud this week. In my opinion, when the NDP adopts a more ‘centrist’ approach, that is when they can get elected. Darrell Dexter in Nova Scotia is an NDP – he raised taxes, implemented labour friendly policies and expanded specific social programs. Some folks are furious with him as evidenced by the editorial pages of the Chronicle-Herald. Yet, he has for the most part been a sober, centrist leader with a strong focus on economic development and making a more efficient government. They are pragmatic about natural resources development – a senior person in the government told me they are glad to be a “couple of years behind New Brunswick” when it comes to shale gas development but they are moving ahead to develop that resource as well as other mining – and a big push for more offshore oil and gas exploration.
In New Brunswick, the NDP – my aforementioned colleague partially agrees – is comfortable as the conscience of the left with no real ambition to form government. If they elected someone like Dexter as a leader, they could be in power – IMO – within one or two election cycles. As a permanent, marginal leftist party they can take hard stances on BNB (scrap all incentives), taxes (raise ’em on the high income earners), environment (no to anything that involves digging holes or cutting trees), etc. In my opinion, a healthy democracy features parties that cater to a broad spectrum of views but in our system – you can’t form a majority government – like the NDP has now in four? five? provinces – if you sit out on the fringe. Now, my friend tells me that he thinks the public in New Brunswick is more left leaning than I give them credit for and they will embrace most of the platform although he doesn’t believe the party will form government any time soon.
While it’s not a good segue, I will address the number of shale gas reports/stories that people are sending me. I get a couple a week referencing potential environmental problems with shale gas and a couple talking up the economic benefits and lack of environmental concerns. I am not qualified to arbitrate this issue in any way – others posting to this blog have much more direct experience – so I appreciate the links but I likely won’t comment that much on specific reports/studies unless there is something new.
Suffice it to say there are concerns but right now they are more hunches than hard data. Certainly there are the traditional environmental risks associated with any nat gas development such as leaks but the broader concerns about water contamination, localized earthquakes, etc. are hotly debated and will likely be well into the future.
Finally, I saw an interesting statistic this week that I thought I would pass on to you. While New Brunswick still has far fewer high income earners (no matter how you define that), we did see a spike in the number of people reporting $100,000 or more in total income between 2006 and 2009 (the most current time frame for available data from Stats Can). I thought this was mildly interesting. The trend actually holds going back to 2000. New Brunswick has seen a faster rise in the number of folks earning $100k or more in that nine year window even though the economy has been quite weak through the period. Median income is up 43 percent in NB versus 34 percent across the country. I don’t want to speculate on what is driving this growth but I might look into it deeper in the weeks ahead. Certainly a tightening labour market drives up wages as a general rule and the recession didn’t hit here as hard as a place like Ontario but there could be other things going on as well.
Increase in the number of high income earners (% change 2006-2009)
|Persons with income of $100,000 and over||+28%||+51%|
|Persons with income of $150,000 and over||+22%||+37%|
|Persons with income of $200,000 and over||+13%||+24%|
Source: Statistics Canada.