You ever feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? You keep waking up and its the same day all over again? How many times can you read in the paper, hear on the news or read on social media that New Brunswick needs to balance its budget, attract more population and achieve stronger economic growth? It’s almost like one generation of newspaper editors and pundits keeps saying it, they leave and a new crop come in and start saying it, then they leave and a new crop come in, ad infinitum. Rinse and repeat.
This is not the problem. If you stopped a random person on the street and said “should government balance its budget and try to grow its economy?” how many people would say no?
The problem – or challenge – is how.
How do you balance a budget when you have 0.5% economic growth, on average, for a decade? The NB government spending per capita (program spending per person) averaged $11,006 in 2016-17 according to the folks at RBC Economics. This was lower than Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Sure it was $1,200/per person higher than Nova Scotia which points to potential for more savings but even if you cut spending by another $1,000/person does that put you on a path to fiscal sustainability with 0.5% growth and a shrinking labour market?
Anyway, I’m tired of reading the obvious. The great pundits saying the sky is blue or the earth is round.
I want to read about solutions.
That is what I have tried to focus on here and will double down going forward.
In the coming days I’ll write about a revolution in localism in New Brunswick. I think empowering and engaging local people to help shape their own destiny may be something we have tinkered with but now should go all in.
I’ll write about natural resources development, the gig economy and flooding New Brunswick with international students. I want to stuff our community colleges to the gills with international students and inflate the pipeline of future workers that are here and willing to work.
You might hear some stuff that sounds obvious but it will be a little more specific than “balance the budget” or “municipal government reform”.