I get real nervous when politicians ‘politicize’ economic development. This is not to say they shouldn’t critique each others’ economic development programs. They absolutely should – this is a democracy and we want political parties to be very clear about what they plan to do with the taxpayers’ $$.
When I say ‘politicize’ I mean one party staking out a position for/against an idea for political gain or differentiation regardless of whether it is a good idea or a bad one.
I remember candidate Bernard Lord criticizing Frank McKenna for focusing on attracting industry to the province and promising a “made in New Brunswick” approach to economic development. I cringed. Someone had the bright idea to take the one thing McKenna was best known for (everyone has a story about a cab driver in Toronto talking about McKenna) and propose doing the exact opposite.
Of course, when in office, Lord ended up attracting almost as much FDI as McKenna (although much of it was residual from previous efforts).
So when I read the dust-up over cybersecurity recently I got a little nervous. The Libs criticized the Tories for dropping the ball and the Tories came back hard about Lib failures in this area.
No matter who wins the election, we need to pursue this opportunity.
New Brunswick has a core value proposition for cybersecurity including anchor firms (IBM, Siemens, Shipley’s firm, etc.), research and education assets and a workforce. I would suggest we should be broadening the scope of what we call ‘cybersecurity’ – I would have liked to see some of Facebook’s 35,000 content monitors located here. Aligning our strengths in customer service and engagement to our cyber industry strengthens the case for investment.
I know there was an effort to attract federal government/DnD/CSIS type ‘real’ cybersecurity jobs here but I was never optimistic. The decision makers are highly unlikely to put those high paying/high value jobs in New Brunswick.
We need to recalibrate our efforts – focus on cyber-training – people should come to UNB/NBCC/CCNB from around the world to study cybersecurity. We need to put on cyber-training and conferences. We need to incubate cyber startups and we need to attract more world class firms like IBM and Siemens to put cyber operations in New Brunswick. We need more private sector R&D dollars.
There are potentially thousands of jobs at stake.
Let’s not politicize this opportunity.