Too little, too late Mr. Premier (and Ms Hrabluk)

I don’t mean to pick on Lisa Hrabluk, the Telegraph-Journal writer who seems to cover provincial political or economic issues (I am not overly sure about this). However, I don’t seem to understand her reporting style. In her column this weekend, she all but transcribes a letter that the Premier’s Office has been sending out to businesses inviting them to discuss the issue of population decline and the economy. For example, she writes:

“New Brunswick’s population isn’t growing and if nothing changes before this decade is finished, we will no longer have enough people living here to support our current level of social services. In 2006, deaths will overtake births in New Brunswick, making it one of the first province’s to have a natural decrease in its population. This, in a province that hasn’t experienced a net migration in people in three decades.That shrinking population will affect transfer payments and equalization, which are both calculated based on population numbers.”

All of this, I am happy to report, is at least somewhat factual. She then goes on to put in a plug for the Premier’s three year old Prosperity Plan – insinuating that it will somehow address these issues.

Now, what I don’t understand from both the Premier and Ms. Hrabluk is where have they been for the past six years? These issues have been well known for years and in spite of that, the Premier has been cutting funding to economic development and frantically negotiating new Equalization deals (more welfare) while letting the regional economic development agreement (which brought in tens of millions from the Feds for economic development) lapse without even a whimper. Or, I might add, almost no coverage by Ms. Hrabluk and her colleagues.

By the way, when I said Ms. Hrabluk’s were somewhat factual – I meant that one of her comments was ridiculously off base. She said that soon we won’t have “enough people living here to support our current level of social services.”

This is the most inaccurate thing probably she has ever written. We have not had enough people living here for decades to support our ‘current level of social services’. That is why we have needed billions of Ontarians and Albertans money through Equalization just to support our current level of social services – a level, by the way, that continues to fall behind most provinces in Canada.

What she should have said is that at some time in the future (without a major economic boost, within 20 years or so), there will be so few people here that the rest of Canada will get fed up with the welfare and crack the whip. Which, as I have said before, will initially lead to the forced union of the Maritime Provinces and then to a dramatically scaled back level of social services to adjust for the economic realities.

But shifting from Ms. Hrabluk to her muse, Premier Lord, he has not even began to address the serious economic problems facing our province in the past six years of his administration. Now, he acts like he wants to get serious? I think this is more likely a cheap ploy to confuse and distract people from his real record.

He should have been talking like this in 1999. He should have prepared a real strategy, fuelled by a dramatic increase in funding to drive economic growth in New Brunswick.

If you will indulge me, I will opine on this issue a little more. The major media companies in New Brunswick are guilty of transcribing government press releases. It is obvious, they do almost no ‘investigative’ journalism around the issue of economic development and the economy or they would have uncovered the dozens of warning signals that the economy is in trouble. The goverment is guilty of just ‘governing’ instead of ‘leading’ and that will be the subject of my next blog.