On politics and economic development

Finally, one of the parties has made comments directly related to economic development in Atlantic Canada. And yours truly will take a swipe at them.

First up. Prime Minister Paul Martin. In a press release yesterday, the Liberals state:

Point: While the Atlantic economy is doing better than ever…

Counterpoint: Atlantic Canada has shed something like 75,000 people since the Liberals took power in 1993. While you may be able to make the slim argument that NS and PEI are doing slightly better in the past 5-6 years, overall there are very few statistics that point to Atlantic Canada as a whole doing ‘better than ever’. In the early 1970s, New Brunswick’s population growth was only slightly lower than the national average. How can anyone say it is now ‘better than ever’? Sounds like an Al Hoganism to me.

The Prime Minister said the greatest investment a government can make in any region is in economic self-reliance.

Counterpoint: Couldn’t agree more. Problem is that since the late 1990s, the provinces have become more reliant on Albertan and Ontarioian taxpayer dollars. Another $200 million more this year for New Brunswick according to Volpe. Note to the Liberal spin doctors. Economic self-reliance does not mean reliance on Ottawa and by proxy Alberta to pay for our social programs.

The Atlantic Investment Partnership is another way the Liberal government is helping the Atlantic economy to grow. This five-year, $708 million initiative to support economic development throughout Atlantic Canada.

Counterpoint: I like some of the themes here but don’t play smoke and mirrors with us. The AIP is no more money – maybe less – than the money given to the region through the COOPERATION and REDA agreements in the early 1990s. Also, the Liberals (Federal and Ontario’s) gave one company, GM, almost this much money in Ontario. Just one company, folks. Put that number in perspective. It represents an average of $35 million per year per province. Or to put it another way, $67 per person per year. And the icing on the cake? They spend 14 times more on Employment Insurance payouts per year than on their AIP.

Education is another key to long-term prosperity….

Counterpoint: Couldn’t agree more but why does New Brunswick have the worst standardized test scores and the lowest rate of literacy in Canada? If it’s a key to long-term prosperity maybe that is self-explanatory.

What these investments represent is a more prosperous future for Atlantic Canada…

Counterpoint: The Libs have spent way more money on Equalization and EI than on ‘investing in Atlantic Canada. The truth is that it has been easier to buy us off with welfare than with economic development. Ontarioians will grudgingly give us our Equalization and EI but if we started to get auto jobs or aerospace jobs or high tech jobs – they would cry foul. Canadian economic development history is very simple folks. Prop up the economy of Ontario so it can pay for New Brunswick’s social programs. If we start tinkering with that then we will really open up Pandora’s Box.

If you read other articles about political party plans for regional development (particularly the Conservatives), let me know. I would like to keep track of these promises as fodder for blogs down the line.