Harper says ACOA budget stays

According to a CBC story yesterday, Harper now likes ACOA:

“We support ACOA,” he said during a news conference. “We want to see ACOA work in a way that’s not partisan or politically motivated, that assists the development of business in this part of the country, assists the development of infrastructure and research and development.
“We believe there’s an important role for ACOA and we’ve been clear on what that is. And we’re going to maintain the budget for ACOA.”

Donald Savoie, an economist who was the agency’s first president, said whatever happens to ACOA, the agency doesn’t have the same impact or relevance it once did.

“Would a Stephen Harper government wreck economic development? No. Is the sky falling? Not at all,” said Savoie, the author of a book that suggests the Atlantic region is on the cusp of an economic renaissance – with or without ACOA.

But the agency will change and probably move away from business subsidies, he predicted.
“I would think that Harper, if he forms a government, will want to leave his own imprint,” Savoie said.

“He would look at far more use of tax incentives, more use of research and development investment, and a greater emphasis on trade.”

Is it just me or has the patron saint of development in Atlantic Canada just subtlety endorsed Harper?

The winds of change are blowin’, my friends. We can only hope they blow in a positive direction for our province and region.

As for ACOA, I know that some of you have strong feelings but I happen to like the idea of a regional economic development agency. I have my own opinions about where they should be focusing their efforts, but to just drop regional development here makes no sense especially when the Conservatives have said they would support and ‘enhance’ agricultural subsidies, plow more money into softwood lumber subsidies, maintain existing auto sector subsidies, etc.

The Feds need to be supportive of regional development.

My own opinion is that I would like to see the Prime Minister and the Premier get on a plane together 2-3 times a year and go meet the CEOs of large multinational firms and promote New Brunswick as a place to do business (more than that, I would like them to target companies that make sense and develop a clear and compelling business case). In my experience, CEOs like to talk to CEOs. Let the grunts work out the details – but if the PM of one of the world’s best nations (that would be us for those of you who are wondering) comes knocking, I think most CEOs would give him/her 10 minutes to make a pitch.

This has been done quite successfully by the Governors of top US states. I know that Quebec’s Jean Charest is expected to spend a lot of time this year on the road. The problem is that the Premier of New Brunswick has about as much clout as a small US city (population 700k don’t forget) so I think that the PM and the Premier would make more sense.

So, if Harper gets in and starts talking about ‘small business being the engine of the economy’ and that we need to stimulate more local business growth, I will puke. If he understands the multifaceted reality of successful economic development and that external business investment is a lynchpin to successful growth, then I will grin.

The Sorry Centrist signed a recent post ‘Sick and Tired’, so I’ll sign this one,

Cautiously optimistic.

PS – I’m not 40 yet. Allow me two more years to get bitter.