Dispatches from the road: San Diego (Lord in Finland)

I am in the ultra cool city of San Diego for a conference this week so I will be posting from this remote location for a few days. I’ll have more observations about SD as the week progresses.

My first post, however; has to do with Premier Lord’s hastily organized visit to Finland to try and ‘save the Miramichi UPN Kymmene plant. Now, as you know, I am a huge fan of the Premier going abroad to promote the province. I think that Jean Charest’s recent visit to India is bound to result in new Indian investments in that province.

However, I fear that Premier Lord’s visit to Finland may do more harm that good. One report on the Rogers news channel included a quote from a local UPN Kymmene spokesperson suggesting that there was no value in his visit and that she was confused as to his motives. She stated that the problems with the mill have to do with cost efficiences and that locally they were going to have to address this soon or the mill would be closed.

So, unless the Premier has a plan for that mill, I am not sure a general ‘we’re here for you’ visit will have any value.

In addition, I fear that there may be a Danny Williams’ style $130 million bailout in the offing. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support government investment into long term job creation but short term bailouts to prop up a bad business model is not a good idea. If there are ways the government can support a strategic initiative to make the mill more competitive, then that’s a good approach.

Maybe the Lord is going to explain why NB Power’s rates are going up 13%. Considering that the pulp mill uses about as much energy as PEI (I was told this by an NB Power rep), a 13% increase can’t be good news.

When a government is constantly on the defensive when it comes to economic development (i.e. save the Fraser mill, save the Nackawic mill, save the Miramichi mill) that is not a healthy reality. The government should be focused on growth oriented development – not just on salvaging the jobs that are here.