Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes – Update

Donald Savoie’s new book is still not out (hopefully next month) but Chapters on line has an interesting write up on the book:

Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes
Author: Donald J. Savoie

From the Publisher“During his successful campaign to become Conservative Party leader in the spring of 2004, Stephen Harper said of the Maritime provinces, “”We will see the day when the region is not the place where you visit your grandparents, but instead more often than not the place where you visit your grandchildren.”” In Visiting Grandchildren, esteemed policy analyst and scholar Donald J. Savoie explores how Canadian economic policies have served to exclude the Maritime provinces from the wealth enjoyed in many other parts of the country, especially southern Ontario, and calls for a radical new approach in how Canadian governments determine policies that affect the different regions.

Savoie advocates a ’ratchet effect’ for national economic policies, whereby regions take turns at high growth, with the slow-growth region of one period becoming the high-growth region of the next, with none moving from slow-growth to decline. He demonstrates how this pattern has been effective in countries undergoing long-term regional convergence and how it would recognize that what is good for the Maritimes is good for Canada no less than what is good for Ontario is good for Canada.

Visiting Grandchildren looks to history, accidents of geography, and to the workings of national political and administrative institutions to explain the relative underdevelopment of the Maritime provinces. Savoie argues that the region must strive to redefine its relationship with the national government and with other regions, that it must ask fundamental questions of itself about its own responsibility for its present underdevelopment, develop a cooperative mindset, and embrace the market, if it is to prosper in the twenty-first century. Savoie’s work serves as the blueprint for a new way of envisioning the Maritime region.

This is the crux of my thesis too (I’m just not an esteemed scholar):

…regions take turns at high growth, with the slow-growth region of one period becoming the high-growth region of the next, with none moving from slow-growth to decline.

Based on my research, this is how the most successful economies work. Take the U.S., over 10, 20, 30 year cycles ( and more), growth has occured just about in every region of the country – but no region has been hammered negatively. New England slips, Arizona booms. Georgia booms, New York slips.

Successful national economies have good flow of labour and capital within the country. Communities overheat – capital moves to the next location. The overheated economy cools – capital moves back.

But in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, growth has been concentrated in four areas since 1973: Greater Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton corridor, Greater GTA and Montreal.

Some would argue that Atlantic Canada hasn’t been on the radar since Confederation. That the only capital that flows here is to exploit natural resources. They have a point. Name me 2 or 3 industries that have flourished here that are not tied to natural resources or local market considerations (call centres are definitely one).

But the most curious thing about that write up is that Stephen Harper made that quip about Visiting Grand Children.


I thought the ‘Calgary School’ wanted Atlantic Canada to just dry up and go away.

2 thoughts on “Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes – Update

  1. The US certainly has a better track record, and again, it comes down to a better representational system.

    However, I love how Savoie throws a bone to the centralists, that the maritimes need to ’embrace the market’ more. What a joke! The reason that employment is so high in the public sector is simply that the private sector is so miserly!

    Irving gets whatever it asks for, the forest industry is MANAGED by corporations, rather than government (which is how it is done in the ‘free market’ bastion known as the US). When the bridge to PEI was to be built it was literally handed over to the private sector, the same for Nova Scotia gas and Newfoundland oil. If there is ANY area of Canada that is RUN by ‘the market’, it is the maritimes.

    We have no ‘wheat board’ for our potatoes, and no massive buyouts like mad cow (westerners were notorious for wanting the feds OUT of beef-until mad cow).

    NB was forty years behind Ontario in creating a provincial energy utility, and only did so because it was impossible to compete.

    Health care, while nominally public, is basically private run drug clinics. Government stays completely out of new drug licensing and leaves that up to doctors.

    If ANYTHING, the maritimes are more gung ho on the market than ANY part of Canada. Lord opened up Lepreau to the private market and nobody would touch it! Now, how much would somebody like to bet that in ten or twelve years when it’s up and humming, it’ll be sold for a song!

    However, Savoie really has no choice but to SAY that the maritimes need ‘tough love’ because otherwise the book would never sell anywhere else (and lord knows there aren’t that many buyers here to begin with)

  2. I also wanted to mention that while ‘regional representation’ helps to nominally keep states ‘equal’, their problem is within states where certain areas, usually immigrant or black, are neglected. So rich white upper middle class people will share the wealth between their states, but that’s where it ends.

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