Visiting Grandchildren – An Update

Edith Robb’s column today is on Donald Savoie’s new book Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes which is pegged as a manifesto of sorts for the future economic development of the region. I will be going out at lunch today to buy this book at Chapters so if you get there first and it’s the last copy – leave it please.

I have ocassionally interacted with Donald Savoie and expect that this book will be a good read.

Edith Robb makes some interesting points:

Savoie says our situation “will not be helped by moaning about how Confederation dealt the region a bad hand. Such complaints just create despair and ultimately serve to disempower the region. Nurturing a sense of betrayal suggests that the region can never succeed, can never compete with other regions at home or abroad, and that it should simply accept its place in the Canadian family as being “below the salt.

“While acknowledging that past attempts by the federal government to foster regional development here in the east have largely been well-intentioned and based on logic, the economist nonetheless shows that they didn’t work.Instead he calls for a radically new approach, one that recognizes that what is good for the Maritime provinces is good for Canada, no less than what is good for Ontario is good for Canada.

“The goal should be to integrate the Maritime economy better into already thriving economies, whether in Canada’s national economy or in the regional economies of New England and the eastern seaboard of the United States.”While acknowledging the general impatience at the pace of economic development in the Maritime provinces and the strong appetite for solutions, Savoie does not give in to the temptation of a quick fix, but hopes instead his book will serve to generate comprehensive debate.

I sincerely hope it does. I’ll go so far as to suggest it should serve as the foundation for an Atlantic “Thinker’s Conference” that would bring our most agile minds together to work out ways that our region can resolutely break away from Ottawa’s guilt money and stand solidly on our own two feet.

This is, quite honestly, a book that needs to be read and discussed by all of us who care about the Maritime future.

Now, you know what I am going to say before I say it. Edith Robb wants another ‘Thinker’s Conference’. Bernard Lord has hosted a dozen of these during his six years and there have been countless others. These little get togethers do nothing more than give the appearance of government actually doing something.

I propose a slightly different approach.

Do something.

Bernard Lord has cut economic development funding. He did not renegotiate the REDA with the Feds and in fact left REDA money in the pot that could have been spent. He openly brags about spending ‘all new money’ on health care and education.

Rome is burning but the Moncton Hospital gets another MRI.

New Brunswick has not even matched the national level of popuation growth any decade since Confederation. That’s 140 years, folks. Probably since 1867 there have been a million ‘thinkers conferences’ in various shapes and sizes.

Here’s the deal:

New Brunswick has not attracted its share of global business investment for decades. Period. Go get it.

New Brunswick has almost no access to the global capital markets (except outward – all of our government employee pensions are invested outside New Brunswick). Go get it.

New Brunswick has exported most if its top ‘thinkers’ since at least the 1950s. Turn that equation to import, please.

New Brunswick has become, in my opinion, the least innovative province in Canada – if not North America. Change this. Seek out and support innovation across the board.

New Brunswick’s media doesn’t give a rat’s behind about telling us the stories that matter about the economy. Change this. Pound us over the head. Daily. Stalk us. Chase us around. Everytime we pick up the paper, turn on the news or try and do a darn web search, we should have annoying popup Windows reminding us. Do something. Change something. Make things better for your kids.

And then, maybe then, when we are all old and gray (that day is rapidly approaching for some of us), we will see Granny’s and Grampy’s coming here to see their kids who moved here from Toronto, Waterloo, Winnipeg, Boston, Vancouver, etc.

In the interim, read Savoie’s book.