Listen to the Doctor

I had to show you this. I can’t link because you need a subscription:

Former Conservative says northern N.B. economy nearing ‘crisis’
Furlong turns back on Tories, offers to help Grits
By Shannon Hagerman


A former Conservative cabinet minister says the northern New Brunswick economy is approaching a “crisis” and he’s offering to help the Opposition Liberals improve the region’s plight if they get into office.

Dr. Dennis Furlong, who retired from politics in 2003, says he still carries a Conservative membership card but he’s determined to help any party interested in boosting the region’s sagging fortunes.

The former health minister said he’s offered his help to Dalhousie-Restigouche East Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault.”If I can help out I’ll be there, regardless of political stripes. It’s important up here now because we’re losing population very, very rapidly. And the economy up here, it’s not in trouble, now it’s almost in crisis,” Dr. Furlong said.

Dr. Furlong’s prescription to improve the rural economy is to reduce reliance on resource-based industries, like forestry and fishing, in favour of manufacturing sectors. Dr. Furlong, now a family doctor in Dalhousie, said he has no plans to jump back into politics.

Samuel LeBreton, an economist with Service Canada, said rural New Brunswick continues to lag behind urban areas in job growth, but stressed unemployment in the northwest and northeast regions of the province has improved over the last several years.

When the Conservatives took office in 1999, unemployment was 16.6 per cent in the northeast. In 2005, the average unemployment rate was 14.8 per cent. “You have to go back to 1996 to have such a low in the northeast,” he said.

My ad nauseum:
Is LeBreton an economist or a spin doctor? Cripes, any economist would realize that there is more – much more – to this than the unemployment rate. If you empty out the North, who gives a crap about the unemployment rate? I’ll answer that myself. Those folks that believe the North has to be emptied out.

This war of attrition with Northern New Brunswick must stop. Furlong wants manufacturing? Sounds fine by me except that power rates are going up faster than the rest of the country and they have not made significant investments in the roads up there in years.

LeBreton. Who is this guy? The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan is 4% and they are freaking out about depopulation.

LeBreton thinks depopulation is a good thing, it would seem.

Make no mistake, there is a ground war going on in Northern NB and among the bureaucrats in Fredericton/Ottawa. One camp thinks there needs to be more support pushed up there (i.e. the NB Liberals are pushing this view) and the other thinks that tough love is in order. The latter secretly wants depopulation – hoping to bring the region to some form of equilibrium that is less reliant on government pogie.

But what neither camp realizes is that both of those models is doomed for failure (in my humble opinion). Making EI more accessible and putting more supports up there (the NB Liberal’s position) will only exacerbate the current problems. Slowly cutting the region off and bleeding it dry will not lead to a ‘new equilibrium’ rather it will accelerate depopulation which will lead to more cuts to government services up there which will lead to more depopulation which will… You get the picture.

The famous third way! Cripes, I sound like Bill Clinton.


Pick a few reasonable industries for growth up there and go get them. Incent them in. Build the infrastructure. Train the people. Create the environment. Make it work.

And don’t give me any of that crap. Cape Breton is Nova Scotia’s Acadian Peninsula and while they have a long way to go – they have attracted IT shops, call centres, biotechnology, auto parts manufacturing and now even the coal mine is coming back into play.

The tiddlywinks approach of the current government leads me to believe they favour a slow burn up there. The tired, rehashed model proposed by the Liberals leads me to believe they don’t believe change is possible up there either.