I am finishing up Donald Savoie’s tome about economic development in the Maritimes: Visiting Grandchildren. I will likely have some comments on his recommendations at some later date but for now here are two observations:
Savoie recounts how John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the most admired economists of the 20th century, visited New Brunswick and expressed curiousity as to why economic development did not occure in the Maritime provinces in the 20th century. “The region, he pointed out, is strategically located between western Europe and New England and the eastern seaboard of the United States. How could it be, he wondered, that economic activity simply jumped over the Maritimes, to the eastern seaboard of the United States and on to the edges of western Europe and to Central Canada? Why could the region not take advantage of its strategic geographical location?
Well, God rest your soul JKG, you lived to be 97 but you didn’t live long enough to see the Maritime provinces turn things around.
The question is, will we?
Savoie’s book is 350+ pages long or so and references dozens of politicians. Premier Lord is mentioned two times. One about his failed attempt to attract exNBers back to the province and another about his fight for more Equalization. By the time Savoie writes this book, Lord has been Premier 5-6years and not one mention of his economic development strategy or anything else for that matter.
Frank McKenna, on the other hand, gets over 20 references. On ACOA, free trade, job creation, NB’s self-image, immigration, oil & gas, self-sufficiency, support programs, tax incentives. In fact, McKenna is referenced more than anyone else.
Now, Tory partisans might shrug this off as some form of partisanship but that would reveal a complete lack of knowledge about Savoie’s pedigree. Savoie has consulted both Liberal and Tory governments and was the brainchild behind ACOA – a Tory creation. He has been openly critical about McKenna and his lack of real success (in Pulling against Gravity).
Now, in fairness, Frank was larger than life. I went to a conference in Halifax and the Governor of Maine called McKenna his ‘hero’. The Minister of Economic Development in Quebec recently said he would pattern that province’s economic development strategy in ‘McKenna’s image’.
No subsequent Premier could live up to that image.
But for Savoie to essentially ignore the last six years of economic development in New Brunswick (except to point out in several places that things are getting progressively worse), says something. I’m not exactly sure what.