Get ’em while their young

I have been watching the Nova Scotia Liberals serve up their election promises over the past few days. I watch them particularly because the Tories are a known quantity and the NDP seem to be fairly clear in their position. Here’s what we know so far about the NS Liberal platform:

The Liberal plan offers no tuition freeze or rollback but instead offers a “completion bonus” after each year of study that can be put toward a student’s fees. That payment would be $600 in 2006-07, $700 in 2007-08, $800 in 2008-09 and $900 in 2009-10. It would go either directly to the student’s community college or university to cover any year-end debt or be given as a rebate to the student.

Nova Scotia’s Liberals are promising a tax credit for stay-at-home parents, and also committing to create 1,000 new day-care spaces over the next four years.

The Nova Scotia Liberals are planning to take more lower income Nova Scotians off the tax roles.

If you access the NS Libs web site, you see a full list of priorities. I can’t see anything about economic development. Anywhere.

If you search for the term ‘economic development’, you get individual MLA bios talking about economic development but no direct policy.

I am once again convinced that you have to get to these guys (the politicians) well before they ever get into politics. Because if they get in to politics without a good grasp on the concept of economic development, it seems that politically expedient actions take precedent over long term economic development.

The polls in Atlantic Canada consistently rank economic issues as between 4th and 7th on the list of priorities well behind, usually, health care, education, seniors and in some cases auto insurance, toll highways and other issues of the day.

So as a politician why bother? The Nova Scotia Liberals have obviously made a calculated decision that talking about economic development is a non-starter – so they don’t mention it – anywhere in their platform.

More often or not, the media will play on the public’s lack of knowledge about economic development to turn it against the politicians. Consider the recent closure of a call centre in Nova Scotia and of course there’s the ‘scandal’ of some Minister’s second cousin getting a government loan. Cripes, everybody in Nova Scotia is related to each other.

So, unless we can get these guys Mackenzie, Graham, Lord, Volpe, Dexter, MacDonald, well in advance we will lose them in the vacuum that is political life. They will spend their time in office putting out fires and following polls. Atlantic Canadian politicians – are in the worst period of depopulation in the region’s history and all we get is more talk about ‘investing in families’.

Well, newsflash gang, if you don’t start addressing the underlying economic challenges (and I don’t mean $100 million to save two rural paper mills), there won’t be any families left to ‘invest in’.

You want more university graduates to stay around the Maritimes? Bring in 10 more RIM projects. You want to keep those welders coming out of the NSCC that are sprinting to Alberta as fast as they can? Support the growth of the aerospace sector. You want more Phds to stay around the region? Attract and leverage private sector R&D into the region.

It might not be politically savvy. The media might eat you alive and pick apart every ‘bad’ deal while ignoring the 100 good deals.

But you will go down fighting for this region. Fighting to turn things around. Fighting for a future.

Because Bernard Lord’s future of a New Brunswick completely dependent on Equalization and Federal Transfers is not my vision for the future. A self sufficient New Brunswick contributing to Confederation is my vision. New Brunswick as a place people move to not from is my vision. A place where global investment takes a good hard look at New Brunswick rather than ignoring it.

And at the end of the day, who is the Maritime Premier that has the widest reputation and the best brand over the past 25 years?

I’ll give you a hint. He made economic development and that whole ‘pulling up by the bootstraps’ thing his central theme.

Maybe at the end of the day, the public is not as stupid as the media and pundits think. Maybe they would support a party that says ‘enough is enough’.