Musings on the Federal budget

Sorry folks but I can’t serve up a long winded review of the federal budget because a) there were over 800 pages of text released today and I wouldn’t know where to begin and b) because I don’t know much about federal budgets.

But as compensation for clicking this way, I’ll make a few less than witty comments for what it’s worth:

I actually did a keyword search for ‘economic development’ in all 800+ pages of documentation and there is almost nothing in these documents related to the subject (other than secondarily – obviously tax cuts are meant as a form of economic stimulus).

There’s $2 billion more for farmers. No disrespect but the least profitable industry in Canada is the most heavily subsidized. Apparently farmers have no control over the ‘weather’ while New Brunswick manufacturers directly control the ’90 cent dollar’ (US conversion rate up from 63 cents two years ago). Golly gee. 8,000 manufacturing jobs lost in New Brunswick in 24 months – better whip up a 5 in 5 plan for that.

$400 million to reduce the pine beetle infestation in British Columbia but nothing to combat the population decline in Atlantic Canada.

More Equalization for have-not provinces (to get Gilles Duceppe’s support, one presumes).
Up to $3.3 billion for provinces and territories to help address immediate pressures in post-secondary education, affordable housing and public transit, contingent on sufficient funds being available from the 2005–06 surplus. Oops. That word contingent can be dangerous. And by the way, would it be so painful for the Feds to allocate at least some of that dough to trying to rectify the fiscal imbalance through economic development?

I wonder where they’ll get the $1.5 billion in ‘expenditure reallocations’? Someone’s gonna get cut.

Bottom line is this. In their 125 page restoring fiscal balance document (sure to piss off Ontario but gets them Gilles Duceppe), Harper and Flahrety say this:

The federal government is, like provincial governments, committed by subsection 36(1) of the
Constitution Act, 1982 to “promoting equal opportunities for the wellbeing of Canadians,” “furthering economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities” and “providing essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians.”

They then go on to not mention once ‘economic development to reduce disparity’ anywhere in the entire procedings. Nada. Maybe tomorrow but not in these documents.

In the 1970s, Trudeau said that population out-migration and economic challenges in Atlantic Canada was more of a threat to national unity that the Quebec sovereignty movement. At that time, New Brunswick had a fairly strong population growth and a net in-migration of persons from the rest of Canada. Now, New Brunswick is in population decline and has witnessed 14 straight years of net out-migration of people and apparently, it’s not even worth a mention.

I know, I know, I’m a broken record. An old fart pissing into the wind. The new order is based on a ‘rebalancing’ of New Brunswick’s population into Moncton and Fredericton and a general reduction to minimal levels needed to support a few local industries. I am starting to catch on to this. New Brunswick in 2050 will have less than 500,000 people – half in Moncton and Fredericton – and almost none in the North and rural communities (except what is necessary to cover off the fishing and what’s left of the forests). The provincial government in Halifax will be mandated to slowly cut rural and Northern services to the bare bones. New Brunswick will be reduced to an outpost for resources exploitations – as the Good Lord intended back in Confederation. Those efforts to create ‘new economy’ industries by that recalcitrant McKenna only created more problems. If he had just let things evolve naturally, people wouldn’t have started to actually believe in a future for the province – one based on new industries and dynamic, thriving communities.

Now we got a guy in there – the Lord – that realizes the truth. He will aid in the slow retrenchment of New Brunswick.

Just like John Manley always thought but never said – there’s no reason to have an IT sector in Atlantic Canada when Ontario is perfectly capable of housing it all. Why have a film industry in Atl. Canada? We are only diluting Toronto and Vancouver’s efforts. What possible benefit could there be to putting Federal government jobs into the hinterland? That’s just plain obsene.

But something in my bones tells me this is dead wrong. Something in my very being tells me that letting New Brunswick die a slow economic death represents a colossal failure – both to the New Brunswickers that came before us and all of those that would have came after if we had just decided here and now to stop this madness.

And for those of us New Brunswickers that are getting on with our lives and our jobs and our families with nary a thought to our communities and their future, I implore you to stop and think. If enough regular Joes, newspaper editors, company leaders, doctors, lawyers, et. al. started taking this stuff seriously don’t you think our governments would respond? The reason why there was a ‘Maritime Rights’ movement in the 1920s is that there was a public appetite for it. These days, our public appetite is consumed with evermore health care and tax cuts. When it comes to the very future of the province we are content to let the politicians decieve us with their disappearing Prosperity Plans and cunning Five in Five plans.

Last point. Are you leaving your personal future to chance? No pension? No CPP contribution? No RRSPs? Nothing?

They why do we accept this from our politicians?

If Bernard Lord can look you in the face and say because of his dedication to the economy of New Brunswick, tireless efforts and record levels of investment into economic development, by 2050 there will be 1.5 million people living here, our principal communities will be thriving, we will be a have-province contributing to the national pie – not draining from it – and we will have created new industries and jobs for our people to transition from the old economy – then he will have fulfilled his obligation in my opinion.

But the reality is that under his watch, no new industries have grown up, dependancy on Equalization has increased steadily and the decline in traditional industries has finally caught up to us and we are in depopulation mode.

‘Nuff said for today.

Tomorrow, lighter fare – I’ll be reviewing the latest recording by Nana Mouskouri.