Economic development is dead

As you may know if you follow this blog a lot, I argue strenuously that the government should be much more involved – as the entity in society that represents us collectively – in the province’s economic development. Not through subsidizing bad companies or other methods associated with traditional ED in New Brunswick, but through real, tangible efforts to support the growth of new sectors offering great careers and good wages to its citizenry.

But, as we roll into yet another election – and there have been many since I started on my soap box 15+ years go – I am finally coming to the conclusion that my philosophy on this thing wouldn’t get anyone elected. In fact, with me as your advisor, you probably wouldn’t even get elected as President of the local Chamber of Commerce.

You see, the politicians serve up good sounding boilerplate (obligatory) about how they are focusing on the economy and job creation and prosperity for all but as I have outlined here on many occasions their actions reveal the exact opposite.

Why? Because economic development as a concept doesn’t sell in New Brunswick. Abstract boilerplate, yes, but real action no.

New Brunswick is one of the oldest populations in Canada. Old people don’t give a rip about economic development. Health care, potholes and CPP, yes but economic development no.

Don’t get me wrong. I just think that most older New Brunswickers have heard all this crap before – LJR was going to save the NB economy, so was Richard H., so was McKenna, Lord prosperity for all – and they are pretty well resigned to the reality of the thing. As I said before, my own mother told me that her mother told her kids in the 1940s they would have to leave New Brunswick if they wanted to be successful. That’s 60+ years ago, now.

The older you get, the less patience you have for the spin and propaganda. Therefore, the old timers focus on what’ real – pension cheques and health care.

And good for them.

Young people? They really don’t vote so politically it doesn’t matter too much. I have seen some studies – not on New Brunswick per se – but does the 18-25 crowd vote? 25%? And given the NDP or Green bias, I suspect the mainline parties aren’t overly interested.

So what about the shrinking 25 to 55 crowd? Well, most of those are working – here or in Alberta – 15,000 more of them are working in public service jobs – we all have pretty comfortable existances right now – who cares about economic development?

By the way note to both the Libs and the Tories – be nice to the civil service (I mean all those paid out of the public purse). At the end of 2005, there were 351,000 people working in New Brunswick and over 100,000 working for the public service. That’s 29% and you can bet they are predominately voters as government action directly influences their livelihood. If you can corner the public service vote, you can win the election.

But I digress.

Economic development is not a top seller when it comes to elections.

Goodies are: Senior care, health care, roads, schools, spend spend spend.

So elected officials do not have a mandate from the voters for an ambitious economic development agenda.

I would argue they might even have the opposite. If any politician diverted $100 million out of health care and into economic development there would be riots in the streets.

It’s dead, folks. Economic development is dead. We should just sit back and let fate come to us.