Moncton: Myth or Fact?

There’s a letter to the editor in the TJ today that I found interesting:

Graham must unite the province

There are a great many challenges facing New Brunswick’s new premier in the months and years ahead but in the immediate future there is none greater than to overcome the divisiveness that will be the legacy of Bernard Lord. It is a divisiveness that began subtly in the McKenna years, when the focus on developing the city of Moncton began.

At the expense of the rest of New Brunswick, Lord flagrantly continued, heaping hundreds of millions of dollars on Moncton while the rest of us could only hope we might catch a few falling crumbs from their elaborate banquet table.

The result was the creation of two solitudes in our province, the City of Moncton and the rest of us. It is unforgivable that any government would foster and openly support a policy that divides a province.

I would like to have shared in the excitement that comes with a municipality that is flourishing and doing well. I would like to have shared in the thrill of the successes the City of Moncton was enjoying, but it quickly became clear that they would have none of it.

Shawn Graham and his government must bring a much more balanced approach to the future of all of New Brunswick, not just one municipality. It is imperative that the new premier demonstrate quickly that the rest of us in New Brunswick do matter, that we do have some value in the future development of our province as citizens, as communities and as municipalities, all of whom share in contributing to the greater good.

Congratulations to Moncton on all they have achieved during the Lord years, no matter how they have achieved it.

Now, Mr. Graham; what about the rest of us?

As somebody who has spent a more that average amount of time studying these issues, I am not sure that this letter writer has the facts right.

You may argue ‘chicken’ and ‘egg’ but regardless of your ideological persuasion growing communities require more government spending (reactive) while stagnant or declining communities would like government spending to spur growth (proactive).

The letter writer’s tone would indicate (and I put this here because I have heard this alot) that government spending in Moncton was actually a driver of economic growth but again I come back to the chicken/egg dilemna.

We will know when the 2006 Census data comes out next year but let’s just say that Greater Moncton (broadly defined) has added 20,000+ people in the past 15+ years.

It is only logical that you would need some expansion at the hospital and a new bridge to Riverview to accommodate this growth. In fact, many Monctonians argue that there wasn’t enough provincial government investment in Moncton to support the population growth since the late 1980s.

My brother told me over the weekend “It looks like Moncton’s done now” after not electing very many Grits to the Legislature. I couldn’t believe it. Do all New Brunswickers believe that government decides who wins and who loses?

That’s nuts.

Moncton’s economic growth over the past 15 years has been based on economic factors – supported by in the 1990s a strong economic development focus out of Fredericton. Government capital investments had little to do with it. In fact, the wish list of Moncton is probably as long if not longer than the rest of New Brunswick (Court House, Convention Centre, Overpass at Airport, etc.).

Some enterprising journalist or blogger with more time should actually take a look. Look at all the capital spending of the provincial government over the past 15 years adjusted for population growth (i.e more population should necessitate more government investment in infrastructure). This would be tricky but doable.

The real issue is not whether Shawn Graham gets bogged down in the politics of ‘uniting the province’ or whether he will get busy working on a growth agenda that will benefit all of us.

Some people look at government spending as a pie that gets divvied up and they want ‘their share’ for their community.

I look at government spending as an investment that if spent wisely will grow the pie so that everyone can get more.

The focus of this government has got to be on re-energizing a sagging economy by leveraging government spending into large scale new private sector investment – all over the province. We were dead last in GDP growth among the provinces sinc 2000. Our job creation has been among the worst in Canada. Many of our traditional, bedrock industries are under serious duress.

If the Cabinet spends its days figuring out how to carve up the pie rather than increasing it, we will all lose.