"The air in Moncton evidently clouds the mind"

You know the old saying about the dog that chases the car and actually catches it – then what does he do?

Donald Savoie’s recent book full of fairly harsh criticism for central Canada and Ottawa’s approach to regional development over 125 years has started to raise the elephant’s interest. This letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail is critical of Savoie’s view of history. He says this:

He [Savoie] throws out a collection of muddled statistics and selective facts, mixed with sweeping presumptions about the behaviour of Canadian governments since 1867, to “prove” that the Atlantic provinces and Western Canada have been plundered by the selfish behaviour of Ontario and Quebec and their willing servant, Ottawa.

The writer concludes:

“The air in Moncton evidently clouds the mind even as it enhances the voice.”

Now you have to understand this. There is a somewhat serious debate going on right now in the backrooms of policy makers in Ottawa. The drop in population combined with rising transfer payments in Atlantic Canada is starting to get interest – as I have been chronicling on these pages. Donald Savoie’s book throws fuel on the fire.

Even as the politicians demand more and get more Equalization and Transfers – folks that think about policy and influence policy are grinding the gears trying to figure this out.

Some are calling for government-funding and promoted migration of people East-West.

Others are calling for a ‘swim or sink’ regional development approach.

Some are calling for an aggressive, new focus on regional economic development.

Government for the past decade has basically ignored the issue (in my humble opinion). There have been no major new initiatives since the time of Mulroney. Cretien replaced the REDAs/Cooperation agreements with the Atlantic Innovation Fund but there was no new funding. In fact, as a percentage of federal spending, regional development funding is way down over a decade ago.

The AIF, a worthy program to be sure, is a proxy for the lack of NSERC and other federal R&D funding. It is not an economic development program in the traditional sense of that concept.

“The air in Moncton evidently clouds the mind even as it enhances the voice.”

That’s your thought of the day.