The Liberal Charter for Change

Here is my quick take on the economic development portion of the NB Libs’ Charter for Change:

It’s time to bring back the pride and the “Can-Do” spirit in New Brunswick. In
economic development, attitude is everything. We understand the art of the deal.
The power of an open door.The importance of a returned phone call. A Liberal
Government knows what it takes to make it happen.

This is a coded message for all the economic developers and business people that have not had their phone calls returned over the last seven years. I have had people tell me they called the Premier’s Office 5-6 times and never received a call back. I have also heard numerous stories about cancelled meetings, cancelled public appearances, etc. This means nothing to Joe Q. Public but there are a few folks out there that this is targeted to.

1. Provide start-up capital of up to $100,000 for new businesses and up to $60,000 for business expansion and diversification.

I don’t have a problem with this. That initial capital is always the hardest to find. I hope they restrict this to great looking young firms with high export potential in those illusive targeted sectors I talk about in other blogs.

2. Ensure a minimum of one per cent of New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation’s total assets is invested in New Brunswick projects.

Funny, eh? Quebec has spent billions of its pension funds and assets to stimulate industry growth in that province and New Brunswick can’t even muster 1%. This is a sick tragedy. Our government workers’ pension money is all invested elsewhere because the NBIMC can’t find risk appropriate investments in New Brunswick. Our own civil servants, through their pension investment firm, do not believe in the very province they are earning their income from. They would rather invest in successful companies in successful economies. Tisk, tisk, tisk. I would have set this at 5% at least.

3. Work closely with the federal government to simplify tax regulations to facilitate succession planning for small businesses and farms.

This is a Chamber of Commerce and CFIB complaint so fill your boots.

4. Utilize the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program with Caisses Populaires and Credit Unions.

Again, I hope this is targeted at new jobs and new growth and not just sustaining old jobs or competition for in-market economic activity. Incrementality, folks.

5. Be the model user of our own New Brunswick-made Information & Communications Technology products.

This is another coded message for a handful of people that have been highly frustrated over the past seven years. They’ll be voting Liberal, je pense.

6. Work with research institutions, universities and business to facilitate the commercialization of New Brunswick ideas.

Good idea. Talked about alot. Here’s a little tip. Those firms that are scooping up UNB technology? Why not try and attract them to New Brunswick?

Under population:

1. Establish a Population Growth Secretariat.

Yee haw. But you better a) do something (the Tories have had a ‘plan’ since 2003) and b) have actual jobs for the repatriated.

2. Develop a comprehensive strategy to promote population growth including retention of New Brunswick residents, repatriation, immigration and settlement.

See comment above.

3. Establish a Repatriation Unit within the Population Growth Secretariat with a proactive approach to recruiting and matching former New Brunswickers with job opportunities in our province.

See comment above.

There is absolutely nothing in this document about attracting industry to New Brunswick – except maybe a veiled reference or two. But I’m not bothered by that. I realize that attracting industry to New Brunswick is actually not a politically popular activity. People complain about using government money to attract firms. Local firms complain that the foreign firms push up wages and steal their workers. Community A complains that community B got the jobs. Look at Moslon’s plant in Moncton. In retrospect, that plant created more problems for Lord than benefits.

How dare you give taxpayer’s money to those greedy corporations? is the typical voter response.

Jim Meeks tackled this about the Michelin grants in Nova Scotia recently.

Bottom line?

Shawn Graham is being advised by Francis McGuire, Frank McKenna, Mike MacBride and Donald Savoie. Four of the best of the best in my opinion. I suspect that Graham will be donning the Come to New Brunswick hat and working hard to attract and grow new industries. I may be wrong. Maybe McKenna, McGuire, MacBride and Savoie all changed their tune in the past six minutes.

This is the heart of Premier Lord’s problem on the economy. He was given bad advice in the Cool Camel. He was told to slash ‘red tape’ and ‘cut taxes’ and the economy would boom.

That was bad advice.

And now we live with the results.

Come to think of it? Isn’t the Cool Camel out of business?