Waking the giants

It’s safe to say there is a love-hate relationship between many New Brunswickers and the Irving/McCain duo.

It would be hard to calculate the total economic impact of the two because their empires stretch into dozens of companies and investments in other companies but suffice it to say that these two dynasties employ at least 10 to 15% of the entire workforce in New Brunswick.

Then there’s the other lesser titans – Imbeault, Ganong, Armour, Caissie, etc. many of whom formed the NB Business Council earlier this year.

So I suspect the politicians are watching closely as these titans start to get more vocal about the state of the New Brunswick Business Council. The Irving in charge of Irving Oil spoke at Atlantica and made some interesting comments about the state of New Brunswick – and none to flattering.

The New Brunswick Business Council was formed directly out of the concern of its members of the decline of the New Brunswick economy. While the NBBC is highly politically correct and non-partisan (a number of them have received government grants in the last seven years and others a lot of government business).

Now I read that Margaret Norrie McCain, the former lieutenant governor, is the the honorary chairwoman of a Liberal candidate in Carleton County. This is quite unusual in my opinion.

The interesting thing about these titans is this. They run major businesses (and organizations) in the province. They know first hand the challenges in the labour market. Some of them are witnessing the decline in the forestry. Others (like McCains) have been personally spending serious money to attract people from all over the place (truckers, IT workers, etc).

They will not become overly political, this is unlikely. The McCain/Liberal thing is most like an abberation.

But if they start getting openly cranky about the state of the economy, it won’t bode well for the governing party.

This is a lesson the politicians need to learn. Collectively, the NB Biz Council probably employs close to 30% or more of the total private sector workforce in the province.

A pretty big group to annoy.

But the flip side of that is also true. If these titans of industry are truly interested in the long term well-being of New Brunswick, they will use their influence to see that the government makes the kinds of investments necessary to support our future growth.

If Lord’s assertion that 76% of all new money has gone into health care doesn’t curl Gerry Pond or Normand Caisse’s hair, I would be highly surprised.

These guys/gals know that a provincial government must be more than just a health care funding agency.