Odds, oddities, ends and possible beginnings?

A few things of interest (to me at least) this am.

First, as widely anticipated, the NB Liberals concluded their external audit of the books and have uncovered a whopping deficit left by the Tories. I blogged on this before and remain skeptical. I haven’t read the document but it sounds like deja vu all over again (in the words of Yogi Berra). Grant Thornton, audit, big deficit – flash back to 1999 and you get the same story. Interestingly, the Tories balanced the books that year anyway without any major cuts and something tells me the Libs will do the same. Should I be mad they cut my PST cut on electricity (would have saved me $30/month)? You tell me.

I heard Mayor Mitten on As It Happens last night. Apparently, someone has been scamming using his name. They call a business in Moncton, say they are the Mayor and ask for $600 because a family member has died and they need to get to Vancouver. If you were cynical, you would say that this is because the mayor is not widely known in Moncton. I have a different view. I think that it’s because the mayor is well liked and considered to be a man of great integrity (you wouldn’t give $600 to some politicians – don’t deny it). They are scamming on his good reputation. Look on the bright side, Mr. Mayor, the last time a Monctonian was on As It Happens, we were being called the ‘armpit of the Maritimes’.

Possible beginnings?
I got a call from CRA last night. One of those surveys about how I perceive things to be. Some interesting stuff. A few highlights:

She asked me a question about what I thought the government’s priorities should be. Crime, social justice, environment, health, etc. She didn’t even mention the economy. Weird, huh? Then she asked me what should MP Brian Murphy’s priorities be in 2007. I said ‘economy’ and she asked me to repeat my response. ‘Economy’, I said. I took it from her reaction that she isn’t getting that response too often in Moncton. If so, that’s too bad. If our government and community leaders drop the ball on the economy, we’ll be right back to the early 1980s once again with boarded up buildings and garbage blowing through the downtown.

She asked a bunch of questions about the hypothetical upcoming federal election and my intentions. This was interesting. She said the names of a number of potential Tory candidates and asked me who I would vote for – Brian Murphy or that candidate. I won’t get into names here because at least three of them are known to frequent this blog (ahem) and would not want their names taken in vain but those three all would be very interesting candidates and at least one would give Smilin’ Brian (a guy I happen to like alot) a run for his money. I will say that they guy Alec Bruce calls “the ex used car salesman turned lawyer turned Premier” was on that list. I suspect, just a suspicion, that he couldn’t beat Brian Murphy unless there was a national ground swell in favour of Harper (or if all that Dion snootiness against Monctonians started to actually sink in).

There was an inordinate number of questions about racinos, entertainment centres, etc. I know people are divided on the issue of ballot initiatives but in this case, why not just ask the people? You are always going to get people for and against gambling. Just ask.

This might not classify as ‘odd’ to you but everytime I hear someone say that the auto sector in Ontario is ‘good for’ Atlantic Canada, I just shake my head. It, in fact, is good in the sense that it raises national wealth and allows for the transfer payments to Atl. Canada to be increased and for the Premier of Ontario to complain that Ontario is not getting its fair share. But, in my opinion, you can stuff that argument in the latrine where it came from. If the government wants to support some form of economic justice (if that’s a term) in Atlantic Canada it will get serious about supporting economic development here – not spending billions to prop up industry in Ontario and Alberta in the hopes that there will be more Equalization down the road for this region. That’s a weird form of ‘trickle down’ or ‘trickle east’ or whatever.

But there are two other points to be made about this article:

1. Behind every successful economic development initiative, there is a prime mover or prime movers and these guys/gals are not usually top level politicians. Take the financial services sector strategy in Nova Scotia, the aquaculture and call centre industries in New Brunswick, the new media industry in BC, the auto sector in Ontario and the aerospace sector in Quebec. You will always find a mid level or high level civil servant has a great idea and ends up selling the politicians on this idea. It is rarely the other way around. Note to Graham – find those ideas guys and let them go to work. Lord didn’t and look what it got us.

2. A quote from the article: [Interviewer] It’s competitive with subsidies and incentives. The southern states in the United States, not so much in Michigan, have been drawing the Japanese manufacturers there with cash.

Lumley [guy who helped grow the auto sector]: Well, they can also use moral suasion a lot easier than we can because their market’s so big.

This Ontario government is the first government since Bill Davis to really realize the importance of the auto industry. And Ottawa did a great job too.

But who likes to give subsidies? Nobody. But if you’re competing against subsidies, I think we have a responsibility to do what the others do.

I don’t like it, but it’s like aerospace in Quebec. The sad part is other countries subsidize aerospace. If you think that aerospace is important, then you’ve got to be there.

But I think the Japanese investment in Canada is fantastic. They are very welcome players.

It’s a bit too bad that they don’t use that logic in Atlantic Canada.