Ranting and raving like a lunatic

Sorry folks. Another rant this AM. I have tried to avoid them but after reading a series of stories out of Ontario and Alberta last week, I feel compelled.

It seems to me that we have deeply embedded in our culture the welfare mentality – provincially and nationally. I am not talking about ‘welfare’ in the traditional sense but in a deeper resignation that we are what we are.

Consider the ongoing stories about the manufacturing sector in Ontario. The sector has lost about 5% of its workforce in recent months and this has elicited reports, studies, commentaries, analysis, dire predictions. Canada’s economic health, it would seem, rests in the balance.

Now, New Brunswick’s manufacturing sector decline has been three to four times worse than Ontario’s in terms of straight jobs decline (relative to the size of the sector of course) and this gets a three paragraph story in the TJ and 30 seconds of airtime on the CBC. Three to four times.

Obviously, at a national level, there is the issue of scale and ripple effect. But in New Brunswick, the delcine in the manufacturing sector should be (in our context) ringing alarm bells all over the place. But it’s not.

Then consider the Tory $350 million cheque to Pratt & Whitney last week. I didn’t read one column – one commentary – in New Brunswick papers (I may have missed it) asking the question why not here? The Tories like the Liberals before them are spending egregious amounts of money to grow industry in voter rich areas and grappling with ‘Equalization’ changes for places like New Brunswick. How come there have been 40+ stories mentioning Equalization in the last month in New Brunswick English language papers and none asking the question about Pratt?

PS – go to FPInfomart.ca and search on New Brunswick papers over the past month to get this result.

Now, contrast that with RIM and their measily $10 million to set up in Nova Scotia. Remember this wasn’t Federal cash – this was Nova Scotia money. I counted at least six editorials in central and western Canada (and one in Halifax) decrying this waste of taxpayer dollars and calling for a rethink of Equalization if Nova Scotia is able to throw around their money in such a cavilier way.

$350M for Pratt in Montreal. Good new story. $10 million for RIM. Waste of taxpayer dollars. What is up with that?

Then there was the lady talking to my wife over the weekend. She tells me that she managed raising her child (single mom) by working six months going on EI working six more months going on EI working six more months going on EI. This is in Moncton. Now, in case you think I’m a heartless S.O.B. – I believe we need to have systems in place to support people in need. It’s better to be on some EI/work cycle than some alternatives. But it just seems part of the culture here.

And, as usual in my rants, I blame the media for much of this thinking. If you took all the problems facing New Brunswick (depopulation, traditional industries’ declining, increasing dependency on Equalization, lack of R&D, lack of Federal investment in economic development) and substituted the word ‘Ontario’ you would have a national crisis on your hands. Here, it’s business as usual. For every one story about the medium and long term implications of the economic crisis in New Brunswick, we get 100 dopey, human interest – isn’t that nice – stories.

I’m not saying we need to completely cut out the stories about our dog rusty or Bratt Pitt or savage attacks on City Hall (okay, that last one should be turfed). But I am saying it would be nice to build awareness among the public of the challenges. Moncton is not immune. Saint John is not immune. Frederiction is not immune. In the very near future, New Brunswick’s economic problems will come to urbanity. Make no mistake.