Savoie Speaks

You know I have the utmost respect for Donald Savoie. He has thought about the issues related to regional develpment and the intersection with government more than – most likely – any other person in Canada.

So, I tend to take his comments in the TJ this AM as coming from a voice of reason – and he is not happy with the new Equalization formula saying “How the (heck) did they rejig this payment so that the great majority, almost all, of this money flows to Quebec?” Referring to the politics of the thing, Savoie says “I think it’s probably the first government in the history of the country since equalization came about in 1957 to be so blatant about it.”

But I was even more interested in his comments about the ‘self sufficiency’ objective in New Brunswick.

Weaning the province off equalization means replacing nearly one-quarter of the government’s revenue with other sources. “It’s not going to happen just with the energy projects or the growth in Moncton,” said Savoie. “It’s going to take a major wrench of the wheel. “It’s a massive, massive effort – and it’s not just dollars. It’s psychological. It’s a shared goal. It means New Brunswickers changing what’s between their ears. “It requires an even bigger commitment than Louis Robichaud’s Equal Opportunity.”

Savoie is leery of the province seeking more equalization now in order to need less later. Doing that is a recipe for increasing dependence, not lessening it, he said.

He argues that Ottawa must be a full partner if New Brunswick is to reach Graham’s goal, but there is a better way to do it than equalization. Savoie said for Graham to succeed with self-sufficiency, “it’s got to be his all-consuming goal. “He’s got to be driven by it. Obsessed. It’s got to be his passion. “He’s got to sell this concept to Ottawa, to Toronto. “If it doesn’t take 80 per cent of his working time, it’s not going to happen.”

Now, it would be tempting to say that Savoie is a reader of this blog and is just stating more or less what I have said. However, it is more likely – indeed probable – that I have crafted much of my vision from listening to Savoie.

But you know that we are quite aligned:

We both believe that the Feds need to be a ‘full partner’ but that the initiative must be driven by the province.

We both believe that more Equalization now to help us reach self sufficiency later is a problematic construct and that a real Fed/Prov partnership should be structured outside the framework of Equalization.

We both believe that it will take more than just ‘growth in Moncton’ or Energy to solve this issue.

We both believe this is a bigger idea than Louis Robichaud’s Equal Opportunity.

We both believe that this must be the Premier’s relentless passion for the next 4-8-10 years that the people give him.

And implied in Savoie’s comments is my belief that the Province needs to massively ramp up economic development spending and effort.