Who’s the best Federal party for NB economic dev?

I just got done listening to some, I think it was, French politician complaining about the Airbus job cuts that were announced this week. He said that a significant amount of taxpayer money was used to get these Airbus manufacturing plants put in areas of high unemployment.

Notwithstanding that the aerospace sector is the second most subsidized sector in the world (behind agriculture), I couldn’t help but place this guy’s comments in our context.

Whic national party in Canada would actually be pushing multinational firms like Airbus to set up in ‘areas of high unemployment’?

In our context, that seems inconceivable. The last 500 large scale investment projects (like Toyota, Ubiosoft, etc.) into Canada have gone right into the heart of upper Canada – GTA, CTT, Montreal, etc.). The RIM project in Halifax, I am told, did not have a nickel of federal incentives attached to it.

In fact, the only time the Feds ever had significant funds for attracting industry into Atlantic Canada, as I recall was the base closure funds (like those used to create Slemon Park) and the closure of the coal mine in Cape Breton (funds used to attract EDS, Magma, etc.). But in New Brunswick? In my 15 year career? Hmmm.

Certainly Federal dollars were in the RDA agreement that was used for Frank to go get call centres. But that, I would argue is different.

The true is that the majority – I would say the vast majority – of major foreign direct investment in the US (manufacturing and increasingly projects like large data centres) has gone into poorer States and mostly rural regions while in Canada it has gone primarily into richer provinces and mostly urban regions. For cripes sake, the UK government put massive incentives into Bombardier to get them to set up in Northern Ireland as part of their plan to revitalize that economy.

So to my question. Which national party is most interested in regional economic development? For the purposes of this piece, I mean attracting foreign and national businesses to locate in places like New Brunswick (and attracting R&D and supporting fast growing, export-oriented SMEs).

I don’t think it’s the NDP. If Yvon Godin put half the time into trying to get his union friends to work on an industrial attraction strategy as he does fighting for more EI, I could be pursuaded to change my mind.

Is it the Conservatives? Maybe. I wasn’t around for most of Mulroney – I arrived back in Canada as he was imploding. But I hear that they did support some mega projects in the region (Hibernia for one).

Is it the Liberals? Not unless you consider Kanata as a ‘rural’ and high unemployment area. I think something like 90% of the $5 billion doled out under the TPC program (mostly under J. Manley) went to Ottawa, the CTT, the GTA and Greater Montreal. A little to BC. Virtually zip to New Brunwick. Also, despite all the crowing from every think tank in the country, they actually channeled even more ED dollars into the urban centres (programs like the TPC and R&D dollars). Sure, they short changed the urbans on infrastructure funds but the ED focus was certainly on the big 8-9 urban centres in the Cretien/Martin/Manley years. And the federals can take some pride in the fact that New Brunswick’s population was humming along at a slow growth rate in the 70s and 80s but literally the year Cretien took office in 1993, the net out-migration figures from New Brunswick started. And every year since, more people have moved out than in. For the first time in history.

What about the new Libs? It’s hard to say but the NB economy is probably the most stuck in old economy, polluting industries so with Dion as the Green guy, it stands to reasons that somebody would have to spend hundreds of millions maybe billions trying to green our economy over the next 10-20 years.

Maybe it’s the Greens.

I don’t maybe its the Atlantica Party.

Or maybe, as some of the top minds in this region have postulated, it’s none of the above. After all, they already dole out billions in Equalization. Why waste more of Rosedale dollars on economic development schemes?