PEI, learn from New Brunswick

Sometimes the political need for change sweeps across a province. Take New Brunswick circa 1999 and Canada circa 2006. Evidently Islanders felt the same yesterday.

But I hope, upon hope, that the Liberal government on PEI not only continues many of the economic development policies of the previous government but also builds on them. PEI has been eating New Brunswick’s lunch in the economic development area in recent years. It started with the aerospace cluster in Slemon Park. Then alternative energy. Some interesting moves in biotech. How about the IT incubator in Charlottetown that many said would sit empty. They are building a second one. Big name global firms like Novartis, AMVESCAP, CGI, Foundation 9 – all have set up on PEI in recent years.

But learn the lesson of New Brunswick. Premier Lord promised a “made in New Brunswick” solution to economic development. He disavowed McKenna’s efforts to attract industry in favour of small business tax cuts.

And we live with the results. Without the 15,000 call centre jobs that were created under Lord as a result of the McKenna initiative (more than under McKenna, ironically), the Lord government job creation record would be in the negative. If you factor out call centres and public service jobs (including health care), New Brunswick would have been facing a Newfoundland-style population decline (as opposed to a slight decline).

Islanders feld they needed to change. Change is good. Change is refreshing. But a 180 degree change in economic development policy that caters to the CFIB will only relegate PEI to the situation of New Brunswick.

I was chatting with a guy the other day that should know and he told me that Nova Scotia was leading the pack followed by PEI with New Brunswick not even on the map when it comes to attracting industry.

Don’t screw it up.

Oh crap.

I just went to the PEI Liberal’s policy platform. No policy for economic development. Then I did a little Google and found this. Hardly a mention of economic development. Vague statements about rural development.