The need for Brian Dick

I just read Rodney Ouellette of Atlantic Cancer Research Institute’s commentary in the TJ. He is making the case for New Brunswick to invest more money in health research. He affirms what I have reported several times that on a per capita basis, NB is last in the country when it comes to receiving health research funding.

But I hearken back to a comment made by the Deputy Minister (i.e. the head) of the Dept. of Health a few years ago. She said (I heard it with my own two ears), that she’s interested in ‘health’ not ‘economic development’. ‘Economic development’, she said, was none of her business.

A little birdie told me yesterday that Energy Minister Jack Kier is looking to set up his own economic development team within the Dept. of Energy. One would assume this is out of frustration with BNB.

The truth of the matter is that most departments in government think that ‘BNB’ is the only department that should have anything to do with economic development.

This is a laughable thought. In fact, I am laughing right now.

If we really and truly want to turn New Brunswick towards self-sufficiency (whatever that is), the greatest resource we have is our government. It is by far the largest economic engine we have (six billion spent – almost all here – except for the debt servicing, etc.) creating directly tens of thousands of jobs each year and several billion in wages (direct and indirect). Further, it is a huge importer of money into the economy through its Equalization payments from Ottawa.

So, that is why Brian Dick, as head of the Self-Sufficiency Program, should be about trying to leverage this massive economic engine for more economic development. There should be an economic development person in every department of government. Maybe even a team where warranted.

Just think if we could leverage the massive spending on health each year into more economic development through concepts such as health research, possibly medical tourism, innovations in health delivery that are exportable, the use of technology in health that is exportable, etc.

In fact, just about every major decision of the health department, the energy department, the supply and services department, NB Investment Corp., certainly training and education, should be run through what I would call an ‘economic development filter’ or screen.

When making a major purchase such as an MRI machine, the first thing is signing on the dotted line. The second is a visit to the California company that makes the machines by a sales guy/gal pitching the merits of setting up in New Brunswick. At that distinct point in time, you have a window of opportunity.

This attitude should pervade all levels of government in New Brunswick. That’s why having a Tsar of Self Sufficiency makes good sense.

I hope that Brian Dick and I see eye to eye on this.

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