Rethinking pork barrel politics

I’ve been thinking about the mythical ‘convention centre’ proposed for Moncton or a host of other projects put forward by communities that are (or seem to be) totally dependent on either or both provincial or federal government funding to go ahead.

The first time I heard a politician say that ‘funding looks good’ for the Moncton convention centre was seven years ago. Since then, there have been ebbs and flows but consistently politicians provincially and federally have been ‘pushing’ this ‘file’.

It’s amazing that community development can be held up for years and years because of pork barrel politics. The Tories had no need to fund the convention centre – they had a virtual monopoly here (only one Liberal seat before the last election). Plus, they funded the Kay Arena and could point to other pork. The new Moncton Liberals, it is said, are under-represented at the Cabinet table. Federally, Claudette was for it – but nothing really happened. MP Murphy is a huge supporter but not in power…..

I’m sure this story is played out across New Brunswick. The government has 100 bucks to spend and request for 1,000. So they play politics and decide where to spend based on political advantage. Which doesn’t help the communities much nor public opinion on politics.

No, I think we need a new approach. Maybe a capital projects funding formula based on population. The provincial government would say there is $100 bucks to spend this year and Moncton gets $10, SJ, $9, Freddy beach $6 (hey, this is population based) and spend it where you will. You want a convention centre? Fine. But that highway upgrade will have to wait.

Reducing pork barrel politic would reduce, I think, cynicism. It would allow communities to plan based on hard facts – not whether or not they can get the ear of the Premier. And ultimately it would force communities to take control of their own destiny and not be able to blame the ‘province’ or the ‘feds’ for the lack of action on ‘files’.

Maybe porportional representation would help address this. If politicians were not elected for specific ridings, maybe there would be less need for pork barrel politics.

Who know? But something tells me five years from now I’ll be penning a similar blog about the lack of movement on the ‘convention centre’ for Moncton.