Munsch, Frazee, Pond – winners abound

Hey, for those of you demographic outliers – under 25 or over 60 – you may have never heard of Robert Munsch. I may be wrong but I believe he is the top selling writer of kids books in Canada – his stuff is great and he is in Moncton tonight. Unfortunately, my wife didn’t think I would be interested so she didn’t get me a ticket.

So my first TJ column was in today. It was on the subject of “what are we selling” – a recurring theme in this space. I thought my photo would appear – but no – I guess Stonehouse realized as I do that I am one of those guys who definitely has the face for radio.

A couple of news items worthy of obfuscation this morning. I see AOL is laying off 140 call centre workers in Moncton. As usual I am slightly behind with stuff – my TJ column next week is entitled “Beyond call centres” – it would have been better sandwiched in today.

The Business Hall of Fame inductees were announced last night. I used to sit on the organizing committee for the Hall of Fame until I realized it would be more financially lucrative to write blogs (ouch). Anyway, there was always a faction on that committee that detested the notion of inducting New Brunswickers who had successful careers outside New Brunswick. I, as you might guess, was adamant that we should. And now they do. Rowland Frazee, former chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada was inducted. Great idea. I see Gerry Pond also was inducted. Gerry was the boss at NBTel during my 11 month tour of duty with that venerable institution (er, now its Aliant). Good guy. Visionary to be sure. I remember hearing him give a talk about how telecommunications technology was going to revolutionize everything. He had a deliberate and detailed example of how the Web would transform the dry cleaning business. I just took my shirts in last week and it’s still the same old stuff.

But conceptually, his stuff was elegant beyond its time.

I see Premier Graham is “unwavering in his drive for bold changes in the post-secondary education system ” – according to the TJ this am. “We have an opportunity to make the post-secondary education system in New Brunswick one of the best in North America. We can’t let that opportunity slip away because we might disagree on the margins – let’s use our determination to be better in New Brunswick to reclaim the common ground I know we share.”

As you know, I have only been commenting ‘on the margins’ of this thing because I don’t know the difference between a polytechnic and polysporin but I do hearken back to the reasons why they initiated this process: 1) dropping enrollments, 2) increasing cost pressures, 3) lack of R&D capacity and 4) inflexibility of the system (both university and college) to quickly adapt to the changing needs of the workforce.

Beyond the histrionics of the Premier (he has now moved the language from “best in Canada” to “best in North America”. Without a doubt by the time this is done, we will have Oxford, Harvard and Insead all relocated to New Brunswick), he and his team need to convince the public how these changes would move the ball down the field – even slightly- forget the hyperbole. New Brunswick has the lowest level of university-related R&D in Canada, it has the second lowest rate of university workers in its labour market and upwards of 40% of our students graduate and then leave the province every year. So, I am not sure this is about the margin. I think they haven’t make the core case.

Again, I don’t know the answer here but the onus is on them to provide it.