David Adams Richards weighs in

David Adams Richards has a piece in the Globe & Mail today on the troubles in the Miramichi. It’s a harsh take – a rebuke of foreign ownership – and has a thread of despair. I can’t link to it because you need a username and password. He ends it with a story about some Miramichi fishermen and the phrase uttered by one fisherman when asked why he does it: “What in hell else could we do?”

I hate this notion of inevitability.

At the same time, I read in the Financial Post this morning that partners in the Mackenzie Gas Project have asked Ottawa to treat their stalled megaproject like Newfoundland’s Hibernia project or the Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine in Alberta, both of which got federal support.

In essence, they want what will eventually amount to hundreds of millions if not into a billion or more (like Hibernia and the oilsands) in Federal incentives to get that project restarted. And the federal Minister has said he would consider it.

It’s kind of fun. Call it a federal government induced version of economic development musical chairs. Put hundreds of millions into a project where there are very few people now and suck people out of existing communities in Atlantic Canada to go work there.

If someone came along and asked for a billion dollars to pull a ‘Hibernia’ in the Miramichi – people would laugh and laugh some more. Yet a new auto plant in the ‘Chi would likely have almost the impact of Hibernia on central New Brunswick. Sure, it wouldn’t have the royalties generated by Hibernia but in terms of direct jobs and direct economic activity, it would be close.

But somehow in our twisted way of thinking, billions of incentives for oilsands development is different. Giving Fiat $300 million to establish a 30-40 year 1,200 person manufacturing plant in the ‘Chi is corporate ‘welfare’. Giving $4 billion in royalty and tax subsidies to oilsands developers is ‘a good public investment’.

As my 95 year old grandmother used to say before passing on, “maybe”.