Just took a quick look at the 2008-2009 NB budget. Read the summary here.

Marginal increase to Business New Brunswick’s budget. Still only $7 million for ‘investment attraction’ and ‘export development’. Out of a $7 billion budget. That’s a nice round number.

Lots of new spending on most areas – Health care and education spending up well above GDP growth (for the nth straight year).

Business New Brunswick’s budget is $52 million (although they claim $10 million in revenue) -so I guess the net budget is around $42 million. I think this is a small increase over last year but it’s hard to know for sure. There has been a bump in something called ‘loans and advances’ but I don’t really know what that represents. Does it include the tens of millions already out there in loans to textile mills, etc.? I don’t know the accounting on this stuff.

All I can say is that Ontario just announced a $1.15 billion new program to attract industry to that province. Remember, this is just one of many Ontario programs.

And don’t forget the $125 million given to Mr. Creative (Richard Florida) as a chair at the University of Toronto.

In New Brunswick,

Health care gets another $113 million. The population today is about the same is 1996 (using Census data). That billion more in health care spending seems to be working.

Social Development gets over $30 million more. Maybe that will be to help all the laid off forestry workers.

Natural resources department has been cut deeply. Maybe because all the lost forestry jobs mean we don’t need as big a department.

I guess we will never see significant new dollars for economic development. Not from the Feds or the Province. So, the only alternative is to get tightly focused. We should scrap it all and put $100 million into the development of one sector that we think we could have some success in. Nickel and dime-ing all this stuff will get us nowhere.

I think it is a shame that our health care spending has more than doubled in just over 10 years – on a stagnant population. You won’t hear one politician, pundit or otherwise say so but this is a shame. We should have found a way back in the 1990s to control health care costs – something slightly innovative maybe like making guys like me pay $20 to see the doctor – and plowed the additional hundreds of millions into investments in our economy and economic development. We would have grown the tax base and our population and would have been in a much better place.

It will be interesting to read the commentary tomorrow in the local press.